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Mathematics development involves providing children with opportunities to expand and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measures.

By the end of reception children will develop their understanding of:

  • Numbers: children 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 two single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer. They solve problems, including doubling, halving and sharing.
  • Shape, space and measures: 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.

How can parents and carers help?

You can help your child gain mathematical experiences in numerous everyday situations.  All of the skills can be introduced using things in the home and in the environment outside. Bearing these points in mind, encourage as many of the following skills as possible:

  • Compare objects to see which is the longest, tallest, thickest, thinnest, heaviest, and lightest.
  • Describe where something is, using the appropriate words; under, above, behind, on, next to ….
  • Sort naturally when playing; all of the red bricks together, all of the duplo in the box, sorting socks into pairs.
  • Develop spatial awareness by playing with construction items, make a tall house for a giraffe.
  • Discover which shapes fit together well, which shapes stack well, how tall can you make your tower before it topples over?
  • Notice shapes in the environment when out and about.
  • Develop capacity skills in the bath, fill up different sized containers, are they full, empty, half full?
  • Develop weighing skills by baking with your child, lots of flour, same amounts of sugar and butter.
  • Make predictions about the timing of the day, e.g. knowing that you go to pre-school after breakfast, that we can go to the park after lunch.  How many sleeps until our outing on Saturday?
  • Children naturally look for patterns and order, notice the pattern in a brick wall, put all the pictures of cars together, make a necklace with red, blue, red, blue beads.
  • Let them help you at the shops, put 4 apples in the bag, get a large bag of sugar.
  • Sing and recite number songs and rhymes.
  • Count up to 10 – beyond if they are able – stairs to bed, number of bananas in the bunch, number of teddy bears for the tea party.
  • Add on or subtract in very natural situations, ‘you had 4 sweets and you have eaten 2, how many are left?’