The Early Learning Foundation Stage Framework for September 2021 stresses the importance of children having a strong understanding of number. As with other areas of learning discussed earlier in this guide, it is essential that young children have a secure understanding of the basic elements before moving on. This may seem counterintuitive (after all, we all get excited by our children being able to count to high numbers or begin to read early) but in the long run taking a slow and thorough approach will help your child excel later. The focus for Early Years (this is up until the ages of 5 -6) is for children to get to know everything they can about the numbers 1 - 10. The aim is for them to be able to count forwards and back, understand how they relate to each other (such as say which is bigger or smaller, reorder them, which is missing). They should be learning about the patterns within these numbers such as the different ways of making a number (7 = 1+6, 6+1, 2+5, 5+2, 4+3, 3+4, 7+0); which are odd and even and what this would look like.
It is important that children meet number and spatial reasoning skills ( for example: shape, measure, weighing) in a variety of contexts throughout their lives. Counting and mathematical activities, such as those in this adventure, provide one type of opportunity. Children will benefit from also completing similar skills with physical items (counting out cutlery for dinner, counting as they go up steps and back down counting from the total number of steps to 1). Pushing prams and other toys around can help children develop their spatial awareness and reasoning as does playing to put items in and out of containers, lids on bottles, tops on containers. Could they sort all of your plastic food containers? This would require them to recognise and sort items of differing shapes and sizes.
Numberblocks is a wonderful resources for teaching early number knowledge. At the time of writing, it is available on BBC iPLayer for free. Start from series 1, episode 1. They cover the different ways in which children should get to know each number and help to establish strong building blocks for children to develop their knowledge from.
In schools, maths is a subject area which can frighten children who fear making mistakes. They can often believe that they 'can't do maths'. Unlike more creative areas of learning, maths has right or wrong answers which can make getting a question wrong unavoidable. From an early age,. it is important to develop an understanding of the way we learn. We learn any skill by making mistakes. If we avoid mistakes, we avoid learning. You can support this by praising the learning process and not the end results. For example instead of 'Well done you counted to 10!' you could try 'Well done, you concentrated really hard on your counting!' or instead of 'Well done, but remember 9 comes before 10.' try 'I love how hard you concentrated on your counting, lets do it again together.'
In Year 1, children will progress to developing a knowledge of number 1 to 100. Having a secure understanding in the first 10 numbers, will allow them to recognise how those patterns are repeated and applied in the numbers to 100. They need to learn to use +, - & = signs and understand what they mean. Try to show your children these in a variety of contexts and ways. For example, 7 + 4 = ⬜ & 7 + ⬜ = 11 or ⬜ = 7 + 4.