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My three-year-old doesn't know numbers yet, should I worry?

As far as we know, there is nothing wrong with him that would suggest he has a learning problem. But he doesn't know the name of the numbers yet. Some of his kids his age can count to 10.

Seeking Opinion Child Development , Education 3 years ago

2 experts and 1 parent have answered

expert answer
Karen Pettrone-Keber expert
Karen Pettrone-Keber Literacy Coach/Special Educator Naples, US
Education expert

Not knowing the "names of the numbers" is deceiving since simply saying the words "one, two, three" from rote memory is not considered noteworthy, anymore than singing the alphabet song. A more significant element for preschoolers in acquiring mathematics is active, creative, and intellectual engagement.

Try to incorporate a stimulating variety of materials and experiences when introducing math concepts (one to one relationships, sorting and classifying concrete objects, counting a specific number of objects to 10, using ordinal number names from first to tenth, recognizing numbers in their environment, etc).

These activities will be more meaningful bridges for mathematical awareness. Be flexible enough in your "teachable moments" to accomodate your child's individual learning style and prior experiences, and of course, interests! Use unique and fun techniques to achieve meaningful learning. For example, have your child practice various kinds of jumps or other physical movements and count out the numbers as they move. Frog jumps, jumping jacks, hops, etc. Mix up the movements and the numbers. To include a visual cue, have number cards and have your child pull one from a basket and use that as the number of times they are to jump or hop.

The key is to make learning FUN and usually to "drill is to kill".

5 Reply Share:
Experience 3 years ago
expert answer
Dr Dylan Arena expert
Dr Dylan Arena Chief Learning Officer US

If it were my child, I wouldn't worry yet. It's possible that the child hasn't learned the names of numbers yet because he's been busy learning lots of other cool things!

There's much more to learn in our first few years here on Earth than there is time to learn it all, so children will naturally show different patterns of mastery over various things: Some will focus more on controlling their bodies, others expressing themselves, others on figuring out how things work, etc.

With respect to numbers, if you want your son to focus on them, then you need to focus on them with him--not by drilling or quizzing him, but by helping him notice numbers in the world. You can begin by counting things together, any time you want. Keep it playful, even silly, and drop it when he loses interest. Your goal is to model an interest in numbers: If you think it's cool, he'll think it's cool.

And all of Karen's points are right on: Number sense is much more than number names. In fact, my colleague Dr. Jessica Tsang wrote a post about developing number sense here on our blog:

Good luck with it!

3 Reply Share:
Experience 3 years ago
Emma Craig
Emma Craig SAHM to a 4-year-old girl US

Please try not to be too concerned, but discuss it with your pediatrician if it continues to bother you. My 4 1/2 year old has shown no interest in letters or numbers until one day she just woke up and seemed to be interested in learning. Also, I've noticed that kids are picking up things even when you don't think they're listening. Now that my daughter has started to show an interest in learning, I'm surprised at home much she knows even though it seemed like all this time she wasn't paying attention. Continue (or start?) to add numbers into daily life and play (ie., counting stairs as you walk up, counting how many apples you buy at the store or how many cars he's playing with) but keep it fun and try not to stress! Good luck!

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Experience 3 years ago

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