Developing Maths / Mathematical Aptitude in Kids

Few days back I wrote a post about my agitation on a viral video about the way a small girl was being taught Maths and the pressure early age schooling creates for kids. I wrote my views on Why I decided to start Nursery for my daughters at 4+” (Click to read the article)


I promised myself as well as all you readers that instead of just cribbing about the situation, I will try and use my knowledge in educating parents on introducing different concepts to kids that makes learning fun for them & also ensures less pressure on school system & less frustration for parents. So here I begin with my favorite topic – Mathematics.

Introducing Maths to Toddlers & Pre-schoolers


Oh!! She’s so good with numbers. She is a genius. She’s a born mathematician!!! Is She??


So, are kids born with an aptitude for Maths? Is anyone a born Math Genius?


NO, says research. But kids do develop understanding of the concept of quantities and patterns as early as at age of 6 months. Research shows that babies who are introduced to numbers before the age of 1 can count, identify larger number and do basic calculations like addition, repeated addition, subtraction & division by the age of 3.5. 


Now let’s get down to business. How do we introduce mathematics to babies and how do we develop the aptitude towards mathematics for pre schoolers and school going kids.

Early learners / Toddlers


So how do we introduce the concept of maths to kids? The first thing that most parents and teachers would teach is numbers, right? Say one (vaan) say 2 (tooo)!!


Most kids dislike maths because it is an abstract idea to them. They’ll repeat 1 2 3 and even cram it, but it’s nothing more than gibberish to them, just like Un dos tres is nothing more than a Ricky Martin song for me. So it’s not numbers that we should begin with, but number sense.


Number sense means understanding that numbers have a meaning. It’s linking the numbers to everyday environmental things. So one becomes one nose, two becomes two eyes, three becomes three apple in the bowl, four becomes four members in our family etc. Babies and toddlers love manipulative, so use them. A Manipulative is any object that kids can see, touch feel – so objects like kidney beans, Popsicle sticks, pebbles, beads, boxes etc are great manipulative for kids. Introduce maths using marbles, tomatoes, blocks… anything that they can play with works best.


Pre schoolers and school going kids


Once they develop a number sense, they’ll learn more complex spiraled objectives (maths is always spiraled i.e. an objective is always based on the previous objective and one skill can not be learnt unless the previous one is mastered) To make sure that they master the objective that you are teaching, three levels of introduction needs to be taken care of

1) Concrete
2) Pictorial
3) Abstract


So let’s say my objective of the day is teaching addition of twi 1 digit numbers. Let’s say for example the problem is 2 + 3 = ?



Step 1 # Concrete



Give any concrete object that they can touch, feel and play with. For eg. I’ll take two tomatoes in one bowl and three tomatoes in another bowl. I’ll let her play with it for a while and then ask her to count the tomatoes in bowl no. 1. Similarly she’ll count the tomatoes in bowl no. 2. Now ask her to MIX the two in one bowl and ask her now how many TOTAL tomatoes are there. She’ll count and tell – 5. We are not just introducing the concept of addition but also vocabulary associated with Mathematics here. 


Step 2 # Pictorial



Same problem let them solve with the pictorial method. For eg. I’ll give a sheet of paper and ask her to draw two stars on one side of the paper. Similarly I’ll ask her to draw three stars on other side of paper. Now I’ll ask her to count the start on side one – 2 and on side two -3. I’ll ask her if I MIX the start how many stars TOTAL are there. She’ll count and tell me – 5.


You can find some great worksheets for pictorial counting at Super Teachers Worksheets website.


Step 3 # Abstract


Introduce the abstract idea of Addition. At this stage addition will not be an abstract alien concept for kids, but a game where they need to MIX and find TOTAL ( key words should remain consistent for them to be able to relate)

The kids need to know the Print Numbers i.e. 1 is One and 2 Is Two as a pre skill for this. Now give them the problem on a piece of paper – 2 + 2 = ? Let them use their knowledge of objects and pictures (you’ll need to guide them to use manipulative or pictures initially) and find the solution. Practice few more problems and here is your little master of adding one digit number to one digit number!!!


In the next article in this series, I will share the 3 step process of teaching Abstract Concept (the way we teachers do) in detail.


