Developing early math skills

Early math skills
Learning is different with different kids. Yes, of course, there are expectations based on age groups but there are also studies on different teaching techniques and their effectiveness. No, I do not have the references to these studies. I read from the Internet but unfortunately, I am not that organized to keep the references. 🙁 Anyway, what I was going to say is that Dear Son showed extensive interest on different topics from time to time. Currently, he is four years old. (The post was written in 2016.) He is showing more interest in numbers now. We believe his interests in certain topics grow based on natural instinct and timing. We exposed him to addition and subtraction a few weeks ago. He is enjoying it a lot. The preliminary activities relevant to addition and subtraction are as follows.


Dear Son started to work on his numbers at an early age, before two. By his age of three, he was able to count up to thirty fluently and up to fifty with some help on every 10th number. He can currently count up to one hundred. Dear Son has been gadget-free for the last few months. That is, he is not watching TV or any kind of electronic gadget. He is now focused on playing with Lego sets, drawing, coloring, writing, and a lot of reading. He finds his favorite words from his storybooks but he cannot read yet. Therefore, we read him his books a lot.

Playing with addition

In the past few months we brought up the concept of addition using an abacus infrequently. He had fun playing with the abacus. Then in the last week, I told Dear Son — Suppose you have 2 apples and Dear Dad gives you 1 more apple. How many apples do you have? He was easily able to say 3. We started with tiny numbers. Then we slowly increased the numbers and gave him additions with bigger operands after half an hour, like — you have 14 apples; Daddy gives you 5 more; How many do you have now? He took around 20 seconds and gave a big smile, then whispered 19. Given his enthusiasm, we showed him how he could use fingers to count. Of course, we again showed him how to use an abacus.

A simple abacus Dear Son played with.
Figure: A simple abacus Dear Son plays with.

Bringing addition on paper

Bringing addition on paper was not difficult. I wrote 2+1= on a paper and told Dear Son the same story — You have 2 apples and Daddy gave you 1 more; how many do you have now? He said and wrote 3. Then I wrote 5+2= and told him — You have 5 apples Daddy gave you 2 more; how many do you have now? He counted by hand and said 7 and wrote it down. Then I wrote 6+2= but did not tell him any story but still, he counted and wrote 8, so and so forth. The plus (+) and (=) symbols started to make sense to him after a few examples. He now does his additions using his fingers.

Figure: Dear Son's exercise on addition. I wrote the X+Y= and Dear Son wrote the results. The take-home message from this picture is that my handwriting is no better than Dear Son's. :-)
Figure: Dear Son’s exercise on addition. I wrote the X+Y= and Dear Son wrote the results. The take-home message from this picture is that my handwriting is no better than Dear Son’s. 🙂

Which number is more?

This is another item we focused on the last few days. At first, we asked a few questions like — Which is more, 3 apples or 5 apples? He answered well. He mixed up a few when we gave him comparisons of numbers between 11 to 20 but he quickly fixed them. Afterward, I wrote a few pairs of numbers on a paper. Each pair to compare was in a row. I told him to circle the greater number in each row. I supervised the first two rows. I said, Which number is more — 5 or 2? Circle that. Dear Son circled 5. Then I told him, among 3 and 6, which number is more? He circled 6. Then he started circling the greater numbers in each of the rows. The first exercise is below.

Figure: Exercise on which number is greater. Dear Son circled the greater number between a pair.
Figure: Exercise on which number is greater. Dear Son circled the greater number between two in each line.


We have taught Dear Son the concept of subtraction with the story — You have five apples; you ate two; how many do you have left? He said, apples are yummy; I have three left. 🙂 We have not yet brought subtractions on paper but we will use the same strategy as we used for addition to bring the concepts on paper.

A few days ago, from his Daycare, we were informed that Dear Son is a bit behind in a few milestones — zipping the zipper, socializing, and distinguishing coins (quarters, dime, nickel, and penny). It was good to know which areas we need to work on. Socializing is difficult for him because he is too shy. He goes after me (Dear Dad) in this area. All Dear Son needs to do is to follow Mommy’s footsteps in this department. 🙂 We have just started working on Dear Son’s money-concept. We got consumed by so many other educational activities that we did not focus on the basic concepts. God knows, how many other crucial items we are skipping. 🙁 Hopefully, not too many. 🙂 For now, it seems like we are going well on the addition department. So, here is to hoping we do not jinx it. 🙂

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18 thoughts on “Developing early math skills

  1. It is too early to start teaching maths to our dear son (it will be turning 5 months in a week), however, when he begins to communicate verbally we will have to teach him how one and one make two. How old is your dear son?

