A positive attitude toward mathematics and a strong foundation for mathematics learning begins in early childhood. Helping children build a solid foundation in mathematics is a gift that will stay with them throughout their school life. That foundation is nurtured when we make maths fun, teach it with hands-on experiences, use consistent language and strategies, and present skills in an appropriate developmental sequence.
The majority of our maths instructional time is focused on representing and comparing whole numbers, initially with sets of objects then moving on to abstract ‘written numerals’. Students use numbers (including written numerals) to represent quantities and to solve problems, such as counting objects in a set; counting out a given number of objects; comparing sets or numerals; and modelling simple joining and separating situations with sets of objects, or eventually with equations such as 5 + 2 = 7 and 7 – 2 = 5.
Students choose, combine, and apply effective strategies for answering ‘how many?’ questions, including quickly recognising the total of small sets of objects, counting and producing sets of given sizes, counting the number of objects in combined sets, or counting the number of objects that remain in a set after some are taken away. Automatic recall of numbers 1–20 is a must. Automatically means without hesitation, counting up (1, 2, 3 to get to that number) or looking around for support.
A culture of ‘mathematical thinking’ can be developed with young children across all learning areas, by encouraging curiosity and providing opportunities to investigate open-ended questions which promote thinking, such as:
- I wonder what will happen if …?
- What makes you think that …?
- How many ways can we …?
- Is there another way we can find out?
- I wonder if …?
- How do you know you are right?
- Can we solve the problem another way?
Good questions from adults and interactions between children (in which they can hear how others think) encourage children to ask more questions, to review their existing ideas and try new ways of solving the problems they meet.
How can you help your child at home?
Here are some games you can play using a deck of playing cards, flashcards and a small collection of objects for counting. When using playing cards, an ace counts as the number one and the jack, queen, king cards are worth ten).
- Higher (or lower): Start with the deck laying ace down on the table. Each player takes a card. The player with the highest (or lowest) card wins all cards. The winner is the player with the most cards at the end of the game. Increase the difficulty by taking two cards at a time and adding them together to see who’s got the highest (or lowest) total
- Snap: Divide the deck of cards out between the players, each player takes it in turns to turn a card over, then SNAP when two cards of the same value are placed together
- Before and After: Divide the deck of cards out between the players, take it in turns to turn a card over, that player must state the number that comes before and after the number
- Bingo: Lay the cards out in a 3×3 format. Call out a number one at a time, when a player has that number turn the card over so it is face down on the table
- Memory: Start with the deck laying face down on the table, take turns to turn two cards over, trying to find two cards with the same value. When a player matches to cards together they can begin to create their own pile with matching cards
- Spot the numbers in the environment, “I can see a 14 on the letterbox”
- Make collections of 11 – 20 objects. Rearrange the objects and ask are there still the same number?
- It is also important to talk about the “number sequence” what number comes before… what number comes after…
- Make flash cards with the numbers 11-20 on each card and play Number Jumble, Missing Number and Fly Swat. Number Jumble: How fast can you take the numbers 1 – 20 and put them in order? Missing Number: Lay the number cards out, in order, encourage your child (or you) to close their eyes then ask “The number missing is…” Fly Swat: Lay the numbers out, call out a number then using a fly swat – splat the number
- Number Writing: Practise writing the numbers in sand, on newspaper, using pencils, Textas or shaving cream, make playdough numerals
- Number Hunt: Search through magazines, newspaper or catalogues to find the numbers and put them in order