Mathematics is a Specific Area of Learning.
The statutory framework for the EYFS (2021) states that educational programmes must involve activities and experiences for children, as set out under each of the areas of learning.
‘Developing a strong grounding in number is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Children should be able to count confidently, develop a deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers. By providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding - such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and tens frames for organising counting - children will develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built. In addition, it is important that the curriculum includes rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics including shape, space and measures. It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.’
Mathematicians in the Early Years
Young children begin to make the link between numerals and quantity, counting and knowing how many items are in a group and learning how to use simple calculation skills in practical, real-life situations. Opportunities to explore, practice and build on mathematical learning should be provided outside and inside, in all areas of provision, in child and adult initiated activity, at song time, story time and snack time – all the time.
The most valuable resources for mathematical learning are the adults who share children’s excitement as they learn. A knowledgeable practitioner creates exciting opportunities for children to practise their skills, offering suggestions and ideas to extend their thinking and broaden and deepen their understanding.
As young children try to make sense of the world around them, they make links and connections between what they see in their environment and their past experience. Through this process, they begin to notice and understand the properties of shapes, for example knowing that a ball will roll.
Children also become aware of variations in size and space and they begin to apply this knowledge to negotiate space, solve problems and understand more about the world. They also begin to notice patterns and this helps them to develop skills in sequencing, ordering and time.
When given appropriate support, their vocabulary will reflect their growing knowledge and will enable them to express their ideas and thoughts.
Top Ten Tips for Mathematics
- Maths opportunities are everywhere. Practitioners and parents should help children take advantage of purposeful maths experiences in everyday situations.
- Properties of shape. Understanding what a shape or a quantity can or cannot do is far more important than knowing its name.
- Problem Solving. If children know the answer or are given the solution, they are not problem solving. Give children problems to solve, not answers to remember.
- Risk taking. Children need to be willing to take risks physically before they develop the confidence to problem solve mentally.
- Process over Product. Higher level learning happens during the process of a child’s chosen activity and not from the product of an adult led task or worksheet.
- Exploring. It is far more important for children to take a risk and have a go, than to have the right answer.
- Questioning. Must be appropriate, why are you asking them? Questions should sustain thinking and should not interrupt or arrest learning. Allow at least 10 seconds for an answer. Listen more, talk less.
- Model. Practitioners should regularly model the language of problem solving, ‘I wonder if/why/where/what/how…’.
- Extending Learning. Regularly introduce resources and experiences in new, different and stimulating ways.
- Breadth and Depth. Be sure to provide a wide range of experiences that allow children to apply and extend their skills in all areas of Maths and at all developmental stages.
- Know Your Children Well. Experiences that are child led and built around children’s interests and Characteristics of Effective Learning will have the greatest impact on their learning and achievement.
Education Endowment Foundation
The EEF and Sutton Trust are the government-designated What Works Centre for Education who aim to raise the attainment of 3-18 year olds, particularly those who are disadvantaged.
Early Years Toolkit – Early numeracy approaches explains how 6 months progress can be made by promoting mathematics in the setting.
Projects and evaluations This section features results from testing the impact of high-potential projects to generate new evidence of ‘what works’. Select ‘Early Years’ in the search drop down menu.
Guidance Report – Improving Mathematics in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 This guidance document is part of a series of reports that the EEF produced on the theme of mathematics. It focuses on the teaching of mathematics to children between the ages of three and seven.