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Count by Numbers

Help your preschooler learn math skills

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If you use math words in everyday conversations with your little one, she'll do better in math and reading when she's in elementary school.

You can help your youngster understand that a number word represents a specific amount. When waiting in line at the ice cream store, say, “Let’s count the people in front of us: 1, 2, 3. There are three people in front of us. Then it’s our turn. And how many people are behind us?” If your child answers incorrectly, instead of supplying the correct answer, say, “How did you get your answer? Let’s check to see if that’s right. Let’s count together.” Once she can begin to say number words, she can begin to match the words to set size and then count the set (say, for example, “Look at the spoons. There are three—1, 2, 3!—one for each of us”). Here are more easy ways to integrate math in your child’s daily life.

6 Simple Ways to Talk Math When You’re Out and About

  • When you’re in the car or on the bus, count the number of traffic lights you pass and emphasize the total. “There’s one light. There’s another, that’s two traffic lights. And now we’ve passed 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 lights. That’s five traffic lights we just passed.” Next time, count the number of stop signs.
  • Explain that numbers identify buildings (“See the house numbers we’re passing?”) and businesses (“We’re looking for our dentist’s office at 129 Autumn Road”). Ask your child, “What numbers do you see?”
  • Say to your child, “Let’s count how many cars pass by while we wait for the light to turn green.” Another time, count trucks or buses.
  • Talk about vehicles with different numbers of wheels. Ask: “How many wheels does a car have? How many wheels does a bicycle have? A tricycle? A scooter?”
  • When parking your car in a lot, count the cars between your car and the store. “1, 2, 3, 4—there are four cars between our car and the store.”
  • If parking on the street, count the cars between your car and the crosswalk. “Let’s count together—1, 2, 3! There are three cars between our car and the crosswalk.”

Extend the Counting Fun

Try this easy math talk as you walk around the neighborhood with your child:

How many cars do you see?

How many doors do you see?

How many white dogs do you see?

How many brown dogs?

How many dogs are there all together?

What else can we count?

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