Most parents consider counting of numbers as the foundation of mathematics. Often, parents introduce the concept of counting and numbers even when their children in the pre-primary or kindergarten age groups. It is in this context that parents should understand that numbers are not always the same. In mathematics, numbers are classified into two categories: Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers. It is important for parents to understand the differences between these two concepts and thereby avoid confusing the child. In this blog, we explain these concepts in a simple manner, so that you understand them clearly. We have avoided using technical language as much as possible.
These are numbers that represent quantity. When we say there are five apples in the basket, the number 5 represents the quantity of apples in the basket. If we ask the child to count the number of balls that he has, we are asking the child to represent the quantity of balls that he has, using a number.
If you wish to know about Cardinal Numbers in a bit more detail, please read this blog.
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Ordinal Numbers represent position. They do not represent Quantity. In an elevator, when we press 3 to get to the third floor of an apartment, the number 3 represents the position of the desired floor with reference to all the floors of the apartment. When a child tells you that she came second in a fancy-dress competition, she again is telling you about her position in the competition with reference to other children, using the number 2.
If you wish to understand Ordinal Numbers in a bit more detail, please read this blog.
Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers:
Cardinal vs Ordinal: Which one should I teach my child first?
We need to be watchful about confusing the child by switching frequently between the two systems frequently. Especially if you are teaching numbers to young children who are either in the pre-primary or kindergarten age group. We, adults, are so used to using these two systems of numbers in the daily language that we fail to realise that Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers could be confusing from the child’s perspective.
In general, it is best (and easier) for the child to understand the concept of quantity rather than position. It should be noted that even operations such as addition or subtraction or multiplication are relevant to the cardinal system and not the ordinal system. Therefore, we would advise parents to try and use the Cardinal system (quantity) as their basis for teaching numbers to young children, at least till the age of 4. The correct age could, of course, would vary from child to child.
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- Teaching counting in early childhood (Preschool and Kindergarten) is an important aspect of learning mathematics.
- Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers are the two categories of the numbers. Parents should understand the basic difference between the two to avoid causing confusion in the child’s mind while teaching mathematics.
- Cardinal Numbers can be introduced to a child from 2-4 years of age (pre-primary and lower kindergarten) and Ordinal Numbers after 4 years (upper kindergarten and above) of age. The basic understanding of these numbers varies from child to child.
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