Number sense has become a hot topic in the field of math in recent decades.1 While some of you may know what number sense is, there are likely many who are unfamiliar with the term and are curious as to what it means. So, before we get into the importance of number sense, let’s look at what it means.

What is Number Sense?

The term “number sense” refers to a child’s ability to work with numbers in a fluid and flexible manner.2 Number sense is a crucial construct that aids children in comprehending the meaning of numbers as well as their mathematical understanding and ability to apply math in the real world. Number sense is an important construct that distinguishes between superficial understanding and in-depth mastery of the subject.2

Number sense provides a framework for children to use and understand ideas and information in a meaningful way. While working on math concepts, you’ve probably heard children say things like “I don’t get it,” “I don’t understand,” or “something doesn’t make sense.” This is a classic example of children failing to grasp the context of math concepts or principles when they are taught. Without number sense, children feel increasingly lost as they progress through mathematical difficulties and school grades.3

Spotting Number Sense in Children

Children with strong number sense can think with flexibility about numbers.This number sense develops gradually over time and at different rates as children explore numbers, visualize them in various contexts, and relate them to each other in a variety of nuanced ways that are not limited to formal written methods.2

Children with good number sense show:2, 4

• An understanding of numbers, symbols, their meanings, and vocabulary.
• An awareness of the relationship between quantity and numbers.
• The ability to visualize and converse comfortably about numbers, as well as the ability to see the relationship between numbers.
• The ability to take numbers apart and put them back together in various ways.
• An understanding of different representations of numbers and number patterns, including missing numbers.
• The ability to engage in systemic counting and the ability to compute mentally.
• Competence with mathematical operations.
• The ability to apply math to real-world problems by relating it to their daily lives.

The Importance of Number Sense

Number sense is important for young children because it promotes confidence and encourages flexible thinking with numbers.5 With number sense, children learn to create a relationship with numbers and are able to talk about math as a language. 4 The development of early number sense is crucial for children to understand math concepts in later years. This is an important developmental skill that children need in order to understand math and have a conceptual understanding of math. The image below will help you grasp the significance of number sense.

This combined set of factors helps children with strong number sense to find the most efficient solutions to problems, giving them an edge in their math curriculum as well as their overall academics.2

You should keep in mind that number sense develops over time and through multiple opportunities to think creatively about and experiment with numbers.2 Therefore, it is important to provide children with ample opportunities to count, especially when they are young. Number sense is a key component to building a solid foundation for mathematical understanding. By focusing on number sense right from an early age, you can help solidify the basis that is required to compute and solve complex problems in older grades. 4 Having a strong number sense benefits children not only in their academics but also in their mathematical thinking, computational skills, and problem-solving abilities, all of which will help them succeed in whatever they do.6

So, do you now see why number sense is so important in math? Are you interested in learning more? Visit BYJU’S FutureSchool blog for more related blogs.

References:

1. Maghfirah, M., & Mahmudi, A. (2018). Number sense: the result of mathematical experience. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1097(1), 012141. https://doi.org/10.1088/1742-6596/1097/1/012141
2. What’s number sense and why is its development important. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://mathsnoproblem.com/blog/teaching-practice/number-sense/
3. The Importance of Number Sense in Early Learning – The Write Stuff Teaching. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://thewritestuffteaching.com/the-importance-of-number-sense-in-early-learning/
4. Demystifying Math: What Is Number Sense? | Scholastic | Parents. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.scholastic.com/parents/school-success/learning-toolkit-blog/demystifying-math-what-number-sense.html
5. Number Sense: the most important mathematical concept in 21st Century K-12 education | HuffPost Contributor. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/number-sense-the-most-important-mathematical-concept_b_58695887e4b068764965c2e0
6. The Importance of Number Sense | Mathnasium. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.mathnasium.com/lakebrantley/news/the-importance-of-number-sense