Guide: How to Teach Numeracy in Early Years

Author : Julie Bak MPEd early learning has been working in early learning for over 20 years, She is an international trainer and author. 

Numeracy skills involve understanding numbers, counting, solving number problems, measuring, sorting, noticing patterns, adding, and subtracting and so on. We all need math everyday and use our skills in daily life, loading the dishwasher ( spatial orientation), finding a street number( patterning, what number would the next house be on the street), determining bast value when purchasing an item( problem solving).

When we consider Early Years and numeracy, we often think of number recognition and counting but I challenge you to think larger, bigger, and wider (all math words) and consider maths vocabulary.

Infant: tips for building numeracy skills

When you talk with your child about maths concepts in your everyday activities, it helps her/him understand how and why maths are useful. When observing a set of blocks what can we determine through observation:

  • big and small (size)
  • high and low (height)
  • heavy and light (weight)
  • fast and slow (speed)
  • close and far (distance)
  • first, second and last (order).
  • count everything, babies may not understand at first but they will and they will be ready for the toddler room math vocabulary.

      

    Toddlers: tips for building numeracy skills

    • Use math concepts to describe what you and your child are seeing when you are outdoors. For example, ‘Are the clouds moving fast” or ‘This bucket is heavy when filled with water’.
    • When you are preparing food for snack talk about what you’re doing. For example, ‘I’m cutting this orange in half’ or ‘Let’s share these banana- how many pieces do I need to cut it into for us all to have a piece.’.
    • Point out and name the numbers in books on houses or numbers on the phone in your classroom
    • When you’re outside, talk about what’s near or further away. For example, ‘Let’s sit on that bench nearby the sandbox’ or ‘Is it quite far to your house, could you walk or do your need to drive?’.
    • Talk about activities that happen at certain times of the day. For example, ‘We eat breakfast at 7 am’, or ‘Let’s go to outside to play after nap before you go home at 5 pm’.
    • Create number line inside and outside to support number recognition, order and counting
    • The concept of sharing is a challenge for toddlers use math to support your message.’ Let’s share half with our friend’

    Preschool: tips for building numeracy skills

    When we are supporting children’s developing knowledge and understanding of numbers, we can introduce specific vocabulary and use questions which extend learning and enabling statements which will support children’s thinking:

    • What can you tell me about your favorite number?
    • I wonder if anyone can guess the number of bugs on the window?
    • How could we record the number of beans in the box?
    • I can only see nine rain boots by our door how many should we have so we can all go outside?
    • How many blocks can we build up before they all topple over?

    We need to remember that, sometimes, making a statement will promote more discussion than asking a direct question, which can be quite daunting for some children.

    • How many – count everything
    • How many steps to get to the sandbox, can you help me?
    • How do we know?
    • Ask for reason, challenge relativity, estimate, closest too
    • How long, shortest– learn the language of math and add the words to your conversations with children
    • Measure with numbers, shoes, sticks, stones anything you can think of (odd items are fun)
    • Resources of math, loose parts are amazing resources for numeracy
    • Add a balance scale to your outdoor play to bring numeracy outdoors

     

     

    As children gets older, they learn more numeracy and math skills, including size and measurement.

    • compare things of different sizes – ‘big’, ‘small’ and ‘medium’
    • group things together and talk about same and different, observe full, half full, empty
    • use words to describe where things are – ‘over’, ‘under’ and ‘next to’
    • help set the table in their classroom – how many plates if 4 children are going to eat at the table
    • offer shopping opportunities in your home corner and offer the children pretend money to buy things (imaginative play is a great tool for numeracy)
    • divide food into equal shares, call attention to how many children were served “the bowl was divided into 6 or we each received 1/6 of the whole.
    • classify, sort, order, match all algebra terms and great words for preschoolers

       

       

      Promote Conversation

      When we are supporting children’s developing knowledge and understanding of number, we can introduce specific vocabulary and use questions which extend learning and enabling statements which will support children’s thinking:

       

      • What can you tell me about your favorite number?
      • I wonder if anyone can guess the number of bugs on the window?
      • How could we record the number of beans in the box?
      • How many blocks can we build up before they all topple over?

      We need to remember that, sometimes, making a statement will promote more discussion than asking a direct question, which can be quite daunting for some children.

       Demonstration with resources reinforces math concepts

       

      How to Extend Vocabulary

      What can you say when you are working with children?

      • I wonder if anything weighs more than the red car, what weight less than the red car?
      • Which bag feels the heaviest?
      • Can you explain how you know they weigh the same amount?
      • How many shells do you think are in my box?
      • How strange that you can make a cylinder shape by rolling that flat piece of paper.

      Try: Make a word cloud with the children – if a word is included four times, it isn’t repeated four times in the word cloud but is shown four times bigger. So, if lots of children use words like ‘big’, ‘huge’ and ‘giant’ then these words will be bigger in the word cloud, and unique words like ‘humongous’ or ‘mammoth’ would be smaller.

       Numeracy, and understanding numeracy is how children make sense of their world, make connections that create vital understanding that will support future learning.

      Attached is a Numeracy vocabulary sheet, print it off and keep it with you always. Using the vocabulary of math is vital to understanding the language of math and eventually operations of math. Make numeracy a part of your everyday centre experience.

       

      2 comments

      • Just attended the webinar early and all the ideas were great, relevant, practical and very useful. I am glad to attend and is interested to join more webinar hosted by Julie and Robin. Thank you very much.

        Jennilyn Lopez
      • Could I get a copy of the numeracy vocabulary sheet? Thank you!

        Deb Mason

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