Basic Math Skills Every Learner Should Know

Child solving math problem with magnetic numbers

Numbers and math are a big part of everyday life. We constantly think about things like time, distance, and money and use math to solve daily needs. That ability to use math fluently is a gift we received as babies that grew through our educational journey. The basic math skills we learned as children are now an unconscious practice thanks to years of building upon these base skills.

We want to pass this math fluency to our children, equipping them to have strong math competency. It all starts with the basics – but what are the basic math skills our children need?

Step One: Fundamental Math Skills and Concepts

Basic math skills start developing when our children are babies. We are born with the ability to understand math concepts; we simply need to be exposed to them. As soon as your child can recognize objects and people, they can start building their math competency.

  • Number recognition: What are the basic math skills we start with? Simple one-to-one recognition of a number to an object, counting, and number order are the bases upon which math is built.
  • Operations: Children can be introduced to numerical operations such as adding and subtracting once they understand numbers.
  • Shapes: Identifying different shapes is a big part of understanding math. Children can start to recognize how different objects have similar properties.
  • Spatial relation: The next step after understating shapes is knowing how objects relate. This is as simple as seeing that two squares stack neatly or fit inside one another while a circle cannot.
  • Measuring: Differentiating size and thinking about qualities is one of the basic math skills children need. Children start to understand “bigger” and “smaller” and can begin to learn measurement terms like inches, pounds, and cups.
  • Patterns: Recognizing patterns is a significant mathematical component. Children will need to see patterns in more complex mathematical problems to help them predict logical solutions. Pattern recognition starts early with simple repeating color or shape patterns and grows into numerical patterns.
  • Categories and organization: After pattern recognition comes grouping. Once children can see how different items are related, they can start grouping them into logical categories. This is another skill that will help them down the line with complicated math problems.

Reinforcing these basic math skills with your children is relatively simple. You don’t need a classroom full of manipulatives to start practicing these base skills! Watch for your child to take notice of things like amounts of objects, patterns, or comparing sizes and shapes. Once you see your child taking an interest, start participating by doing things like counting steps, weighing produce at the grocery store, or sorting items like utensils and plates when emptying the dishwasher.

Girl using multicolored wooden abacus

Step Two: Putting Math into Practice with Operations

As your child ages, they’ll start to learn mathematical operations. They’ll get introduced to these concepts in their classroom if they’re in traditional schooling. However, you can continue their understanding at home. The operational basic math skills include:

  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division

Children begin their operational math journey with addition and subtraction before moving to the more complex multiplication and division. With each operation, they start by understanding how it applies to numbers 1-20, then move on to three-digit numbers and beyond. In most cases, children will also learn some facts by memory to help with faster computation in more complex problems.

As with the other basic math skills, these operational skills build on one another. Children learn addition and subtraction first because they set the groundwork for multiplication and division. You can help your child practice these basic math skills at home by adding and subtracting money to make purchases or dividing objects between them and their siblings or friends. There are many ways to bring math into your child’s life to help them hone their skills outside the classroom.

We Can Help!

If you’re struggling to define what are the basic math skills your child has mastered and where they need help, Maths@Singapore can help. Our small group lessons are designed to work with learners of all skill levels to improve their rigor and understanding of math concepts. We focus on helping learners gain confidence so they can power through difficult problems and better grasp new concepts.

Based on the world-class Singapore math curriculum, the Maths@Singapore classes help learners master a variety of concepts, building competency and confidence. Find out more about our program on our FAQ page, fill out a contact form, or reach out via WhatsApp at +65 88591108.