Number Sense

tyler at table

In reading, the underlying skill is Phonemic Awareness.  In math, it is number sense.  Before a child is ready for formal math instruction in operations, he or she needs good number sense.  Number Sense includes:

  • One-to-one correspondence:
    • students need to be able to count one for one up to 10 objects or images
    • the expression of the number and touch of the object or image need to be simultaneous
    • practice counting everything…laundry, silverware, toes, blocks….
  • Recognizing the quantity of small groups of objects:
    • our brains can recognize up to 4 objects without needing them to be arranged or organized.
    •  Beyond 4, we need to mentally break the group down into  smaller groups or have them organized into a pattern.
    •  A great way to practice this skill is to play games with dice or dominoes.
  • Conservation of number:
    • this involves recognizing that the number does not change  if relative location, size or arrangement changes.  In other words, 3 markers are 3 markers if they are close together, far apart, in a vertical row, in a horizontal row, in a clump, etc.
    • 3 markers, 3 chairs, 3 airplanes, 3 seeds…all are 3
  • Once   the above skills are in place, the child is ready to match numerals to quantities and learn their names.
  • Other important pre-math skills are an understanding of
    • positional words: under, over, next to, behind…
    • and comparison words: bigger than, smaller than, biggest, smallest, etc.

The Green Readiness Book, listed in resources, has many fun activities to help your child develop these skills.


A good math tutor will not begin instruction in formal operations without making sure these concepts are in place.