Suggested Reading – You can read this wonderful article by a dear friend Lata Tokhi about “Fun, Everyday ways of improving math skills in kids” by clicking on the link.


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51 Responses

  1. Interesting reading this. I always liked Math as a child and an adult.Your tips are great to start it right for kids.

  2. Aesha says:

    I never liked Maths. I used to fret before examinations. I guess it is lot to do with the teacher to like a particular subject. I always dreaded failure and that made me more passive in my approach to learn the subject. But now there is a major change in the teaching method in schools. I will follow your posts so I can help my daughter and she develops love for the subject.

  3. alpanadeo says:

    This is such a well written article in a simplified manner. I liked your method and ways of introducing Math.

    I used the same methods to teach my daughter. It was more hands in method to me. Now it’s my son’s turn. Your post was a good revision to me. :-)Thanks.

  4. You have explained this in a very simple way with perfect examples. I love to read your posts that radiates hope and love always. Happy to join with you for #MyfriendAlexa !!!

  5. This is such an important post. I had a fear of maths and I still get nervous even as an adult when I am expected to do basic calculations also. I want to take the right steps so that my child doesn’t go through the same phobia and this post is very useful.

  6. activitygalore says:

    Very interesting and educational..Wish I had known all of it earlier …would have introduced numbers to ShanShau by six months… nevertheless loved the three ways you described.totally makes sense

  7. I think most of the kids don’t like to study maths. Same like my daughter as she likes to read English stories but if I want her to do maths she just make excuses to do so. I think you are right that this concept of numbers addition and subtraction etc we should teach them as early as possible for them. Your way of teaching your kids is just perfect and Creative. Now I will try this style with my son so that he never hate doing maths.

  8. Tina Basu says:

    This is a nice idea, I hated maths as a kid but my son is in love with numbers *touchwood* he counted 1 – 20 when he was less than 2 yr old. He loves numbers in clocks, lifts everywhere!!

  9. I was raised in an era where teaching began at age 5 in school. I could have benefited from some of these techniques as I do not like math, and every job I had involved it. These are great lesson for today’s parents. Thank you.

  10. I completely agree with you. In fact I also count steps with my grandchildren, play counting games ( like one little duck went swimming one day ) at bath time, make food mountains which they count and eat – so that they are always introduced to the concept of quantity, shape, colour, texture etc. A very important book on early childhood learning which you may like to read is reviewed on my blog

  11. I remember singing number songs when my twins were toddlers – you know that one – ten little monkeys jumping on the bed? So much fun. You’re right we need to make math fun and concrete and pictorial. Or else it just grows up into this huge demon that the children learn to hate.

  12. Sadhuvi says:

    A well written article and it is interesting to read!!

  13. upasna1987 says:

    This post is so useful for every Parent as well as teachers. This concept of concrete, abstract and pictorials sounds practical. I am glad that My 3 YO can relate the things with numbers. However, only till 5 but yes, counting he can do till 30 while singing. He says I will count till 10 before you come out. Waiting for next post. #MyFriendAlexa #BioscopeReads

  14. These are some great tips to help kids learn number concepts and maths. I used to ask them random questions about calculations when they were small. It helps a lot as they can learn everyday things.

  15. anupriya says:

    These are some great tips for making kids learn maths concepts. I think ‘MIX is going to be my favorite word for some days now.

  16. Novemberschild says:

    Mastering math facts is essential for kids as they learn more arithmetic and build upon existing knowledge.

  17. Varsh says:

    I could use some the tips you gave rightaway with my daughter. Even I try to teach counting using simple ways with chocolates or fruits.

  18. These are such great tips to introduce basic math skills at home too

  19. ashiot says:

    I remember this scene in Taare Zameen Par where Ishaan learns arithmetic by climbing steps. I agree, developing interest is most important.

  20. shraeblog says:

    I’m sure kids gonna love your math play.
    Your notions towards bringing up children is very nice. My wishes to you.?

  21. My sister has just become a mother. I will make her read this to train her as mother. Nice post.

  22. Iram says:

    It seems you have used words straight out of my brain. I have 3 year old kid so can well contemplate with modern and tactful techniques to make kids learn and the possible challenges.
    A well-thought and well written article.

