Early Years Mathematics

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By Hilary White

Mathematics can strike fear into the hearts of the many who regard themselves as ‘no good at maths’. With this in mind, it’s useful to reflect on how often we use mathematical skills without even thinking about it.

child counting

From the child who judges height and distance when climbing a tree to the highly skilled accountant, we all rely on our inherent ‘mathematical mind’. The EYFS framework recognises the importance of maths by giving it the status of a ‘specific’ area of learning.

Drawing on the basic skills covered in the prime areas of learning, the exploration of number, shape, pattern and measure lays essential foundations for the child’s development and learning. With a little bit of thought and planning, maths can offer a fun and exciting way of discovering how the world works – throughout the early years and beyond.

Click on any of the following activities to access the full instructions, downloadable worksheets and curriculum links:

Numbers

  1. Caterpillar Counting This activity allows children to create quantities for themselves, as well as count and compare them.
  2. Number Fishing This activity gives children the opportunity to practise counting and match numerals with their corresponding quantities.
  3. Exploring Numerals Finding numerals in the environment helps children to discover that numbers are all around us.

Shape, space and measure

  1. Shape Printing This activity allows children to explore plane (2 dimensional) shapes and discover the link they have with solid (3 dimensional) shapes.
  2. Patterns This activity offers a simple way of creating a pattern, and also shows children that patterns are repeatable.
  3. Bigger, Taller, Heavier Than … This activity offers a straightforward sensory introduction to exploring and measuring mathematical properties.

Caterpillar Counting

What to do:

Gather together a collection of furry craft pipe cleaners and coloured wooden beads. Show the children how to create ‘counting caterpillars’ by threading the beads onto the pipe cleaners. Aim to make each quantity from one to ten – and beyond if the children are ready. Encourage the children to count out the beads before making the caterpillars. Once the beads have been threaded, show them how to move each bead along the pipe cleaner as they count. Push the beads to the ends of the caterpillars, and set them out in a row from one to ten. With older children, introduce simple addition by putting two caterpillars side by side and counting the total number of beads.

Activity notes:

  • This activity presents children with number in a linear form, allowing them to count the beads on each caterpillar (1, 2, 3 etc). It also shows each quantity as a separate group – the ‘one’ caterpillar, the ‘two’ caterpillar, the ‘three’ caterpillar and so on. Placing the caterpillars in a right-angled triangle format offers a clear visual demonstration that the one to ten number series has one more each time.
  • Choose the same colour bead for each separate caterpillar (for example, blue for one, yellow for two, purple for three and so on). This shows the children that all the beads making up a quantity go together.
  • Choose contrasting colours for the beads and the pipe cleaners, for example, yellow on blue. This makes it easier for children to recognise each separate bead as they count.
  • Moving beads along while counting helps the child with one-to-one correspondence.
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