Keeping maths practical in the early years

By Nova Robinson, senior consultant, Early Excellence

Do your classrooms offer rich opportunities for children to engage in practical maths activities? Are they carefully planned to offer rich and meaningful experiences for all your children as they develop their confidence as young mathematicians?

In the Early Years and through into Early Primary, the curriculum is best taught through a broad range of experiences; through the resources we provide and the interactions we build into children’s play as well as the collaborative activities we plan and the moments of ‘direct teaching’ that occur throughout the day.

When thinking about how best to deliver the maths curriculum, one of the key questions to ask ourselves is: does my classroom environment offer sufficient opportunities for children to use and apply maths in real contexts?

How do we promote mathematical training?

To answer this question, we first need to understand how young children learn mathematics.

This requires adults who are knowledgeable, who observe and can interpret children’s actions and who encourage and value their ideas. We need to support young learners as they seek to create patterns, solve problems, make connections and recognise relationships.

Throughout the day, modelling accurate vocabulary, supporting children to generate questions, sharing and discussing their ideas as well as helping them to predict and describe outcomes, is essential. It is also important to recognise the significance of children being supported to represent their ideas graphically in ways that are meaningful to them.

In the Early Years and through into Early Primary, the curriculum is best taught through a broad range of experiences; through the resources we provide and the interactions we build into children’s play

How do you plan appropriate contexts for mathematical learning?

Opportunities for children to play games, explore materials and talk maths in context underpins their journey towards mastery – so having a well-planned, carefully resourced environment makes a big difference. Ensuring that you have a maths area with accessible, open-ended resources including natural materials, as well as specific maths resources and equipment for playing games is a good start – but maths learning can strengthen through all areas of provision both indoor and out!

If we consider a block area, for example, this offers a wealth of maths potential from exploring the properties of shapes, to using them to understand fractions. Or if we think about the home corner, there is potential for an array of ‘real maths’, especially if we include a calendar, phone, kitchen scales, measuring cups and jug, kitchen timer, recipe books and a real working clock, to name a few.

The key is planning the environment with maths in mind, considering how it can fully support learning and teaching by providing rich opportunities for exploring, applying, revisiting and reinforcing learning.

At Early Excellence, we are proud to help schools foster an early love of mathematics by providing specialist resources and high-quality CPD to ensure that the teaching of maths is highly effective for our youngest children.


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W: www.earlyexcellence.com

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