What Are Numbers?
Numbers are used to describe quantities of all kinds and the order of things, like:
- Exactly how many (“I have 4 books”) or how much (“That’s 2 teaspoonfuls of sugar”)
- Approximately how many (about 20 people) or how much (almost one cup of water)
- Parts of things (6 pieces of the puzzle) or proportions (one-half of the apple)
- The order of things (grocery store aisles) or the sequence of events (“First, put on your socks. Second, put on your shoes.”)
Why Is Learning About Numbers Important?
Numbers help us compare, measure, count, add or subtract, put things in order, and solve problems of all kinds. When children start kindergarten, their number knowledge helps prepare them to learn math. Children and adults use numbers every day in their work and play.
What Do Children Need to Know About Numbers?
Children need to learn:
- The correct sequence of number words
- The names for numerals, like 4, 5, 6
- That a number tells us “how many,” and later, that each number word means a specific quantity
- How numbers are related to each other
To support children’s numbers learning, adults need to know that:
- Number learning is gradual.
- Number words can be confusing to children because numbers are used in many different ways. A child hears the word “five” when adults say, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…,” “José is 5 years old,” “Our address is 5 Maple Drive,” and more!
- It is difficult for children to understand numbers that refer to abstract ideas like time.