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What Is Number Sense?

What Is Number Sense?

Number sense is the ability to understand and use numbers in a variety of contexts. It involves being able to recognize patterns, recognize relationships between numbers, and use mental math and estimation strategies to solve problems. Number sense can also involve a knowledge of basic math facts and the ability to use them to solve problems. It is a key part of mathematical fluency, and an important skill for students to learn in order to be successful in math.

Good Number Sense Versus Poor Number Sense

Good number sense is the ability to understand and use mathematics effectively, as stated above. Poor number sense, on the other hand, is an inability to understand and work with numerical data. This can lead to difficulty with basic math operations and lead to confusion and frustration when trying to solve problems.

The number sense book

What Does Number Sense Involve?

Number sense involves:

  • A deep understanding of numbers, including being aware of the magnitude of numbers and the relationships between them.

  • The ability to quickly recognize, compare, and work with numbers.

  • Being able to visualize and calculate mentally.

  • Understanding the various operations of mathematics, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and how to use them to solve problems.

  • Being able to reason logically and use numbers and operations to solve problems, both in mathematics and in real-world situations.

  • The Number Sense is a great resource to get started. 


When Does Number Sense Develop?

Number sense is a fundamental cognitive skill that develops in early childhood. It is a foundation for many of the mathematical skills children will need to develop in the future. Number sense generally begins to emerge between the ages of 3 and 4, when children begin to recognize and understand basic numerical concepts such as counting, quantity, and number relationships. As children progress through school, their number sense grows, allowing them to progress to more advanced mathematical concepts.


Why Is Number Sense Important for Teachers to Understand?

Number sense is an important concept for teachers to understand because it helps them develop a greater understanding of how students learn and think about mathematics. By developing a strong number sense, teachers can better support their students’ learning and easily identify individual students’ strengths and weaknesses in mathematics, allowing them to tailor instruction for each student. Ultimately, number sense is essential for teachers to be able to effectively teach mathematics to their students.


Why Is Number Sense Important for Young Math Learners?

Number sense helps students develop an intuitive understanding of the relationships between numbers, which can help them to solve problems faster and with more accuracy. It also establishes a strong base for more advanced mathematical concepts and strategies, such as fractions, decimals, and algebra. As students gain a better understanding of the relationship between numbers, they also develop a deeper appreciation of the power of mathematics and its applications in everyday life.


Some Ideas for Promoting Number Sense in a Grade One Student

Number sense puzzle set

There are a lot of great ways to promote number sense in a grade one student. Here are some ideas that can help:

  • Use visuals to illustrate numbers, such as counting blocks or counting with fingers.

  • Introduce simple math activities like sorting, counting, adding, and subtracting.

  • Use games and activities that involve number recognition and patterns, such as a memory game or matching numbers with their corresponding quantities.

  • Utilize storybooks and stories to introduce numbers, such as counting how many items the characters have.

  • Have the child draw and color pictures with numbers to practice counting and number recognition.

  • Use counting songs and rhymes to help the child learn to count.

  • Ask simple questions about numbers when out and about, such as counting steps, counting items in store shelves, etc.

These are just a few ideas that help promote number sense in a grade one student. With some creativity and patience, the child will be counting like a pro in no time!  

Number sense routines book

How to Spot Number Sense

Spotting number sense in children can be done by observing how they think and approach math problems. For example, do they see relationships between numbers? Can they identify the different operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and use them to solve problems? Do they think abstractly and use problem solving strategies?

Encouraging children to think mathematically and engage in math talk can also be a great way to spot number sense. Asking questions about the process and thought behind each problem can be helpful in understanding how a child approaches math.

How to Track a Child’s Progress With Number Sense

Tracking a child’s progress with number sense can be a great way to ensure they are making progress and understanding the concepts they are learning. The following are some tips to help you do this effectively:

  1. Regularly review the child’s work. Take the time to check their work and help them understand any mistakes they may have made.

  2. Ask the child questions about their work. This will help you gauge their understanding and provide an opportunity to explain any concepts they may not have grasped.

  3. Set goals and rewards. Give the child specific goals to reach and reward them when they do. This will encourage them to keep trying and give them a sense of accomplishment.

  4. Track progress. Use a chart or other tracking system to keep track of the child’s progress. It will give you an idea what topics they have mastered and which ones need more work.


Most states in the United States require continuing professional development for the renewal of teacher licenses. INcompassing Education provides professional development for educators in Indiana as well as online professional development for teachers. If you have any questions, contact us.



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