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.

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Children’s language development and overall well-being

Language and Wellbeing

An important piece of research into language development and how it can be used as an indicator of a child’s well-being, was published recently, and we have been looking at its implications for early years practice.

The report highlights the centrality of language development for the overall development of a child (in the wider social, emotional, and cognitive contexts). In the words of its authors:

Early language acquisition impacts on all aspects of young children’s non-physical development. It contributes to their ability to manage emotions and communicate feelings, to establish and maintain relationships, to think symbolically, and to learn to read and write.

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“Natural Maths” for 3-5 Year Old Children

Can mathematics be taught at an early age? Is it beneficial to do so? What sort of mathematics can be taught in the 3-5 year old age group?

In this blog post we will answer these questions (and, as a sneak peak, here are the short answers: Yes, Yes, and Pretty Advanced Stuff, as it turns out!)

Mathematics can indeed be taught at an early age and it is beneficial to do so for at least two reasons: first, it helps put in place the fundamental mathematical concepts, which will carry a child’s understanding of the subject through primary school and beyond; and second, it introduces the topic without cumbersome tasks that tend to tire children and possibly dissuade them from taking up mathematics later on.

The prevailing wisdom among parents and early years professionals is that early math should begin with numbers and counting, starting with small numbers up to 5 and slowly introducing bigger numbers, before moving on to addition and eventually subtraction (in primary school). Multiplication and division are more advanced operations that are taught only in primary school. All through this linear progression from one task to the next, there is a strong focus on calculation. As a result, central concepts of mathematics, such as functions and variables, limits and symmetry, are typically introduced in high school. However, these very concepts are the ones that mathematicians identify as their true “tools of the trade”. The ability to memorize a multiplication table, by comparison, is only marginally useful.

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