What is Mathematics? In the EYFS framework, Mathematics (M) is one of the four specific areas of learning. Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to practise and improve their skills in counting on and counting back and using numbers up to 20 to do simple addition and subtraction to solve simple problems. Mathematics also involves children using everyday language to describe and compare size, weight, capacity, time, position and distance. They are given opportunities to know, and talk, about patterns and properties of flat and solid shapes.
Two aspects of Mathematics in the EYFS Numbers Shape, space and measures
Developing skills with numbers Mathematics covers the area of learning and development which was called ‘Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy’ in the original EYFS framework. Numbers covers the previous aspects ‘Numbers as Labels and for Counting’ and ‘Calculating’. Having a developing understanding of numbers allows children to solve problems, generate new questions and make connections across other areas of learning and development. Practitioners can support this area of learning by exploiting the mathematical potential of the indoor environment in enabling children to discover the importance of numbers by recognising numerals and by counting and calculating to solve simple practical problems such as finding out how many children are in the role play area or working out how many plates and spoons a group of children needs.
How can we support young children to develop their skills with numbers? Attitudes and ethos The physical environment Links to the prime areas of learning Supporting different ways of learning Building partnerships with parents
Our attitudes and ethos Do all practitioners have the professional knowledge to recognise and develop children’s interests and abilities in activities which support their learning and development with numbers? Are all members of staff confident in their own mathematical ability? If not, what can be done to help them? As staff, do we have a shared understanding of the value of making numbers and counting fun? Are we good at taking advantage of the opportunities to develop number skills which are presented in everyday activities? Could we do more to present children with activities which encourage problem solving using numbers and calculating?
Physical environment Are the indoor learning environments in our setting used to their best advantage to provide opportunities for mathematical development in number, counting and problem solving? Do all staff make the most of everyday experiences to develop children’s number skills, for example counting the stairs as we go up and down them, or counting paving stones out of doors? Are numerals displayed in purposeful contexts, such as showing how many children can play in the role play area or at the water tray at any one time? Is the outdoor environment used to encourage number recognition, counting and sorting for example through providing hopscotch, skittles or quoits?
Links to the prime areas of learning Mathematical development begins at a very early age, long before a child is three. ‘Practitioners working with the youngest children should focus on the prime areas, but also recognise that the foundations of all areas of learning are laid from birth’- for example literacy in the very early sharing of books.’ [Tickell Review of the EYFS, 2011] Do all staff have a rich repertoire of number rhymes, songs and games to play with even the youngest children? Are number activities using physical movement, such as counting fingers and toes, used by practitioners in a playful way? When we talk to young children do we take every opportunity to use number words such as ‘lots’, ‘few’, ‘more’ or less? Could we make better use of opportunities to use mathematical vocabulary which is becoming increasingly complex as children’s number skills and understanding develops?
Supporting different ways of learning Do we provide number resources which are appropriate to the children’s stages of development and their current interests? Do babies and toddlers have access to a range of Treasure Basket and heuristic play collections of interesting objects to handle which enables practitioners to observe the children’s unique individual learning styles? How well do we succeed in interesting both boys and girls in mathematical problem solving by carefully selecting resources for counting, sorting and problem solving which attract them? Do we show interest in how individual children solve mathematical problems and describe and record the processes they use?
Building partnerships with parents Do we provide parents with clear information which tells them about the mathematical skills babies and young children are developing when they explore Treasure Baskets and heuristic play? How could we make parents aware of the importance of using everyday experiences to help their children’s learning and development in number? Could we find ways to help parents to use daily experiences such as shopping, travelling to nursery or having lunch in a café to develop number skills? Can we provide parents with number songs, rhymes and games to share with their children at home either in written form or on a CD?