Early maths skills


Counting While there is no need to do any formal number work with your child (eg flashcards), there are plenty of things that you can do to help them acquire the concept of number.

First, it is worth counting aloud objects as part of everyday tasks. This is especially useful from age two years onwards. 

Think about counting the number of items that are put in the washing machine or the number of plates needed for dinner. If you are out and about, you could count the number of cars that go by or the number of doors that you pass.

What you count is of little importance, children simply need to learn the 'sounds' of counting. Once your child is beginning to say the names of numbers, start to count and point to objects. Encourage your child to help you with up to four items. 

At the same time, you can also start to introduce other mathematical concepts such as addition. This you can do by simply asking your child to put out 'one more'. At meal times, you could put out small portions of food and then ask your child if they would like 'one more' spoonful. 

When you think your child is confident in counting, start pointing out the shapes of numbers. This can be in the supermarket, on envelopes or on door numbers. You can also buy some magnetic numbers for the fridge for your child to play with.

How can I help my child to develop early maths skills?

Working together

While learning to count and recognise numbers is important, children also need other maths skills. 

Look out for opportunities for your child to sort and match objects. You could put out a pile of laundry to be sorted into different piles, as well as play traditional games such as 'pairs'. 

It is also good to help your child learn about patterns. Put out bricks or beads in a pattern (eg red, white, red, white) and see if your child can carry on the pattern. You can keep making this more difficult by including shape, size and colour into patterns (eg red circle, blue square, red circle). 

You can also help your child learn about simple problem solving by pouring out water into two identical glasses. Make sure that one glass has more than in the other. Talk to your child about how you might like to make it 'fair'. See if your child can work out what to do.

This simple type of activity helps children to think and is actually more important than children doing sheet after sheet of sums. 

Once your child can solve simple little problems, try some more difficult ones. Put out two slices of bread and see if your child can think about how to share them equally for three people.


Learning with Pearson logo

Last updated: about 3 years ago