Your Baby, The Mathematician

22nd July 2017

Maths is one of the essential skills that all children need to learn. lessons start at the age of four, but from the moment your child is born they begin to analyse and explore the world, recognizing the shapes of your facial features and expressions, mastering depth perception, distance etc.

As parents, you can give your child a great start in life by helping them develop a positive appreciation of maths from a very early age.

It is now becoming more widely accepted that by the ages of seven to twelve months onwards, infants have already developed an abstract sense of number. Dr Anna Franklin of the Surrey Baby Lab asserts that “recent findings support the argument that young infants are capable of a wide range of mental operations and that infants are smarter than we think." So teaching infants and toddlers numerical concepts is definitely a worthwhile pursuit.

Even if you feel a little daunted by the prospect of teaching maths concepts there really is no need. From the earliest days of your child's life, maths comes constantly into daily life in organic and natural ways, so you can teach the basics without feeling that you need to be a maths teacher to do so.

Maths isn’t just about learning numbers and how to count - there are other important aspects involved, such as learning about different shapes and how to measure, identify and compare things. Just simple ideas about volume and quantity can be instrumental in developing an infant’s mathematical intelligence.

For younger infants, something as simple as a mobile above their cot will help them to notice shape and geometric movement as soon as their eyes can focus.

Any patterns and shapes they are exposed to in these early months will contribute to this development, and the earlier you begin to talk about number to your child - even if they can’t understand your words yet - the more natural the terms will seem later on.

Here are some practical ways and tools (toys) with which you can teach intrinsic maths concepts in an enjoyable and non-intrusive manner through play and exploration, so that your infant is comfortable with them and is well prepared for learning maths proper once they start using, and when they begin school.


Building blocks are a great maths toy because they help children learn about size, shape and balance which is essentially baby engineering and geometry. Have enough blocks in different shapes, sizes and colours to be able to compare and contrast, and build unusual structures.


In varying sizes, these demonstrate shape and volume. You can show how some cups will fit inside each other and some won’t. When used in conjunction with water or sand they promote learning through messy play.

Water and Sand.

These are great materials to use with cups, scoops, balls or for just messing around with. You can demonstrate to toddlers how much water or sand will fit in various shaped containers, and get them to explore and experiment with volume and size.


It may seem like an advanced mathematical operation, but if you think about it as ‘sharing by separating into equal portions’ its daily real life applications are obvious. Splitting up a pizza fairly for the whole family is basic division. The concepts of equal portions and fractions like halves, quarters and thirds are simple to introduce because they’re relevant to the child’s life experience, and no child wants to get the smallest slice! Food is great for examples like this.

Comparing and Contrasting/Classifying and Sorting.

Comparing and contrasting different quantities, shapes and volumes is essentially just asking- are two things the same or different? Children also need to learn to classify objects into groups, and sort different items into different groups. A good example to teach this is sorting out the washing into whites and colours – which also helps you out! Any way you can combine maths with helping round the house is a win win!


Measuring children’s height as they grow is one brilliant way to make measuring relevant to them, and can also be used to compare and contrast their height with other family members. You can get them to measure all sorts of things – giving them their own tape measure helps get them engaged too.

Matching/Creating patterns.

Match up coloured toys such as blocks into groups and patterns. Show toddlers a pattern of colours (blue block, red block, blue block, red block) and explain what you are doing. Ask them what they think will come next. A grasp of pattern is a very important maths skill and clapping patterns like ‘Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake’ are ideal while rhythmic number songs such as ‘One, Two Buckle My Shoe’ help reinforce number sequence.

Basic Counting. 

By pointing out where numbers occur in daily life, and counting out loud whenever possible ‘e.g. Look, these houses all have numbers on - 1, 2, 3 and our house is number 4!’ you are helping to cement their innate sense of number and giving them a verbal context for quantity which they will slowly internalize. 

You can count pretty much anything, steps, rocks, ducks, biscuits – it’s free, easy and it really helps make children aware of the numbers around them.


When your child is demonstrating enough awareness to accurately identify numbers and quantities verbally, encourage them to estimate as often as possible before counting e.g. ‘How many bananas do you think are in this bunch?’ or ‘Have a look and feel and guess how many scoops of sand will go into this cup?’ This will sharpen their spatial and numerical awareness.

Even youg babies and toddlers relish learning intuitively in this tactile and experimental way. When they examine patterns on a blanket, mouth a teething ring, experiment with blocks, balls or plastic beads, stack cups, pour water, watch and interact with us or even just stare out of the window at the world going by outside, they are stimulating neural connections that build a strong foundation for maths skills.

The more encouragement and positive repetitive reinforcement even very young children receive towards developing their mathematical concepts and skills, the more natural the formal numerical concepts and ideas will seem when they are old enough to start on the most simple lessons.

Obviously when they do, it’s best if you do the lessons together, apart from just to ensure they don’t get distracted, numerous studies have shown that children, especially young children learn better when their parents are involved.

Try to introduce use of the program as an extension of their play, rather than the beginning of formal learning and help your children have fun with the next stage of their mathematical education with Introducing maths in such a non-threatening way should ensure they proceed with confidence when it is time to start school.