Why Is Number Sense Important In Early Childhood Education

The construct of number sense refers to a child’s fluidity and flexibility with numbers. It helps children understand what numbers mean, improves their mental mathematics performance, and gives them the tools to look at math in the outside world and make comparisons. In short, number sense is essential for developing a foundation in mathematics that will last a lifetime. 

Why Number Sense Is So Important

Number sense is critical for mathematical success for several reasons. First, it is difficult for students to understand what numbers mean without number sense. They may be able to recite numerals and count objects, but they cannot fully grasp the magnitude or quantity of those numbers. Second, students who lack number sense often have difficulty with mental mathematics. This includes recalling addition and subtraction facts, estimating answers to problems, and solving word problems. Finally, students need number sense in order to make connections between mathematics and the world around them. For example, they need to be able to use mathematics to measure objects, compare quantities, and understand Venn diagrams. 

Problem Solving Skills

One of the most important reasons for understanding number sense is for children to acquire problem-solving skills. When children can work flexibly with numbers, they can solve problems both inside and outside of the classroom. For example, if your child knows that 10 + 4 = 14, they will be able to quickly solve the problem 10 + 7 = __ by adding 3 to the known sum of 10 + 4. This type of flexible thinking is an important problem-solving skill that will serve your child well both now and in the future. 

What Can You Do To Help? 

You can do many things as a parent to help your child develop strong number sense skills. One of the best things you can do is give your child frequent opportunities to practice counting and performing simple addition and subtraction problems. You can incorporate math into everyday activities such as cooking, baking, shopping, and even laundry! 

You can also support your child’s understanding of numbers by frequently talking about numbers throughout the day. For example, point out numbers when you see them on clocks, street signs, buildings, or bills. You can also ask your child questions such as “How many socks did you put in your laundry basket?” or “If there are 5 cookies left and we each want 2 cookies, how many cookies will be left?” Asking questions like these regularly will help your child develop a deeper understanding of numbers and how they are used in everyday life. 

You can help track your child’s number sense progress by checking for the following:

  1. An awareness of the relationship between number and quantity
  2. An understanding of number symbols, vocabulary, and meaning
  3. The ability to engage in systematic counting
  4. An understanding of different representations of number
  5. Competence with simple mathematical operations
  6. An awareness of number patterns, including recognizing missing numbers

What Poor Number Sense Looks Like

As an elementary school teacher, I often had parents proudly tell me their child could count to 50. They were right – the child could recite the number names from one to 50. Impressive? Yes! But meaningful? No. 

The ability for a child to recite numbers in order is only one level of oral counting. It doesn’t necessarily mean they understand number sense. Unless a child has learned the basic building blocks early on, they will struggle to understand math concepts later on, such as fractions and decimals. 

Children with poor number sense tend to rely on methods they feel secure with and will focus on procedure. They often apply immature strategies to calculations and fail to spot links and connections that could help them get to the answer more quickly and easily. 

Those with poor number sense may also prefer to use pen and paper rather than working things out in their heads. They may be reluctant to estimate an answer before working it out and may accept whatever answer they get without questioning whether it is reasonable. Ironically children with poor number sense often do a more challenging version of math that relies upon remembering and applying procedures, with little understanding of underlying math concepts. 

Setting Up For Success!

Number sense is a critical foundation skill for success in mathematics and problem-solving. As a parent, there are many things that you can do to support your child in developing strong number sense skills, such as providing opportunities for practice and talking about numbers regularly throughout the day. By taking some time to focus on developing strong number sense skills with your child, you will be setting them up for success both inside and outside the classroom!

At Dropkick Math Academy, we include number sense as one of the four pillars of math that our curriculum is based around. As children improve their abilities with the four math pillars, they will strengthen their sense of place value and proportional reasoning skills. With our support in learning the building blocks of mathematics, your child will begin to thrive.  

If you have been searching for “math tutor near me,” look no further. Our fun, educational learning style will help boost your child’s confidence in math and set them up for mathematical success for years to come!

Learn more about our programs today and how we can help your child with number sense.

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