Early Math Skills

In October 2022 the New York Times reported that student math skills fell in nearly every state, highlighting one of the consequences  of the pandemic.

Remember though, that your young children, even before they start school, are already learning math!  There are many things you can do at home that will support early math skills—things that are fun and do not need to be “tested.”  The best way for young children to learn is to incorporate learning into play.  Not only will this help avoid meltdowns, it will help integrate the concepts.

Here are some things you can do at home. Remember, though—no quizzes.  These are either observations you make or things incorporated into play.


  • Count the steps as you go up and down the stairs.
  • Count the shoes in the closet
  • Count carrot sticks or crackers

Space, size, direction, and movement: 

  • You went up the slideand now you go down the slide.   (if you toss your ball up, it comes down).
  • We take big steps and now we take little steps (can incorporate into game of follow the leader)
  • Show your child two cookies, one big and one small.  Ask which one they want.  If they choose the bigger, you can say “you must LOVE cookies—that one is bigger.”  Etc.
  • When you are outside, you can ask something like, “Whose house is closer to us, that blue one or that yellow one?”


  • We see the moon at night, and we see the sun during the day.  Moon, sun, moon, sun
  • Beading:  red, yellow, red, yellow, etc.
  • Lining up play vehicles—car, truck, car, truck, etc.


  • Use buttons for children who are old enough not to put them in their mouths.  Sort by size and/or color. 

1:1 Correspondence: 

  • Take a big pile of objects (beads, cars, buttons, barrettes.  Line up four.  Ask your child to line up four.  For very young children, use an ice cube tray.  Make blueberry ice cubes.  Put one blueberry in each section.


  • Mealtime observations – . who has more water in their cup?  Who has less peas?

For more ideas, Zero to Three has a great article with many suggestions.  https://www.zerotothree.org/resource/help-your-child-develop-early-math-skills/

NY Times article about decline in math skills: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/24/us/math-reading-scores-pandemic.html