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Maths in Early Years: building children’s confidence from an early age

The older a child gets the harder it is to get them to engage with and truly appreciate mathematics and the powerful reasoning behind it. Therefore, introducing maths at an early age is of crucial importance: not only does it help them understand how to deal with abstract symbols, like numbers, but more importantly it helps them develop problem solving and reasoning skills.

Children need to be given an opportunity to practice their skills with numbers, linking them to concrete quantities, which are out there in the physical world, their sensory world. Knowledge of shapes and patterns also improves their competence and confidence in using mathematical concepts and language.

However, shapes, space, and measures is a key area that the Government is considering to remove from the Early Years curriculum from next year. As an outstanding nursery school, we place a lot of value on this area and we will certainly continue teaching and developing it. In this post, we summarise some of the things you can do at home to support your child’s learning in this area, which is so beneficial to children.

Shapes, space, and measures teaches children about the properties and uses of shapes, helping them develop their spatial awareness. It also helps them recognise, create and describe patterns, which is essential for early problem solving skills.

How to support fundamental maths knowledge at home

  • Take children outside. Outdoors, children can spot shapes and numbers naturally.

  • Let them build on a smaller or bigger scale using blocks, Lego or a range of materials. In this way they will explore shape, space and measure using equipment like boxes, crates and building blocks.

  • Let them play with water by providing them a range of containers, jugs and buckets. This will support them to learn about capacity.

  • Measure physical objects using scales, measuring tapes, and rulers; measure the passage of time with clocks.

  • Encourage them to do lots of  counting including counting backwards, and also including ‘no’ or ‘none’ (Five little ducks went swimming one day); counting in pairs (2 ,4, 6, 8, Mary at the cottage gate), counting to five, ten and beyond.

  • As counting skills develop further, children begin to understand:

    • one-to-one correspondence – when a child points to each object individually and they count and match a tag (a number) to each object they are counting

    • the same order – you will observe children gradually working towards the knowledge that the number words must always be said in the same order

    • anything can be counted not just the objects in front of them so movements, steps and claps in front of them.

  • Value children’s mathematical representations and model writing numbers with them.

Further Reading