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Narrowing the Gap in Early Primary Maths

Numbers are an abstract concept for children and they need many opportunities to investigate numbers in different ways. This blog explores the importance of develoing early number sense and how Spot On With Numbers, a new tactile resource, can be used to support pupils to build the firm foundations for their mathematical journey.

Posted on Monday 06th January 2020

Teachers in Primary Schools are reporting large gaps in attainment in mathematics, some with very few strategies to deal with the challenge. The NCETM’s guidance has been to concentrate on key areas of the curriculum and teach it well.

The Hungarian Number Frame is being used as an alternative representation for numbers, which enables teachers to stay longer on a topic, enabling children to explore a concept in more depth.

Spot On with Numbers

The Frame promotes subitising (or instantly seeing the total without counting). It exposes different structures, allowing children to develop an appreciation of how numbers are composed. It is therefore a useful structure to aid in the development of number sense and may be useful to encourage children to progress from counting to calculating. The composition can also be linked to the fingers.


Number sense is defined by counting, comparing and flexible thinking about number.

Cambridge Mathematics, 2017

While number sense involves the ability to count, compare and perform operations on numbers, it also requires thinking and working flexibly with numbers. Number sense can be improved by encouraging children to make links, reason and giving them opportunities to explore numbers in different ways and move between representations.

Number sense can be improved by helping children make links and move between representations.

Cambridge Mathematics, 2017

Number sense develops slowly over time, with opportunities for children to work with moveable objects, compose and recompose different arrangements and discuss their discoveries (Back, 2018). Teachers know that there has been significant variation in children’s mathematical learning during the COVID pandemic. Focusing on the development of number sense can help ensure all children have the correct foundations in order to build their mathematical knowledge.

Spot On with Numbers

Spot On With Numbers

Spot On With Numbers is a new tactile resource, which draws on the strength of the Hungarian Number frame. It has been specifically developed based on the latest research around the best ways to develop number sense. Children can use the Pegs and Boards to make numbers in many different ways, link the representations to their fingers and make connections. The Pegs and Boards offer a multisensory experience of number which has the added benefit of developing pincer grips as children place the pegs onto the boards. The ability to then move the pegs into less familiar patterns helps to develop subitising skills. These opportunities to make connections with numbers, together with a chance to reason and verbalise their learning helps children develop number sense and forms firm foundations for their mathematical journey.

The Pegs and Boards naturally break numbers into small sets, similar to the way the brain does when subitising. The boards therefore create a manageable way for children to view numbers larger than five. The ability to decompose and compose numbers into parts of the whole is also very important for the development of fluency (learning 5+2=7, 2+5=7, 3+4=7, 4+3=7, with related subtraction facts). Children can make numbers and move them together and apart to explore calculations. When children can visualise or are encouraged to verbalise their understanding using the Pegs and Boards, they will have an efficient strategy for later performing the same task mentally.

Spot on with Numbers

Spot On With Numbers’ Pegs and Boards are sold separately or included in a complete ‘Number Bonds Pack’.

The Complete Pack includes visuals, including the popular magic number bonds cards and a guide with activities and games. The activities are written for teachers, learning support assistants or parents to support children in developing early number sense. The activities are child led; progress in small steps; give examples of good mathematical language and highlight links. The activities are perfect for guiding child led play; for use alongside more formal teaching methods or for intervention. We recommend starting with the complete pack as the Pegs and Boards alone do not include instructions for use.  The Pegs and Boards are provided separately to be able to expand the full Pack as necessary, depending on the number of children using them.

Spot On Challenges

There are also free challenge cards available to download, with ideas to use in lessons, small group work or to use as continuous provision challenges.

Spot On With Numbers also gives the opportunity to provide greater depth activities to enrich children’s maths learning.

We are very excited about all the ways Spot On With Numbers can be used to develop number sense alongside other resources in the classroom. Using Spot On With Numbers to develop firm foundations in the early years of mathematical education will provide children with skills required for success with their later learning.

Spot on with Numbers

Thank you to Carol, from Spot on with Numbers, for writing this blog about how ‘Spot on with Numbers’ can help children to develop their understanding of number.

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