Supporting early years maths at home

As a nursery teacher I often have parents telling me that their child is,’ good with their numbers.’ As I get to know the child and work with them I see that this phrase often means that the child can recite the names of numbers in ascending order. Although this is an important skill to have it needs to be alongside a set of other skills too. Early Maths needs to develop the child’s understanding of what it means to be a number in the number system alongside these other skills;

  • Understand and use the language of shape, patterns, size and position
  • Be aware of 1-to-1 correspondence
  • Understanding what is the same and different
  • Learn number rhymes and songs, e.g. one, two, buckle my shoe etc
  • Be aware of number conservation

As parents and educators we are often too quick at introducing young children to numbers before they have mastered the basic skills of classifying and sorting. This might involve finding all the apples that are red, or sorting out the cutlery into piles of knives, forks and spoons or even sorting out the washing into piles of socks, tops and vests. Repetition of sorting and classifying needs to be done until the child is confident with it.

Then children can be introduced to numbers.
Classifying and sorting are keys skills to master before numbers are intrduced

We like to use stories and number rhymes to help with this. Here are some of our favourites;

  • Three Billy Goats
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • 5 Speckled Frogs
  • 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
  • 1,2 Buckle my Shoe
A sitting child from above

They need to experience all of this through their senses of touching, hearing and seeing. During this time children need to have practice at knowing what the number is, what it is next to, what comes before it/ after it, how the numeral looks and what the amount looks like.

  • Let your child count out items in the books – how many animals are on the page, how many items are blue.
  • Enjoy stories and rhymes with your child that has a mathematical element, e.g. “One-two, Buckle my Shoe”,
  • Setting the table for a family meal and counting out the number of plates and cutlery required.
  • Baking and following a recipe book.
  • Learn about money as they go shopping with you.
  • Playing with jigsaw puzzles and simple board games.
  • Going on a nature hunt outside and collecting items in a bag.
  • At tidying up time asking your child to find 2 elephants to put in the box.
About the author:
Kimberly Smith
Kimberly Smith
Early Years Consultant

Kimberly Smith is the founder of KSEY Consultancy and offers International Early Years training, consultancy and support for settings, schools and childminders. Kimberly has a vast amount of Early Years teaching and leadership experience. She is the author of Hygge in the Early Years, a regular writer for Early Years Educator Magazine, regularly guest lectures at Leeds University and Trinity University.

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