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Preschool Math: What's Your Child Learning?

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Math in preschool doesn't exactly equal calculus, long division, and multi-step SAT-style word problems. But preschool math is important. Quality, challenging math education in the early-childhood classroom creates a foundation for your child's future learning, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). With that in mind—what is your child learning in their pre-k math lessons?


Between the ages of three and six (in other words, the preschool years), your child is beginning to recognize, remember, and name basic shapes. This includes circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles. This means that your child is likely to learn about shapes in her pre-k class. This might include pointing to shapes in a drawing, a book, or the environment along with creating their own shapes. As your child reaches age four, they will be better able to draw (their fine motor skills are developing) and may be able to draw shapes from memory.

Number Recognition

During the pre-kindergarten years your child is learning how to count. By the time they're ready to head off to kindergarten, they'll be able to count up to ten or twenty. Early-childhood math lessons may include counting items (such as small toys, food items, or almost anything else), pointing out numbers in the environment, or using numbers to identify quantities (such as their age).

Pattern Play

Your young child is now able to recognize basic patterns. Their pre-k teacher is helping this growing ability along by providing lessons and activities that allow your child to play with patterns. This might mean having them line up objects in repeating patterns based on color or shape or creating their own pattern types of artwork. Other ways that early-childhood educators help young students to explore pattern include using music (such as creating a pattern on a drum) and movement (such as jumping and stomping alternatively).


Early-childhood mathematics include making comparisons, such as a side-by-side size comparison. Preschoolers who are four years and up can typically use words such as smaller, bigger, shorter, taller, closer, and farther to compare objects. Young children can also use objects (such as a shoe or their own feet) and measurement devices to evaluate length and size. By the time a child is nearing five years old, it's likely that they are learning about time concepts. While your preschooler might not understand the intricacies of time just yet, she's learning how to name blocks of time—such as morning, afternoon, and night.

Math is a key content area in the preschool classroom. During their first years, your child is building skills that they will continue using as they moves into grade school and beyond.