Mathematics Concepts & Skills That Are Developmentally Appropriate for Young Children

While your young child isn't exactly ready to master complex math concepts, she can handle developmentally appropriate ones 1. Developmentally appropriate practices, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, include meeting a child at his own stage of development, knowing what the child is capable of doing and understanding his learning style 1. Math activities that fall into this category feature skills that match your child's current development and ability level.


The child development experts at PBS Parents note that by the age of 2, most toddlers are beginning to use at least a few number words and may even understand the difference between low-numbered quantities for a large group 234. For example, your toddler knows what he's saying when he points to one toy car and exclaims, "I only have one, not a lot." When it comes to geometry, it is developmentally appropriate to expect that toddlers who are 24 months and older to identify and match basic shapes such as squares and circles 1. By the close of the toddler years, as your child approaches age 3, he will start to recognize patterns and be able to sort objects into like-groups.

Young Preschoolers

Young children between the ages of 3 and 4 are building new math skills that include understanding concepts slightly more complex than what a toddler can handle. Although your young preschooler isn't ready to solve lengthy word problems, she can, according to PBS Parents, understand and distinguish the numbers and quantities up to three and possibly count at least up to the number 10 234. While most 3-year-olds aren't developmentally ready to do major math addition and subtraction problems, some can understand that adding means making more of an item and that subtraction equals taking something away. Additionally, young preschoolers can grasp some simple size comparisons such as bigger and smaller along with identifying patterns and sequences.

Older Preschoolers

By the second half of your child's preschool years -- ages 4 and 5 -- he is developing the mathematical skills to think more logically and solve simple problems. According to PBS Parents, older preschoolers may have the ability to count into the teens as well as counting backwards from either five or 10 234. Other developmentally appropriate concepts that older preschoolers can grasp include simple operations like adding 1 + 1, reading multi-digit numbers, matching shapes of different sizes and orientations, combining shapes into designs, understanding different quantities or measurements and discerning even from odd numbers 1.

Kindergarten-aged Children

The beginning of grade school, or kindergarten, marks a time when your child may need to know more complex math concepts and demonstrate the ability to tackle more solution-based problems. According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, kindergarten math should primarily include learning about making whole-number comparisons and describing geometric shapes 5. Additionally, young grade schoolers should work with numbers 11 through 19 to understand place value, compare measurements, reason both abstractly and quantitatively and classify objects into categories.