Young children like to explore and make sense of their world. Very early on, children will start to notice how things are alike and how they differ. The world is full of colours, shapes, textures, smells, and sounds, as well as different sizes, temperatures and weights. As children take note of these differences, they may begin to match two things that have the same characteristic.
When a child matches more than two things, they are sorting. Sorting is a beginning math skill. Children come to understand that things are alike and different, and can be organized into certain groups. Many children sort things without being taught, and pile their toys based on colour, size, shape, texture, etc.
As with other math activities, matching and sorting are best learned when they are part of a child’s everyday life. When they put on shoes and socks, they are matching objects. When they put a puzzle together, they are matching shapes. When they help with household tasks such as putting away silverware, groceries or laundry, they are sorting objects.
Practicing matching and sorting at an early age will help with grouping numbers and sets when they are older, as they apply logical thinking to objects, math concepts and everyday life.