Numeracy means different things to different people. For some, numeracy is the foundation of mathematics; the basic skills required to do more advanced mathematics. For others, numeracy is a term used to describe the mathematical skills required to complete job requirements or to be a mathematically “literate” person. In the field of early childhood education, numeracy is most often seen as children’s understandings of basic number concepts and skills.
Numeracy begins long before toddlers know the word names of numbers (one, two, three, etc.). It begins when the youngest infants begin noticing differences in quantity and develop the understanding of “more and less”. For older toddlers and preschoolers, learning the word names of numbers and saying those words in order is another really important numeracy skill. Counting small groups of items is often the next step. Preschoolers can practice counting groups of objects as long as they are in small sets (1-5) and distinguishing between sets of quantities when those sets are very different (3 vs. 25).
Numeracy skills, like literacy skills, should be promoted as much as possible in child care. When opportunities arise during play-based everyday occurrences, every effort should be made to enhance and highlight concepts around quantity, space, and patterns.
Next week, I am going to write more about early Numeracy and ways in which teachers can promote it.