  23. Neha says:

    These are great tips Shalu. The fever of maths is percolated in the child even before he completely understands maths, so these ideas will help them overcome that initial hesitation

  24. Geethica says:

    Shalu, you have researched your topic well. Though my kids have crossed the the age of pre-schoolers but I would like to introduce the three ways you have suggested. Let’s see which kid picks up which way. Thanks for sharing dear

    • The Dreamer Mum says:

      Geethica I was used to be a teacher (in a way I still am) & ideally everything in maths – whether it be for younger kids or for elders is best to be taught in this progression. Try it and please let me know if it worked with your kids. I would be happy to know a first hand feedback on the method.

  25. Diya@februaryreve says:

    It’s high-time teachers and parents stop making the kids go through this mental trauma in the name of education.

  26. Gayatri says:

    An interesting post Shalu. Well articulated, structured and logical. Am sure it would help new mums to introduced maths in a structured way to their toddlers. Maths is not difficult, it is the approach to the subject by educationists and parents that makes all the difference. Following the blog. I look forward to read your other posts as well.

  27. These are really great ideas to teach Math to kids. Math is such an interesting subject. It is the way it is taught that brings a phobia.

  28. These are some easy peasy tricks but sure to be helpful in making maths understandable for kids…

  29. Indeed a detailed post with some great ideas. My uncle who works as a teacher always complain about how kids do not tend to listen and understand. I always used to argue with him on the methods he used to make them read, which were not at all playful for the children of that age. Hence naturally they do not show much interest. I will show this post to him now. You have pointed out some interesting ways, it was a very good and informative read.

  30. I liked Maths till I was in 10th. Then 11th made me cringe continued till my Engr. And even now. But as you said, kids should be introduces to maths and even languages at small age itself.

  31. Wow! This is such an informative post .Maths scared me a lot in school but I hope it doesn’t scare my kids. These activities are so useful and so creative. Surely trying them soon,

  32. Ruchie says:

    It’s really interesting to be on your blog and read informative and interesting posts

  33. That is such in interesting and useful post dear, Loved it. Never knew these ways of teaching concepts will definitely try them ?

  34. These are some great tips here, but i tend to disagree that kids are not born with an aptitude for Maths. If we talk of general skill, everyone has it embedded. But why some kids tend to pick bio over maths can be because of a bent in aptitude ?

    • The Dreamer Mum says:

      As I have written in the article, research says this. Although I do agree that we all have different levels of aptitude towards different subjects in comparison to other subjects, but the aptitude can also be developed.

  35. Beautiful tips. Its vital to tell kids Why they are doing, because that this what is going to help them.Good post.

  36. Interesting activities. Hands on learning is what is fun always.

  37. Anchal says:

    This are some great tips to get children learn mathematics. Will try them for sure ?

  38. These are few smart techniques learning Maths or inculcating the interest. I always despised the subject but when today see my daughter’s worksheets I feel Wish We had such smart way of learning maths.

    With teaching converting into learning at school levels (handful) adopting smart ways to teach tougher concepts is a Big Boost.

  39. A very interesting and simplified way of teaching maths. It is important to create an interest in children for the subject first and then start teaching it later. If there is an interest, learning will automatically take place.

  40. Jiya B says:

    These are great innovative practice for early childhood learning methods. Thanks for sharing These ideas sounds great and really helpfull.

  41. good tips – good way to get kids started on maths.

  42. Hena Jose says:

    Maths is for sure not a dreadful subject. Its the way we teach that makes it that way. You have outlined simple and easy to follow methods to make maths interesting

  43. aseemrastogi2 says:

    Wow! I have never realized that Maths could actually be taught in this way. To be honest, now I feel if the Indian education system teaches concepts like Maths in this way, it would go a long way in making things easier and beneficial rather than the ‘learning by rote’ system we have been following since almost forever.

  44. karuna chauhan says:

    Absolutely book marking this blog Shalu. super informative and i learnt some great tips from you

  45. Jessica says:

    When a child learns maths skills early on, it proves useful throughout life. Here’s a fun activity to begin teaching maths to your child

  46. Neha says:

    Very informative… I have started teaching my 4 year old maths with the montessori methodology.

    Now I am taking my teaching passion to the next level. Designing kids fun learning maths/science/english/craft games.

    Checkout to see my work ?

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