Numeracy Stage: Birth to 3 years

By the time they are 3 years old, children should be able to:

Number Sense

  • imitate rote counting (repetitive counting) using some names of numbers
  • count verbally to five (by 18 months old); count to ten (by 3 years old)
  • count 5 or less objects in a line (beyond this, the child may count quickly at the end if s/he can count more than the number of objects available OR recycles numbers if there are more objects than numbers known by memory)
  • recognize and name the number of items in a set of two or three
  • add and subtract very small sets of items nonverbally (by showing the understanding)

Comparing and Ordering

  • understand the concept of “more” relating to food or play
  • distinguish “more” and “less” for small sets of items or big difference in a number of items
  • use comparison words “same”, “more” or “less”
  • compare sets of 1-4 items if the sets are made up of the same objects

Basic Operations

  • gesture to ask for more
  • understand getting more or having less


  • manipulate shapes individually but does not combine them to make a larger shape
  • pay attention to the overall size of things (big, little)
  • explore by using measurement tools like a ruler or measuring cups

Geometry (Shapes)

  • put things together like puzzles or nesting cups
  • match familiar shapes (circle, square) with the same size and orientation
  • recognize and name circles and squares (maybe triangles)
  • identify shapes as being the same if they are more visually similar than different

Spatial Sense

  • follow simple directions related to position (in, on, up or down)