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Numerical skills emerge during infancy and the preschool years when children are exposed to different quantitative and spatial relations in everyday activities. 

  • At 6 months babies typically can detect the difference between quantities of small sets of objects (e.g., a container with two blocks vs. one with three blocks), and they even can detect the difference between more numerous sets of objects if the ratio of one set to the other is large enough (e.g., 16 versus 32 dots).

  • Toddlers gradually learn the names of numbers as they learn language. By 3 years of age many children have memorized 1 to 10 and are beginning to count small sets of objects successfully

  • Children around 6 years of age learn to generate numbers with decade structures (i.e., teens, twenties), understand what numbers mean, learn to count increasingly large sets of objects, understand that the last number of a count is the number of objects in a set, and understand how to add and subtract. 

Many school-age children struggle to learn math concepts and skills. Understanding the early development of numeracy can provide early childhood educators and elementary school teachers with the tools they need to nurture mathematical thinking.