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Experience of number through play

Children should be allowed to experience numbers in a relaxed, informal way. It’s important to carefully place numbers throughout an environment so children can use them in meaningful contexts during their play. Think about numbers indoors and out, in the water tray and in the home corner.

Posted on Tuesday 24th January 2017

Shiny resources such the Metallic Elephant Number Parade are appealing as they are like treasure and draw children in to explore. They can be used to develop number lines but can also be used alongside natural materials to encourage labelling of counted objects.

EY maths

Embrace opportunities for number learning outdoors and provide children with varied opportunities. Approach number activities creatively, whether it is writing, painting, pegging onto a line, producing a number rubbing or threading. When number lines are placed carefully in an environment they can stimulate discussion about numbers and opportunities to use these within play. It is essential to display number lines, to allow children to reference their conversation and for practitioners to easily refer to them to support number conversations and group activities. Use number lines of different lengths to show children that numbers go beyond ten and also how numerals are written.

Explore numbers and maths concepts creatively using play dough, paint and varied materials. Show numbers in different formats; as digits, words, arrays or even Roman numerals! The sand and water tray can also support mathematical understanding. Ensure the activities are meaningful and engaging. Children are often fascinated with numbers that have personal meaning to them; like their age, birthday, door number, car number or telephone number. Use resources to support and extend their thinking on these numbers. At best, maths games will be supported by an enthusiastic adult who will ask open-ended questions and build on what the children already know.

EY maths

With thanks to Catherine, Sue, Emma and Alexis. Catherine is from Busy Bears and Busy Bees children’s day nursery, County Durham. Sue is a nursery proprietor with over 25 years’ experience in Early Years. Emma is an award winning Nursery Manager of the Year. Alexis is a Strategy Director and a former Early Years Education Development Advisor.