Early mathematical learning consists of different skills that children need to learn that will serve as a strong foundation for the maths that children will encounter as they go up the years in primary school. In the nursery, our children are learning the following skills:
Children need to know how to rote count or say number words in sequence. They need to know number names, initially to five, then ten. Some are able to extend their counting to larger numbers, including crossing boundaries 19/20 and 29/30.
This kind of counting requires children to learn how to tag each object with one number word. They need plenty of opportunities to count things in irregular arrangements. For example, how many apples are in the basket? How many wheels does a car have? These opportunities can also include counting actions (like jumps and claps) and things that cannot be seen, touched or moved.
Cardinality or counting sets is knowing that the last number counted gives the total so far. Children need the opportunity to count out or ‘give’ a number of things from a larger group, not just to count the number that are there. This is to support them in focusing on the ‘stopping number’ which gives the cardinal value.
Children need to learn that each number is represented by a numeral. They need to familiarise themselves first with the numerals that represent 0 to 5, followed by 0 to 10. Some are able to recognise numerals up to 20.