Basic Math Skills in Child Care: Matching, Classifying, and Measuring

Colorful cubes

Teaching young children how to match, classify, and measure is an important part of developing early math skills because these skills help children identify and describe relationships between items. As a child care care provider, you can help young children learn these skills in several ways. 

  • Matching mainly involves one-to-one correspondence. The game “Memory” is one good way to teach young children about matching. This game begins with pairs of pictures face down. Each player flips over two cards. If  the cards match, the player keeps them and flips over two more cards. If they don’t match, the player flips them face down, and the next person has a turn to find a match.   
  • Comparing involves identifying similarities and differences among objects. For example, talk about how my block is the same as, or different than, your block. Being able to compare objects and identify similarities and differences leads to the ability to classify objects.
  • Classifying/sorting involves finding things that are the same, or alike, and grouping them by specific traits. For example, the bunch of animals in the picture to the right can be grouped based on their color or type of animal. You can have young children classify  anything, including blocks, leaves, plates, or toy cars. Once they have classified items, children can compare items further to learn more specific similarities and differences between items, both within and between matched groups.
  • Sets are simply a collection of things that have been classified together because they have something in common. In your child care program, you could find many sets, such as blocks, markers, food, people, and animals.
  • Measuring is determining the extent or degree of something. For example, children can measure a block in many ways; height, weight, length, even temperature. If you don’t have rulers or other measuring tools, help children practice measuring with everyday objects such as yarn or paper clips.

For More Information

To learn more about teaching math skills in child care, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

Looking for math activities to use with young children in your child care program? Browse through the Hands-On Activities Database.