How to Teach Math Activities to Preschool

Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Kimberly Crawford

Teaching Math to Preschoolers

Believe it or not, children begin to develop their math skills when they are babies. Asking your baby if they want more applesauce, singing, counting rhymes, and playing with different sizes of boxes or blocks are all ways that infants experience and learn math concepts.  

Through exploration of their environment, this learning continues into the preschool years. It’s easy and fun for parents to ensure that by the time formal schooling starts at age five or six, a strong foundation is established. Free kindergarten math worksheets will help to teach a preschooler math

Often parents consider early math skills to be counting and recognizing numbers or even adding or subtracting. But these are advanced skills. It’s important first to understand how young children learn math in an informal and hands-on way.  

All young children learn developmentally in a series of steps. Skipping a “step” results in confusion and frustration. Teaching preschool math should be fun and hands-on. The opportunities to experience math are in abundance around the home, preschool, or playground. 

Concrete, Pictorial, and Abstract Approaches

playing with puzzle education

The Concrete

This is a physical stage or approach to learning. Think of holding one block to understand the concept of one. Expand the learning by holding two or three. The child physically explores the concepts of more and less, fewer, add and take away. Measurement is experienced with block towers or stacking boxes. Math vocabulary such as taller, shorter, bigger, smaller, etc. flows naturally from this type of learning through play. 

The Pictorial Stage

This stage follows the concrete stage. Pictures now can represent real objects. Children look at a picture of four apples and understand the picture means four apples. Later, four dots represent the quantity of four. Children look at pictures and see visual representations of amount, more, and less.

They know through life experiences that a chair is heavier than a toy and understand pictures that show examples of weight. Picture stories showing addition and subtraction begin here as well. 

The Abstract Stage

The abstract stage is the final and most advanced stage of understanding and learning math concepts. A child in this stage can look at an additional sentence: 

4+2 and add the numbers without relying on concrete objects or pictures. The child has grown mathematically and understands that the numbers 4 and 3 represent a quantity to be added. 

Preschoolers are primarily in the concrete stage, but teachers of primary students (K-3) know that teaching a skill hands-on and with blocks and counters is essential before moving on to worksheets. In addition, a concept introduced concretely is much easier to understand and solve. 

So when teaching math to preschool children, find ways to show the child a concept with something from their environment and they can touch. Search your environment for objects to count, things to lift and carry, and patterns. 

Leave the worksheets until later when they are ready to move into the pictorial and abstract stage and have fun learning!

Basic Math can be a Loving Experience for Your Child

For a parent of a preschooler, it is crucial to stress teaching math fundamentals. Above all, a preschool child’s understanding of future mathematical concepts highly relies on building a solid base in mathematics at an early age. Moreover, the math basics for a preschooler should be high in quality and challenging. Besides, the lesson plan that you select for your preschooler should be carefully planned, suitable for their developmental stage, and very inclusive.

Studies on preschool children have shown that children develop learning capacity the most within the first six years of life. By introducing your child to mathematics concepts during these crucial years, you are helping in the development of positive experiences with the subject that will enhance the child’s success when he is attending the child care center and even when he leaves to further his education in the traditional educational setting.

Basic Math is Easy to Teach

math in preschool

The parent should strongly engage the child in basic math such as concepts, various types of math methods, and mathematical language through proper experiences, games, and activities. It is necessary to show a preschool-aged child how the connections and the ideas of math relate to other subjects.

This will not only develop their knowledge of math but, will also associate mathematical concepts to various areas of their life. This will create a keen interest in the subject. When teaching math basics to a preschooler, it is important to have the child relate what they have learned and to describe their thoughts while interacting with those fundamentals. You should also encourage your child to use math in daily activities such as pretend play, cooking, and given chores.

How to Help Your Child Develop Early Math Skills?

Children use math skills during their daily routines and activities. This is very important as these skills are necessary to make them ready for formal school. Preschool children have an understanding of what addition and subtraction are through everyday interactions.

For example, John has two cars; Harry wants one. After John gives one, he sees that he has one car left. Similarly, other math skills develop through daily activities you have with your child. For example, counting stairs as you go up or down. Such easy activities give children an impetus to learn the formal math education that starts informal school.

Basic Math Concepts Before Entering Formal Schooling

playing with wooden cubes with numbers
  • Size, shape, and patterns
  • Ability to count verbally forward, and backward
  • Knowing numerals
  • Knowing what is more and less of a quantity
  • Understanding one-to-one correspondence, like matching sets, or knowing which group has three and which has four)

If the early math ‘foundation ” is strong advanced mathematical skills will also be strong. It is good if parents start to develop maths skills when the child is in the preschool stage. The following skills need to be developed.   

Number Sense

This is the ability to count correctly, and at this stage only forward. Later children learn how to count backward. A more difficult skill regarding number sense is the ability to understand the relationships between numbers, like adding and subtracting. Child aged 2, saw the candies on the table. He counted with his mother: “One, two, three, four, five, six…”. Such activities develop number sense in the child’s mind. 


Using symbols, words, pictures, and blocks to teach mathematical concepts. Mother and father playing with their three-year-old child Sam. Sam (aged 3) is setting out a fantasy picnic. He cautiously laid out four plastic plates and four plastic cups. The whole family can come to the picnic. There are four members in his family; he used this information to the number of plates and cups he chose.

Spatial Sense (Geometry)

Also referred to as “geometry.” For preschool children, it represents the concept of shape, size, space, position, direction, and movement. One of the simplest and animating math concepts for preschoolers is learning shapes. 

The world is full of unique shapes. By teaching a child to physically distinguish and recognize various types of shapes and unique designs, you are training them with a skill that is very useful throughout their lifetime. Examples of shapes that should be taught in basic math for preschoolers are circle, square, triangle, oval, rectangle, and diamonds shapes.

Sorting and Patterning

When it comes to math basics for preschoolers, two necessary activities include sorting and patterning. Show your child to sort by the color, by the shape, by the unique touch of the objects, and the size. This helps children learn how to sort the same type of pieces so that tasks like counting and dividing become easier. Patterning is simply taking an item, for example, blocks, crayons, and pencils, and grouping them in such a way that similar objects are grouped together and not mixed with others. 


Learning how to count is a very important exercise for preschool children. Put different objects like toys, blocks, and cars and encourage your child to count them. For example, when there are two blocks, count with them and show them the number two symbol. This way you will also teach them what the number two looks like. Such activities should be repeated all day to make the child understand the concept of counting.


A Preschool child’s brain is like a sponge it absorbs knowledge easily. At this stage heavy responsibility lies on parents to engage with their children constantly. The important thing is that the efforts should not stop. Teaching math concepts is easy. The parent should show and guide the child in his development stage. Toys, blocks of different shapes, and colorful books can be used to teach different math concepts. 

Special attention should be given to shapes, sorting, patterning, counting, and the math dimensions. Through such activities, you will introduce your child to math concepts. You will install a sense of imagination, curiosity, and desire for knowledge that will not only enhance their knowledge of the basics, but they will also learn more about the world surrounding them. The response shown by the child gives happiness which is uncountable.