Maths In Early Childhood

Young children need to see themselves as able mathematicians, the learning that occurs in Early Childhood sets the younger students on the path to understanding mathematical concepts with confidence.Through exploration, inquiry and teacher supported activities the children practice and consolidate their learning. Early maths experiences are based on students relating the concept to their own world, thus constructing meaning through real life situations relevant to their prior knowledge. Early maths is not about rote learning, abstract ideas and numerical facts it is about hands-on experiences and interactions with materials and others that allow for meaningful conversations. The one answer worksheet is not as purposeful as open-ended questions in a playful environment. Numbers, shapes, forms, data handling, quantity and patterns are all a part of the daily routine in an Early Childhood setting.

As the children make sense of the world around them mathematical concepts will naturally fall into place. ‘They pull together pieces of knowledge they have gained: they observe; they try things out; they learn from asking questions; they experiment; they work at their understanding until they make a connection with another bit of knowledge that they have’.( Jacoby, 2005: Thoughts on Emergent Maths) .

Children express themselves in many ways and the teacher has to be particularly observant to capture the moment and discover how each child is conveying their understanding of a maths concept. As they pour water into a cup they may be talking about how full the recipient has become, counting the steps down to lunch shows understanding of one to one correspondence and making lines in the sand tray demonstrates an interpretation of shape. The understanding isn’t necessarily spoken out loud or written on a piece of paper but it is there and it is our job to discover and interpret the learning.

Many of these concepts happen naturally, of course, however, in the school setting seeds are constantly planted for mathematical exploration. The students are given opportunities at every occasion to engage in maths. With the PYP coordinator, Kathryn Ramsey, the teachers make connections between the unit and mathematical concepts making sure the association is pertinent and meaningful to the students. These are mapped out over the year to ensure that all skills and concepts are addressed.

You can observe some of the learning happening in EC in the photos below.

The younger children are using Unifix cubes to make a long line. This allows for conversations about length, enriching vocabulary as they learn from each other.

Other students are getting to grips with measurements with more conventional methods, the measuring tape, obviously something learnt from personal experiences. Access to tape measures and scales at home allows children to experience how weight, size and length are related to everyday experiences

The Kinder children are negotiating how to make their 'train tracks' longer, then shorter. The tracks went past the office door when they were supposed to turn into the room, they needed to decide how to shorten the track and make it turn a corner, thus organising space.

Sorting by diverse categories. Children will decide which characteristic to sort by shape, colour or size. They can then go on to explain their rational of classification. This is an easy and fun activity that can be done at home, for example have them pair up the mismatched socks.

As the Prep children explore structures in their current unit they are finding and constructing shapes everywhere. From creating geometric patterns with wooden blocks, to three dimensional shapes made from play-dough and toothpicks they are exploring the properties of the different forms and understanding which shapes serve a better purpose in construction; hence the geodesic dome!

The Prep students have created some maths games in class. In trying to understand how to make number bonds to ten they realised that they could make a game. They then reasoned that Nursery and Kinder may not be able to read the numerals and therefore added small symbols to help them to count.


Primary Years Programme Mathematics Scope & Sequence, IBO Publications. (2009)

Making Maths Meaningful For Young Children,Deanna Pecaski McLennan.

Children's Mathematics. Making marks, making meaning. E.Carruthers and M. Worthington. Sage Publications, 2009

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