Maths and Numeracy in Early Years

July 28, 2022 2:57 pm
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The basics

The way children learn about numbers and develop their mathematical understanding during their early years is vitally important, it will set them up on the path towards numeracy skills and confidence in later life.

By the end of the school reception year, almost a third of children have not reached the expected level of maths. Despite maths being included in the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework, more needs to be done to raise the profile of maths and encourage the development of mathematical thinking in young children.

Maths is often known as a particularly unattractive subject, research shows that this view stems from early years key-workers lack of self-confidence in the subject. Currently, the quality of maths learning varies in Early Years settings and this often depends on the qualifications and attitudes of practitioners.

Organisations such as NDNA are currently championing maths to improve outcomes for children as well as giving staff the belief in themselves that they need to gain the skill set to achieve the GCSE maths qualification themselves. Settings can sign up to six members of staff who can be put forward onto the programme.

At present, practitioners with a level 3 EYE qualification need to have a maths GCSE at grade C or above to be counted in ratios. Currently, however, just 60% of school leavers have a GCSE in maths and English at grade C or above.

Maths through play

‘Play is an effective vehicle for fostering Mathematical concepts and developing positive attitudes to mathematics … Adults in settings should see to extend informally the mathematical experiences the children have already had in the home environment’ (Curricular Guidance for Pre-School Education)

Young children are learning maths through a wide variety of play experiences all the time wherever they are. From the time they are born, babies are surrounded by sense impressions – shapes, in particular, are immediate of grave importance. Babies react instinctively to shapes and the arrangement of shapes which make up human faces.

At home, parent and toddler groups, different settings – children have many opportunities to enjoy maths through play.

Below are some ideas and activities that you can undertake in your setting:

  • Sand and water – Use terminology such as light, heavy, empty, and full and ask the children how much sand a container will hold. Ask your children to make shapes and patterns, provide boxes and compare the weight and quantities in each.
  • Use of language – You can promote the use of mathematical terminology around your setting to describe different objects; long, short, big, small etc. Involving parents in this can also help as they can look at their home environment to develop their language.
  • Playdough – The use of playdough can again, develop mathematical language; short, fat, thin etc. You can ask the children to make shapes that are 3D, not just flat objects. Including water within this activity means you can explore items that float or sink.
  • Role Play – Simple activities such as having the children act out a tea party and laying the table can help develop counting skills
  • Household activities – This again requires parental involvement – asking children to help with washing and asking them colours and counting how many socks e.g. will develop counting and increase a child’s knowledge of colours.

There are a number of ways to include more mathematical-based play in your setting, for more information on activities or to become an NDNA Maths Champion click on the links below:

Become a Maths Champion

Math Activities

Help for Early Years Providers