Centre for Community Child Health

Numeracy—early childhood educators

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    Numeracy in the early years

    With numeracy skills, children develop the ability to check whether they have enough money to buy that new toy; consider if the amount of flour needed for a recipe will fit in the bowl they chose; create a drawing or painting that uses shapes and patterns, and so much more. Children will use their numeracy skills all the time, throughout their lives, often without thinking twice.

    Developing numeracy skills starts well before children start primary school. Engaging children in a mathematically rich environment encourages these skills. Some activities that can make an environment mathematically rich include sorting and counting objects such as buttons, blocks, beads, toy cars and plastic animals; building with blocks; cooking; and measuring how heavy or light things are and how much containers hold. 

    Numeracy skills in Australia

    Every three years, children in their first year of full time school in Australia are assessed by their teachers as part of the Australian Early Development Census. In the Census, children are assessed for their numeracy skills, particularly whether they:

    • have basic numeracy skills and can count to 20
    • recognise shapes and numbers
    • can compare numbers to each other
    • can sort and classify things into groups
    • can do one-to-one correspondence; match a spoken or written number to an object
    • understand simple time concepts.

    The most recent results showed that about one in every four Australian children starts school without the skills they need to take advantage of everything that school offers. Working with children and families to help develop children’s numeracy skills can help to ensure that all children can start school with the skills they need to make the most of their learning opportunities.

    Practising early numeracy skills

    Counting – there are lots of counting songs and rhymes to make practising counting fun for everyone. The Raising Children Network’s Baby Karaoke, also available as a free app for iPhone and Android, has fun songs to help with early numeracy.

    Number recognition– learning to recognise numbers both visually and aurally can be practised in lots of different ways. Magnetic numbers, environmental numbers and playing with calculators are all terrific ways to develop those skills.

    Matching up spoken and written numbers, or one-to-one correspondence, is a good one to practice when it’s time for a meal or a snack. Use an egg carton that has a number written in the bottom of each cup so that children can practice counting out the right number of pieces of fruit for them and the other children at their table.

    Learn more

    It’s Australian Literacy and Numeracy Week from 31 August to 6 September. While this event is focused on literacy and numeracy at school,
    the website has lots of fun activity ideas that could be great for early years groups.

    The Raising Children Network has lots of articles on numeracy development across children’s ages.  

      Also in this edition:

       Early primary teachers

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