ABC and 123: Laying the Foundations of Numeracy in the Early Years

Colourful magnetic numbers
Category: Bookbug

There is lots of academic evidence to support the importance of the home learning environment and how stories, songs and rhymes can support a child’s language and literacy development. It’s in a child’s earliest years that the foundations of learning are set and the chats and discussion we have with children can impact on their language as well as their thinking skills. This is also a prime opportunity to lay the foundations of numeracy.

Here are some ways to work numeracy into your conversations with children:

  • Pointing and counting is a great way to help children see numbers represented. Take your time and let children see what zero (nil), one, two and three looks like. You can count up to five, and back down again. Another great idea is to discuss the concept of ‘more and less’ with children. You could talk about which basket has more books in it, and which basket has less. Using more or less, or introducing ‘bigger and smaller’, supports children to learn comparative language and develop an awareness of size and measurement.
  • Songs and rhymes like Forwards and Backwards or When I was One are a great way to introduce concepts of positional language with children. Positional language is words that show or tell us where things are. This will help children when it comes to concepts such as addition and subtraction, but also helps children understand movement and direction. When you’re out walking together, try introducing children to ‘left and right’.
  • Numeracy is also underpinned by patterns. Talk to children about patterns, schedules and routines and help them start to notice patterns and cues. If you’re wearing a striped shirt, it’s great to point out that pattern – you can even use rich vocabulary like ‘alternating’ and explain to children what that means.

It’s the conversations and interactions with children that provide them with the richest learning experiences. Thinking about the kind of language we use when playing and talking with children can help to lay the foundations of numeracy. And these maths skills – and the rich vocabulary - will support their later learning. Numeracy concepts may be tricky to learn but if children are engaged in play and discussions when these concepts are introduced, they’ll grasp the meaning of them without even realising it.    


For picture books that celebrate numeracy, you can check out our 9 Books about Numbers and Counting for young children, and for slightly older children, our 11 Excellent Maths and Counting Books.