When young children are exposed to the Big Idea that the same collection can be sorted in different ways, they gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between sets and sorting, and the idea of a set becomes more flexible for them.

© Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative. Reprinted from Big Ideas of Early Mathematics: What Teachers of Young Children Need to Know (2014), Pearson Education.

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Children look for ways to organize and make sense of their world through play at school and home, as well as at clean-up time. Sorting items into groups by specific attributes gives children the opportunity to define sets according to a rule of what does and does not belong together.