Importance of Matching & Sorting Skills in Preschool Years

Matching and Sorting Skills in Preschool Years

Many young parents think that mathematics education begins with teaching how to count (enumeration). While counting is important, there is a lot more to early mathematics than just enumeration. Experts say that matching and sorting skills are probably more important in preschool years than counting skills! Read on, to understand why.

Early Childhood Math Skills: Matching & Sorting

If your objective is to lay a solid foundation for your child at the preschool stage, we encourage you to look at mathematics from a holistic perspective. 

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1. Matching

Matching is an important early childhood math skill that helps in classification of objects. Matching is identification of same or similar objects based on their common properties. And this skill keeps recurring through out schooling life in various forms. For example, matching skills are used to identify congruent or similar triangles. In algebra, matching can be thought of as a one-to-one correspondence function between two sets. Important early matching skills that a young child needs to develop are:

    1. Matching by Shape
    2. Matching by Size
    3. Matching by Colour

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2. Sorting

Like matching, sorting too is an important early childhood mathematical skill. Human beings like to sort. This helps us bring order to chaos. Imagine that you are given 20 balls. In this collection, there are 4 balls each of 5 different colours. Sorting by colour is the act of dividing these 20 balls into 5 smaller groups of 4 balls each, based on colour. Like matching, sorting too is a classification skill. From an early childhood perspective, the basic sorting skills that a child needs to develop are:

    1. Sorting by Colour
    2. Sorting by Size
    3. Sorting by Shape

From as early as 18 months,  as a parent you should focus on introducing these concepts (matching and sorting) through simple and practical ways. You can improvise and creatively use your own surroundings to come up with puzzles and exercises which stimulate your child.

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  • Often parents focus exclusively on the counting (enumeration) and ignore other important early math skills.
  • Matching and sorting are two important pre-math skills that help lay a strong math foundation.
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5 thoughts on “Importance of Matching & Sorting Skills in Preschool Years”

  1. Hi Rosie, in early childhood mathematics education, counting and pre-algebra are both important. For example, Stanford University’s Development and Research in Early Math Education (DREME) Network, includes both 1. Counting and 2. Algebra & Patterns in their five recommended modules.
    Regarding the specific claim of matching and sorting skills probably being more important than enumeration skills in early childhood; this is an accurate reproduction of the views of Mrs. C. Annapurna, M. S. (Mathematics) and an Internationally certified educator with over 25 years of experience in teaching mathematics to children. We interviewed her for this article. She stated that pre-algebra skills and degree of comfort with abstraction, are stronger indicators of higher order mathematical ability in a child, than enumeration skills.

  2. This is an interesting article thank you.
    Could you let me know which experts believe sorting is more important than counting in early years please? Have there been any studies into this?

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