Number skills development for infants with Down syndrome (0-5 years)

Gillian Bird

The mathematics curriculum in primary school includes learning about number and calculation, shape, size, quantity and measurement, time and money. Learning in children’s pre-school years introduces them to the ideas and language for helping them to learn about mathematics. Young children’s first understanding of number and other mathematical concepts comes from their experiences with people and items in their environment. Language is an essential part of learning about mathematics as it provides the tools for thinking about, comparing and manipulating sets of objects and activities, and relating these to a number system. Young children with Down syndrome experience delay in language learning, in auditory short term memory development and may have less experience of manipulating or playing with objects, but have strengths in learning visually. With focused language teaching, repetition and visual teaching approaches, they can learn the language for numbers and mathematics. Number games should be interesting and allow for exploration and fun, making number skills meaningful to everyday life and the child’s environment. Some children will learn in very small steps, with each aspect broken down for them, taught and practised, other children will develop skills more quickly, after they have been helped to learn about numbers using visual aids, through good teaching and from multi-sensory learning experiences. This module provides examples for everyday social interaction, language teaching and games that can help to develop early number and maths skills, beginning with nursery rhymes, songs, play and words, introducing activities from one year of age up until the child goes to school. Vocabulary lists for maths concepts that will be useful for parents of children to early school age are included. This module should be read in conjunction with Number skills for individuals with Down syndrome - An overview.[DSii-09-01]

Bird G. Number skills development for infants with Down syndrome (0-5 years). Down Syndrome Issues and Information. 2001.



While the central focus of the maths curriculum in school is learning to count, to understand the number system and to learn to carry out calculations with numbers, it also includes the understanding of size, shape, quantity and measurement, time and money. Children begin to learn the first steps in number and the concepts for size, shape, quantity, time, money and measurement in the preschool years and children usually start primary school with a range of appropriate knowledge and skills. Children with Down syndrome show widely varying progress, but the author sees some children with Down syndrome who have the same knowledge and skills as typically developing children of the same age, so the activities in this module cover that range. Many children with Down syndrome will not achieve all these skills and concepts until they are in school, and for all children, their rate of progress may vary but it will be influenced by the amount of teaching and number games that they have experienced.