What is Early Years Numeracy?

Numbers, numbers everywhere, but can you count to 20?

Early years numeracy is commonly split into two areas: Numbers and Shape, Space and Measure. The early learning goals related to these focus on developing the child's use of mathematical language. Steer clear of addition, subtraction, times-tables and division at the moment -- the most important thing children can do at this age is to play with numbers and shapes. The goal at this stage is that children feel comfortable with numeracy related language so that they confident exploring all things 'mathematical' in later life.

As easy as 1,2,3?

As easy as 1,2,3?


Getting to grips with the number system can be tricky for some, and exposure to numbers from a young age, and to numbers that hold special significance (such as birthdays, ages, house numbers etc) can demystify numbers, provide concrete examples of why numbers are so useful. By the beginning of year 1 children should...

...count reliably with numbers from 1 to 20, place them in order and say which number is one more or one less than a given number. Using quantities and objects, they add and subtract 2 single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer. They solve problems, including doubling, halving and sharing.

This said, the road to numerical mastery has its roots in object categorisation and language acquisition and before children are able to count using numerals, they will have sorted objects into groups and will have developed an understanding of number-language such as 'one' and 'more'. 

Eventually, children will play with quantities in real life, and will soon realise that you can count anything (dogs, cars, apples, you name it!), making links between numbers and our everyday lives. Go to our resources page for some great resources which help develop early years numeracy.

Shape, space and measure

Playing and exploring is the best way to develop a sense of shape and space in early learning, and children will naturally be introduced to concepts such as 'big' and 'small' along with the language associated with time such as 'dinner-time' and 'bedtime'. These are foundations of future understanding in this area of numeracy. By the end of year 1 children...

...use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems. They recognise, create and describe patterns. They explore characteristics of everyday objects and shapes and use mathematical language to describe them.

Playing with shapes at an early age can really help children develop in this area, and open conversations using prepositions of place (in, on, behind, on top of) will help them develop language of mathematical description. This precedes the more advanced ordering of items into size, height or weight order and using language to describe 2D and 3D shapes.

Again, the most beneficial way of encouraging development in this area is playing with shapes, bricks, lego or anything that involves bright colours, moving objects and that gives your child the chance to use and practice vocabulary related to shape, space and measure.

Give them some space and things will shape up nicely.

Give them some space and things will shape up nicely.

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