Children's quantitative competencies upon entry into school can have lifelong consequences. Children who start behind generally stay behind, and mathematical skills at school completion influence employment prospects and wages in adulthood. I review the current debate over whether early quantitative learning is supported by (a) an inherent system for representing approximate magnitudes, (b) an attentional-control system that enables explicit processing of quantitative symbols, such as Arabic numerals, or (c) the logical problem-solving abilities that facilitate learning of the relations among numerals. Studies of children with mathematical learning disabilities and difficulties have suggested that each of these competencies may be involved, but to different degrees and at different points in the learning process. Clarifying how and when these competencies facilitate early quantitative learning and developing interventions to address their impact on children have the potential to yield substantial benefits for individuals and for society.