Centre for Community Child Health

Numeracy—early primary teachers

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    Numeracy at school

    Every three years, children who are in their first year of full time school in Australia are assessed by their teachers as part of the Australian Early Development Census.

    When prep teachers complete the Census for their class, they assess children’s 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.

    Numeracy skills are part of the larger category of language and cognitive skills. Numeracy is often referred to as mathematical literacy.

    In Australia, the results from the 2012 Census showed that about one in every four Australian children starts school without the skills they need to take advantage of everything that school offers. Developing the knowledge, skills and behaviour that allow children to build their numeracy skills, and be ready for opportunities at school, happens throughout the early years of a child’s life.

    Mathematical thinking

    When you think in terms of ‘mathematical thinking’ there are lots of diverse opportunities for numeracy development every day:

    • Stretch children’s mathematical thinking ability by asking ‘does that make sense?’, ‘is the answer reasonable?’ or ‘what other ways could we do this?’.
    • Play number games using magazines, books and newspapers. For example, use old magazines to create a ‘hunt’ where children need to find a particular number in the pages.
    • Organise, categorise and count collections of things like books, clothing and shoes – it’s a great way to develop children’s mathematical thinking.
    • Estimating, measuring and comparing lengths and heights, how heavy or light things are, and how much containers hold is another important part of encouraging mathematical thinking.

    Make sure that your school is getting involved in National Literacy and Numeracy Week between 31 August and 6 September. There are lots of great ways to celebrate learning literacy and numeracy skills.

    Learn more

    The Federal Government has a range of resources available to support the celebration of National Literacy and Numeracy Week.

    The ambassador for National Literacy and Numeracy Week is Simon Pampena, a ‘standup mathematician’. His website, numbercrunch.com.au, has lots of numeracy resources that are great for school-age children.

    The Raising Children Network has articles on numeracy development. 

      Also in this edition:

       Early childhood educators

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