It’s never too early to nurture a child’s math skills, but it’s a good idea to start at around age three. While it’s not reasonable to expect preschoolers to practice math problems, they can learn through language and observation. Teaching young children early math skills will give them a firm foundation for learning more advanced skills later on.

Number Sense

Before Kindergarten, children can start learning that each number has a symbol representing several items. Children can also understand how to count backward and forwards. Number sense includes knowing the difference between more and less.

Spatial Sense

With spatial sense, children understand how to describe the physical world through shape, position, movement, and direction. An excellent way for children to develop this skill is to work on puzzles.


Shapes are a child’s earliest exposure to geometry. Preschoolers don’t need to know about circumferences or diameters, but they can learn the names of shapes and how to draw them.

Addition and Subtraction

Children can learn addition and subtraction during normal activities, such as taking away one cookie from a group of four. These skills are an appropriate next step after learning to count.

Numbers through Pictures

Using pictures or symbols to represent numbers is another valuable early skill. One example is using a picture of the child’s family to count the number of people pictured. Pictures help teach the child a number that represents a quantity.


Comparing involves identifying the similarities and differences between items. When children observe things, they usually tend to compare them. For example, they might notice the difference between a red ball and a blue ball or see that one ball is larger than the other.


With classification, children can sort things into groups based on a form of logic. For example, they can sort items based on color, shape, or other characteristics.


Ordering involves placing objects in a logical succession. Children can learn to sequence things based on size, weight, shape, or another feature. For example, a child might order toys from smallest to largest. Ordering also involves patterning, such as ordering colors in a series—red, white, red, white.