How Kids Make Sense of Numbers

Learn about five important "number sense" skills.

Having “number sense” means knowing what numbers are and how they are used. Here are five important “number sense” skills kids need to develop:

  1. Recognizing written numbers. Just like learning their ABCs, kids need to recognize and name written numbers. They also need to know that each numeral has its own word (1=one, 2=two, and so on).
  2. Understanding that numbers represent the total amount of items in a group (if they ask for three crackers and are given two, they know one is missing).
  3. Knowing that numbers tell the amount of something (a tower is six blocks tall, the cookie dough gets three cups of flour).
  4. Telling how many objects are in a group by pointing to each item as they count it (if there are ten dogs on a storybook page, they put their finger on each one as they count it). This is called one-to-one correspondence.
  5. Comparing groups of items (lining up two groups of blocks on the floor to see which group is larger).

Look for moments to model these math skills with children (“Let’s count the dogs on the page and point to each as we go…one, two, three…”).