Preschoolers typically like math. They have a natural understanding of informal mathematics and are often curious about the world around them and how things work. This curiosity coupled with the activities and routines of daily living provide the ideal environment in which to build mathematical understanding.


As parents, care givers, and early learning teachers, we can foster mathematical development of young children by providing opportunities to explore, make choices, and build confidence. Through play, observation, and interactions with others, parents and teachers can provide meaningful learning experiences for children by building upon their understanding of a child’s interests, family, language, and cultural experiences.

Many preschoolers have already learned some counting words and readily compare small groups of objects, understanding which group contains more. During these early years, preschoolers develop their mathematical knowledge about number, quantity, comparisons, shape, size, and space. High quality preschool mathematical experiences are the foundation for future mathematical learning and success and should be integrated into many activities throughout the day. 


Play is at the center of preschool aged children’s learning. Through play, preschoolers discover interests, develop their growing attention span, and learn about their capabilities and creativity. Play provides an important context for thinking, understanding the world, solving problems, and relating to others. 


Preschoolers make use of all of their senses with new experiences and situations. They compare new ideas and discoveries with those that are familiar and create new meaning and understanding. Parents and teachers can support preschoolers learning by recognizing and taking advantage of the learning opportunities in unexpected situations:


  • Building with blocks may provide an opportunity to sort the blocks by shape.

  • Helping parents with cooking allows a child to explore measurement.

  • Riding a tricycle or making a fort from cardboard boxes allows a child to expand his or her understanding of spatial relationships. 

Play provides an important context for thinking, understanding the world, solving problems, and relating to others.

Teachers can make children feel welcome by ensuring that all children have access to the learning environment through thoughtful organization of materials and space and by establishing a climate of respect for all of the children and families within the preschool setting.

California Early Math Project