What math should my preschooler be learning?

Want to help your preschooler with math but not sure how? Here’s a quick guide on what to focus on.

“What math should my preschooler know?” is a question that many parents wonder.

As a parent or caregiver, you want to help your child get some math skills and knowledge under their belt before they start school. But what exactly is it they should be working on?

In this post, I will break down the different math skills and objectives that I would recommend working on in the preschool years.

When you’ve read through these, head back to the preschool math page where you’ll find activities and resources that can help you.

What math should I be focusing on with my child during the preschool years?

** Please note, the following is meant as a general guide to help parents/caregivers who are visiting this site from not only North America, but all around the world. Please consult the education standards/curriculum for your country (or state/province) to find the exact standards being followed in schools in your location. EdGate has a very helpful resource where you can find the standards currently being used in your country or state/province. In Canada, each province is responsible for its own education curriculum. **

When it comes to preschool math, think fun, think hands-on, think lots of talking.

Ideally keep math activities short and engaging so they don’t feel like a chore.

In term of the math content and objectives, I’ve broken them down for you according to topic:

Numbers and counting 0 to 10

During the preschool years, help your child to..

  • identify and name numbers up to 10
  • say numbers 0 to 10 in order, both counting forwards and backwards.
  • count up to 10 objects, arranged in different ways
  • compare numbers, using words like more, less, bigger, smaller and the same

During your preschooler’s days, practise lots of counting. Through the preschool years, children are developing their skills of one-to-one correspondence. This is a tricky skill for little ones and so the more counting practice you can squeeze in, the better.

Encourage your preschooler to count anything and everything you can: birds, cookies, road signs, pine cones, puddles, toy cars (you get the idea!).

If your child is confident with numbers to 10, then by all means move on and start to explore numbers 11 to 20. Don’t rush, however. Young children need lots of opportunities to work with numbers, to understand their value and explore how they relate to each other.

There are lots of great activities that you can do at home to build confidence with numbers. Counting songs, games, math picture books are great options.


Help your child…

  • spot and name common 2D shapes (such as circles, squares, triangles, rectangles and ovals)
  • create shapes through hands-on activities (such as with straws, pipe cleaners, sticks, playdough etc), or make pictures and artwork using shapes

During the preschool years, help your child become familiar with common 2D (flat) shapes: circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, ovals. Shape is always a fun topic to do with preschoolers as there’s lots of scope for hands-on shape activities as well as pictures and crafts using shapes.

In kindergarten, your child will likely to be introduced to 3D shapes, so being familiar with and able to name common 2D shapes before they start kindergarten will be a huge bonus.

The nice thing about the topic of shapes is that it’s so easy to incorporate it into everyday life and conversation (e.g. “hey, what shape is your sandwich/pizza/cookie?”). Plus, it’s fun to spot shapes in everyday life.

When your child is ready, you can begin to introduce some language to do with the properties of shapes, such as talking about corners or sides on a shape.

Position Words

Help your child…

  • use and understand common position words

What are position words? Quite simply, they’re words that describe something or someone’s position such as next to, between, up, down, inside, outside, in front of, behind, beside, high and low.

This is one objective that you may not immediately think of as math, but it’s generally included in the math curriculum.

It’s amazing how much new vocabulary children are acquiring at this age. You will find that your child picks up many of these position words as they go about daily life. For example, young children soon catch on about the fun of playing outside in the summer, or wanting to go inside in the winter when it’s too chilly. They’ll also likely want to be pushed high on the swing for so long that your arms start to ache!

Measurement and Sizes

Help your child…

  • compare the size of objects, using words like bigger, smaller, taller, shorter.

During the preschool years, we’re not expecting children to measure things using ruler or measuring tapes. However, we can introduce children to the idea of things being different sizes, heights, widths and weights.

Young children often catch on pretty quickly to the idea of somethings being bigger or smaller than others. One prime example: “his/her cookie is bigger than mine!”.

Sorting and Matching

Help your child…

  • sort and match objects according to size, colour and shape
  • compare objects using the terms ‘same’ and ‘different’

Sorting and matching activities are always fun for little ones.

Start with matching activities. Here you can compare two objects and decide whether they are the same (i.e. they match) or whether they’re different.

Next move onto sorting activities. These are easy activities to do at home, for example, sorting out the toy box into different categories or helping to sort the laundry.


Help your child…

  • create and continue patterns using shapes, colours and objects

During the preschool years, give your child lots of opportunities to explore patterns made with shapes, colours and objects.

Give your child lots of hands-on opportunities to create their own patterns using items such as counting bears, counters, blocks. Another fun idea is to create colour patterns using paint and/or colouring supplies.

Now you know what to focus on, head back to the preschool math page to find math activities and resources that you can use at home.

Similar Posts