When you hear at your child’s play date that another 4-year-old kid counts to 1,000, takes violin lessons, reads second-grade books and has a Mandarin tutor, you might think you are late getting the ball rolling on academics for your preschooler. Before you start pushing your child into formal learning too early, you should read up on the basic goals for preschool subjects like math. You might find that a healthful, playful learning environment can put your preschool child’s math skills right where they need to be.

Numbers and Counting

While your cute little tyke has probably been rattling off his numbers to 10 for a while, preschoolers need to use those numbers in practical settings. They should recognize the numbers one through 10 and realize how many concrete objects that number represents. Most preschool students start counting up to 20, though many do not learn to recognize all those numbers until kindergarten. When you place five objects in a row, your child should know which one is first, second and third. Preschoolers also start comparing numbers, recognizing which group has more or less. That's the start of their awareness of adding and subtraction.

Colors and Shapes

Most kids start learning their shapes and colors while they are toddlers. At the preschool age, little kids should definitely know the six basic colors of black, white, red, green, blue and yellow, plus which objects you typically find in that color. For example, they can identify that the sun is yellow and trees are green. As well, they should pick out common shapes such as circles, squares, triangles and rectangles and find them in a variety of places, including the grocery store or while looking out the window of a car.

Patterns and Classifying

Boy playing with blocks

Picking out patterns creates a fun, preschool activity that will help your child start thinking abstractly about math. Your preschooler should tell you what would come next in any two-piece pattern and create his own patterns, as well. Preschool math goals also cover directional words such as "over," "under," "in," "out," "above" and "below." Those classifications will help your child point out more complex patterns. Another goal is sorting objects by their characteristics and using a picture or bar graph to show the information.

Measuring and Comparing

While your active preschooler might think estimating how many cups of sand fits inside his bucket is fun play, he is learning to measure and compare quantities. Measuring weight and length will help your preschooler develop a sense of space that objects require. While they do not learn about ounces and pounds at preschool, they do use nonstandard ways of measuring such as spoonfuls, or hand-lengths to measure objects. Learning descriptive words such as "bigger," "smaller" and "heavier" will encourage your preschooler to communicate what he observes when he measures and how to correctly compare two objects.