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Understanding a Child's Development of Number Sense


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3



Number sense refers to a person's general understanding of number and operations along with the ability to use this understanding in flexible ways to make mathematical judgments and to develop useful strategies for solving complex problems (Burton, 1993; Reys, 1991). Researchers note that number sense develops gradually, and varies as a result of exploring numbers, visualizing them in a variety of contexts, and relating them in ways that are not limited by traditional algorithms (Howden, 1989*). Developing students' understanding of numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems are focus areas for grades Pre K - 2 (See Related Pre K - 2 Number and Operation Standard).

In the primary grades, children move from developing basic counting techniques to understanding number size and relationships, place value and operations. However, students develop this understanding at different rates. Some young children can count 13 objects, but they do not see that 13 is one group of ten and 3 ones. Others can group objects into tens and ones and understand their numerical representation.

The video clips in this example illustrate the range in understanding of numbers and their relationships of students in grades Pre K-2. Cena and Jonathan age 7, and Rudy, age 9, demonstrate different levels of understanding numbers and place value concepts.

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© 2000 - National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

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CD Version last updated: September 27, 2000