Resources

Let’s Talk About Math: Math Language to Share with Young Children

April 16, 2019

courtesy of ZERO TO THREE

Research shows that the more math language children hear, the more they understand early math concepts. What can you do with babies and toddlers? Start talking about math!

The words below represent simple concepts across the six domains of early math. While of course young children won’t understand these right away, when they hear you use these words over time, toddlers begin to develop an early understanding of what they mean.

Number Concepts
More 
Less 
None 
All gone 
Fewer 
Not as much/many 
Much more 
Plenty 
Many 
A lot 
A little

Counting
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – etc.

Calculations
More 
Less/Fewer 
One more (Or: two more, etc.) 
One less (Or, two less or two fewer, etc.) 
Add 
Put together 
Subtract 
Take away

Spatial Awareness
Shapes: 
Circle 
Oval 
Square 
Triangle 
Rectangle 
Diamond/Rhombus

Spatial Descriptions: 
In 
On 
Next to 
Beside 
Across from 
On top of 
Below 
Under 
Inside 
Outside 
Behind 
In front of

Patterns
Describe patterns that you see and use the word “pattern”: Your shirt has a pattern—blue stripe, red stripe, blue stripe, red stripe.

First, Next, Last

Before, After

Can you do it like me? (For example, when you are clapping your hands in a simple beat.)

Measurement
Here are some words that introduce children to the notion of relative sizes, distances, temperatures, etc. Non-standard measurement (such as measuring length with a wooden block) and standard measurement (such as measuring length with a ruler) skills will come later at ages four years and up.

Size/Height: 
Big 
Medium 
Small 
Tall 
Long 
Short 
Small 
Tiny 
Huge 
Enormous 

Distance: 
Far away 
Close by 
Long 
Short 

Time: 
Now 
Later 
Today 
Tomorrow 
Yesterday 
Temperature: 
Hot 
Warm 
Cold 
Freezing 

Grades of Measurement – adding “-er”: 
Bigger/Smaller 
Taller/Shorter