  2. That is great to hear and it sounds like you are a good teacher which is probably why your son is such a good learner. Has he been completely gadget free for the past few months as in he hasn’t used any electronic devices? I personally would find that hard considering that I am almost completely reliant on a lot of my devices especially my phone and laptop. But it is definitely a great thing that he has been device free because he can learn so many different things from things like lego.

  3. Around here, the fear of mathematics is really the beginning of wisdom and I blame that on parents not giving the kids the chance to start enjoying learning the subject from a young age. So, I am happy to see how you’re training your son for that is the right way to go. I enjoy reading and studying numbers for it is good for my business.

  4. You are doing a great job for developing your child’s mathematical skills at young age. Most people find Math really hard but your child has an edge on it now that you started teaching him basic counting as well as basic addition and subtraction. I also find playing monopoly a good idea, as suggested in one of the replies I’ve seen here. It will help him get used to counting, addition, and subtraction while having fun. Math is a very good subject. It’s actually my favorite subject because I don’t need to do memorization. It’s a practical subject, which is a better way of learning rather than memorizing. This helps develop logical thinking thru application, which enhances cognitive abilities. Thank you for sharing your idea. I will do this to my future child too.

  5. I was tough how to play monopoly from a very young age and not only did making the math of how much I need to buy a house and adding these notes together until I have enough, help me with math but it also helped me to learn how to manage money and work a bit smarter. Later on I would realize that I also need to be able to build more houses later on the monopoly board and therefor I should stratigise as to how I can get the most with my money. My conclusion is that I think Monopoly is a great recourses to help with child development. These days you can plat monopoly on smart devices that makes it a lot easier if everyone likes to play together yet everyones not together. I once played monopoly and chess against my grandma who lives in another city.
    Board games is a great way of learning and a great way for friends and family to stay connected.

    1. Board games are definitely of great fun. I did not think about that way you explained. Thanks for such a great idea. Have a great evening.

    1. That is a great idea. Dear Son has started to count coins now. A toy cash register will definitely boost the concept. Thank you for stopping by and providing a great idea.

  6. Oh wow! Terrific! Absolutely fantastic! Your 4 year old is way ahead of my little princess! I know it’s not a competition. *grin* I am thinking that maybe my toddler is more artistic than intellectual. Lol! Or, maybe it’s too much Ever After High and Pokemon on Netflix and all sorts on YouTube. She got tired of Dora and Handy Manny and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which were more educational. Sigh!

    1. Yes to whatever captures their attention and imagination. ? kids are very smart; they do learn a lot from whatever educational means are used, Netflix, or Youtube, or paper. I find it amazing how a baby can learn in so little time. Thanks a lot for your comment. Have a wonderful thanksgiving day.

  7. It’s great that your son is gadget free. My two children grew up gadget free too and we only turn on the TV when dad is around and only for news or documentaries. No movies, no drama, no violence. Kids nowadays are too influenced by what they watch on TVs or too attached to iPads and games. It’s very bad mentally, psychologically and emotionally. Well done.

    1. Thank you very much for your encouraging comment. We found that our son is more interactive and interested in playing with day-to-day items including cooking pots, uncooked rice, and potatoes when there is no gadgets around. He now plays a lot with legos along with reading, writing, and drawing. I guess, he now gets more time to do these activities because he is gadget-free. 🙂 Thank you very much for stopping by and leaving a beautiful note. Have a wonderful weekend.

  8. That is so great. You’re a good teacher. I’m sure whatever you’ve forgotten will be covered at some point in his life. Believe me, I missed a lot of things, as do all parents, and both of my kids are doing quite well in life (they are a freshman and a senior this year). I didn’t stunt them at all. The thing is with parenting, it’s not about doing it all, it’s doing your best and being intentional. You are passing with flying colors in those areas. Your son will be just fine.

    1. Thank you very much Joanna, for your excellent and encouraging comment. You said it very well that parenting is not about doing it all, rather it is about doing our best.

  9. Dear Parents,
    you are doing more than well – you are doing great! Warning: the more advanced your son will be academically, the less socialized he may seem to those who are not as advanced, i,e. average or below average. The way to help him with that is through team athletic activities OUTSIDE of school. As to his fine motor skills (zipping the zipper), there are M&M math books where he would have to drop M&M’s into holes on pages and count them. It’s a neat way of developing math and fine motor skills at the same time. A piano is also great, even if it’s a toy keyboard. Touchtone tablets / smartphones will not help as you need a real keyboard with real keys. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

    1. Dear Dolly, thank you very much for the informative comment. We did not know about these pointers. We will definitely look into team activities outside school, M&M math books (didn’t know about these books), and a piano. Thanks again for such an insightful comment. We are sure that others will find your comment helpful as well. We will definitely ask you if we have any question.

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