Developing children's numeracy doesn’t have to be expensive, says Catherine Clark...
Helping children gain an understanding of early maths concepts in a fun way just requires a little imagination, careful observation and inventiveness. Mathematical development can be nurtured whilst walking in the park, visiting a local shop, or cooking in the role-play area – it doesn’t always need fancy resources, but it does require being intuitive and having a thorough understanding of individual children. It’s also vital to follow their specific interests. If they’re drawn to playing with cars, dinosaurs, superheroes, etc., then why not utilise them? Observation is key and determining the detail of their interest is similarly important. Ask if it’s the cars they like or the cars’ badges, colours, number plates, etc. If we understand what truly engages them, we can support and scaffold their learning much more effectively.
I always advocate having access to a rich diversity of maths resources. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Children can go counting with a bucket outside, finding leaves, petals, conkers and pebbles. Some children love sparkle and glitz: bangles, jewels and rings make lovely counters, especially if stored in a treasure chest. I would have enjoyed measuring far more if it was with sparkly lengths of necklaces, pieces of tinsel or even glittery ribbon, rather than string or wool. There are many things we use at home that could really enliven maths, too. Imagine using the metallic Christmas plastic baubles to count and sort with. Spotty, stripy and starry socks make fantastic matching and sequencing resources. Even better is to let children have a maths laundry: measure the soap powder, wash the socks, then peg them on a line – so much rich mathematical language will naturally occur!
Catherine Clark has worked in early years education for many years. She is the in-house educationalist at TTS, consulting and advising on how children learn, and has developed numerous award-winning products.
Supporting EAL with Stories and Creativity