The Development of Numeracy Skills in Children

Children begin to develop numeracy skills from a very early age. You can introduce maths skills and ideas into everyday activities with your child to help build early numeracy.

About numeracy and maths skills

Numeracy is the ability to apply maths concepts in all areas of life.

Numeracy skills involve understanding numbers, counting, solving number problems, measuring, sorting, noticing patterns, adding and subtracting numbers and so on.

We all need numeracy and maths skills to do everyday things like:

  • solve problems – for example, which brand and size of tinned beans is the cheapest?
  • analyse and make sense of information – for example, how many wins does my team need to get to the top of the competition?
  • understand patterns – for example, what number would the next house in this street be?
  • make choices – for example, which bicycle is the best value?

Your child’s everyday experiences are full of learning opportunities that lay the foundations for numeracy.

How your child starts learning numeracy

Children start learning numeracy skills from the time they’re born. This learning happens through everyday play and activities – for example, when you encourage your child to:

  • count fingers, toes and toys
  • recognise numbers on objects like clocks or remote controls
  • decide how many slices of apple she wants.

As your child gets older, he learns more numeracy and maths skills, including size and measurement – for example, when he starts to:

  • help set the table
  • fill a water bottle
  • divide food into equal shares
  • compare things of different sizes – ‘big’, ‘small’ and ‘medium’
  • use words to describe where things are – ‘over’, ‘under’ and ‘next to’
  • help with the shopping and use money to buy things.

And when you talk with your child about maths concepts in your everyday activities, it helps her understand how and why maths is useful. For example, this happens when you point out:

  • big and small (size)
  • high and low (height)
  • heavy and light (weight)
  • fast and slow (speed)
  • close and far (distance)
  • first, second and last (order)

Children learn best when they’re interested in something. If your child is doing something he’s particularly interested in – whether it involves dinosaurs, dolls, cars, building, insects or whatever – you can use and explore maths concepts with him while he plays.

For more information about the importance of numeracy skills in your child’s development, contact Anel Annandale at 021 423 0739 or via email at

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