North Carolina Early Learning and Development Progressions: Birth to Five

Domain: NC Foundations for Early Learning: Cognitive Development (CD)

Subdomain: Mathematical Thinking and Expression

Goal: Children compare, sort, group, organize and measure objects and create patterns in their everyday environment.

Skill Progression: Comparing and Ordering

You may choose a different domain, visit the page for this domain, or click on a skill below for more information.

List of Skills by Age

1-2 Months

Scans eyes and contours of faces if in close proximity and within view; prefers looking at faces to objects

2-4 Months

Discriminates people, preferred objects, tastes, smells, textures

4-6 Months

Uses shape, size and color to tell the difference between objects

6-8 Months

Starts differentiating between each and both; and between one and more than one (picks up the larger amount)

8-10 Months

Matches two blocks as being the same

10-12 Months

Nests smaller container in a larger one

12-15 Months

Nests 3 round containers

Places one block on top of another

15-18 Months

Stacks three or four blocks

18-21 Months

Nests 4 nesting blocks or bowls

Explores and identifies objects that are big/small, heavy/light, and tall/short, with assistance

21-24 Months

Examines a small group of objects and knows which has more if there is a big discrepancy in amount

Orders several objects on the basis of one characteristic through trial and error (e.g., stacking rings ordered by size)

24-27 Months

Correctly nests four or more small square boxes

Stacks five circular rings in correct size order

27-30 Months

Uses words for a characteristic such as big/little, tall/short, heavy/light, but may not yet compare to objects based on the characteristics

30-33 Months

Points to smaller/larger of two objects

Points to short/long

33-36 Months

Identifies more, and the same in two groups of the items (1-4 items) if the groups are organized differently

Knows empty/full; small/smaller; large/larger

36-42 Months

Understands largest/ smallest

Compares pictures, colors, shapes to do simple puzzles

42-48 Months

Identifies amounts of dissimilar items (small numbers)

Matches related items and determines if they are the same number

Knows to count to compare small amounts if only one attribute is involved (may be confused if objects are of different sizes)

Recites the days of the week

48-54 Months

Talks about past, present, future

Matches unrelated items and determines if they are the same amount

54-60 Months

Meaningfully uses words equal, more, less, and fewer

Knows to count and compare regardless of the attributes in the set

Identifies and uses ordinal numbers from 1st to 10th

Puts items in serial order of size from one to six units

 North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, 2015

©2015 by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit