Maths in The Early Years
In our Early Years Foundation Stage, we teach maths in a practical way, giving the children real 'Hands-on' experiences. We provide a balanced range of learning opportunities that include real-life experiences, problem- solving activities and logic games.
Learning through ‘doing’
The primary aim of our early years practitioners is to nurture all children as confident, capable mathematicians for the future. Of course, what children learn is important – but how they learn is even more crucial.
Young children, throughout the EYFS and beyond, learn through investigating, exploring, talking, problem-solving and, quite simply ‘doing’ things.
In the Reception year, adults create a continuous learning environment that supports their growing mathematical understanding, and also provide experiences which focus specifically on aspects of maths learning.
Using Number Rhymes
Another emphasis in the ELGs is that children will ‘use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position.’
Adults are very clear about the mathematical vocabulary children need to hear and use, they model its use on a daily basis and provide practical experiences that promote mathematical talk.
At the beginning of the year, we focus on a set of core number rhymes every day. We focus on one rhyme each week, so that children become confident.
We make 'Nursery Rhyme Bags' to support the teaching of number rhymes and use them as planned activities – baking real currant buns, splashing speckled frogs in the water tray, fitting 10 soft toys into a cardboard box bed, knocking down 10 green bottle skittles…
Children have access to authentic, real-life resources that they can use to explore their growing mathematical understanding.
These include the following items:
- Measuring tapes
- Real coins with wallets, purses and money boxes
- Kitchen balances and scales and bathroom scales (digital and/or mechanical)
- Sand timers, kitchen timers and stopwatches
- Clocks and watches (both digital and analogue)
- Measuring jugs, spoons and other types of kitchen equipment
- Address books, calendars, diaries, recipe books and phones
- Tinned foods, empty food cartons and real vegetables (to help children explore the concepts of ‘heavy’ and ‘light’)
Children use these real-life resources for real purposes; as such, they enable the children to apply their own knowledge and utilise their own home experiences as part of their learning.
Group times are used as a great opportunity to model the use of a giant number square and order numerals on a washing line etc.
We make a variety of resources, for example, making number lines with the children, using the correct number of photographs of the children on each card., making number lines to 10 or 20, and displaying a laminated version outdoors.
We include irregular arrangements as part of our activities, as well as dice formats to support substituting skills and avoid an over-reliance on the strategy of always ‘lining things up’ in order to count.
Children have opportunities to investigate collections of interesting objects that can be sorted in a variety of ways – things that can be explored, moved, played with, talked about and organised.
They have access to bags, trays, baskets, stacking boxes and other containers that make organisation easier.
These collections enhance our resources in a maths reference area:
- Natural objects, such as pebbles, shells, conkers and twigs
- Boxes and bags
- Buttons, beads or badges
- Socks and gloves
- Neckties that can be used as non-standard measures
- ‘Treasure’, including bangles, necklaces and beads
- Key rings and fridge magnets
Promoting Mark Making
We need a reason to write, and so do children. We make the most of children’s competitive instinct by encouraging them to use tallies to score for target games outdoors. Children begin by using pebbles or beads to keep a tally, and we encourage them to use clipboards, flipcharts or whiteboards and markers to keep score too.
We encourage children to develop their own recordings by using pictures, symbols, dots, numerals or a combination of these. We model the use of a ‘five tally’ – four vertical lines and one horizontal across, to support counting in fives and tens.
We also have maths mark making caddies too – plastic tool boxes filled with exciting resources to support mark making. We add interesting items to the caddies, such as fancy markers, small lined note pads, special Post-it notes, sticky labels, flexible animal-shaped rulers, large coloured paper clips.
See below for activities to support maths at home.
Early Years Maths Books
Alborough.J (2007) / Washing Line / Walker 140631076X, 978-1406310764
Beaton.C and Blackstone.S (2002) / How Big Is a Pig? / Barefoot Books Ltd. 1841489581, 978-1841489582
Boucher.C, Turpin.C and Merriman.R (1999) / The Six Blind Men and the Elephant / Walker Books Ltd. 0744568072, 978-0744568073
Browne.A (2008) / Changes / Walker 1406313394, 978-1406313390
Carle.E (1994) / The Very Hungry Caterpillar / Puffin 0241003008, 978-0241003008
Carle.E (2007) / Opposites / Grosset & Dunlap 0448445654, 978-0448445656
Crowther.R (2005) / Opposites / Walker Books Ltd. 1844288552, 978-1844288557
Freedman.C and Cort.B (2007) / Aliens Love Underpants! / Simon & Schuster Children's 1416917055, 978-1416917052
Hughes.S (2001) / All Shapes and Sizes / Walker Books Ltd. 0744569826, 978-0744569827
Hutchins.P (1997) / Titch / Red Fox 0099262533, 978-0099262534
Inkpen. M (1994) / Kipper's Book of Opposites / Hodder Children's Books 0340598492, 978-0340598498
Inkpen.M (2006) / The Blue Balloon / Hodder Children's Books 0340918195, 978-0340918197
Sharratt.N (2003) / My Mum and Dad Make Me Laugh / Walker Books Ltd. 0744594995, 978-0744594997