Young Children: from 3-4 years old


Numeracy is about children developing an understanding of how to solve problems, how to reason and how to use logic and mathematical concepts in their everyday environment.

Children will use their bodies, minds and senses to explore their world, including the numbers and mathematics in that world. When they do this, they are able to develop their knowledge, skills and attitudes. They then form ideas and test these out. They also learn to refine these ideas as they interact with their peers and adults.

Mathematical concepts develop as children investigate and communicate their ideas about numbers, counting, shape, space and measures.



  • During these years, many young children can accurately count up to five items and some can count up to 10.

Tip: Ask your young child/learner; “What comes after 1-2-3?”   Many four-year-olds can answer correctly; “4”.  You can also ask; “What comes after 1-2-3-4-5-6?”, and they will say “7”.

  • Young children want to know about numbers. This is the best time to can introduce the concepts of addition versus subtraction.

Tip:  Talk about numbers and ask questions about them. Encourage them to ask questions too. Model and encourage children to use mathematical language, for example: “These are more than those” OR “Is this less than this?” OR “I have taken some away; now there are fewer grapes” OR “Would you like to add some more sand in the bucket?”


Space and Shape

  • Young children begin to use mathematical names for solid 3D shapes and flat 2D shapes. They also examine a shape and talk about it.

Tip: Encourage children to talk about their interest in shapes. Provide explanations on why things are similar or different e.g. a circle vs a triangle OR a cone vs a sphere OR even a square vs a cube.

  • During the fourth year, many children can recognize and name shapes with different sizes and orientations (for example, circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles). When asked, some four- and five-year-olds can copy a shape from memory after looking at it for several seconds.

Tip: Give them thick crayons and paper and ask them to draw the shapes that they have been playing with or looking at.

  • During the third, fourth and fifth years, children physically explore and gain understanding of the directional words “up,” “down,”  “front,”  “back,”  “over,”  “under,” “above,”  “on,”  “beside,”  “next to,”  “in front,”  “behind,”  “inside,”  “outside,”  “between,”  “left,”  “right,” etc.

Tip: Use these concepts during play time such as hiding under the tree OR looking for a favourite ball under the table OR falling down OR  jumping up and down and so forth.


Problem solving

  • During the third year, some children figure out how to follow a simple sequence of familiar events.

Tip:  For example, they can describe the steps they follow in taking a bath so ask them to tell you what those steps are. You can also enthusiastically ask children to talk about how they do certain things, for example: “I would like to know how you got up the ladder of the slide” OR “Do you want to teach me how to do it?”

  • During the fourth year, many children can follow and make their own simple patterns that repeat.

Tip: If you show them a color pattern like red-blue, red-blue, many young children will know that another red-blue comes next. Children may also be able to follow sound patterns, such as clap-stomp-clap-stomp. Turn it into a game!

  • In the fourth year, most children can place a small group of objects in order from biggest to smallest and talk about what they are doing using words like  “big,” “bigger,”  and  “biggest.”

Tip:  Turn any organising activity into a fun game or tell them it is important work that helps you. You can also show children how a big item can be divided into two; for example, how taking a slice of bread and cutting it into two pieces now allows two people to share!