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Grow & Thrive - Numeracy

  • Volume 4, No 3 - Numeracy

    Developing the knowledge, skills and behaviour to support children to build their numeracy skills happens throughout the early years of a child's life. Teachers, early childhood educators and parents can all support children to develop numeracy skills.

    Developing numeracy skills

    National Literacy and Numeracy Week is a celebration of the work that Australian schools are doing to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of students. Numeracy skills are fundamental not only for individuals, but for Australia’s future workforce.

    Developing numeracy skills starts well before primary school. Numeracy skills enable children 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 picked out; 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.

    Throughout the early years of children’s lives, teachers, early childhood educators and parents support children to develop the sorts of knowledge, skills and behaviour they need. Among these skills is numeracy, which children will need for life. 

    Numeracy skills

    In the years before school, children develop their numeracy skills and are encouraged to extend their mathematical thinking. Educators, teachers and parents can ask questions like:

    • How much is there in the jar?
    • Does that shape block fit in this hole?
    • How many birds are there in the tree?
    • Which way will we go on our walk?
    • Is there enough cake for everyone to have a piece?
    • What happens if I put another block on the pile?

    Once children start school, the mathematical thinking skills that they’ve developed before school will form the foundation for more formal maths learning. 

    Mathematical thinking

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

    • You can listen to, and talk with children about the number, shape and size of things in their environment and share rhymes and stories. Asking open questions encourages children to explore their ideas with you.
    • Encouraging mathematical thinking can start with using basic mathematical language– how much, how many, how big, how far. This can then lead to testing out children’s ideas about volume, space, size, number, measurement and distance.
    • Children learn about space, shape and size when they think about how they fit – literally – into spaces at home, school or childcare, and about how big they are in proportion to other objects or people. For example, knowing that they are smaller than mum, but bigger than their younger sibling is an example of everyday mathematical thinking.
    • Learning to recognise numbers, and starting to think about what numbers can do, is an important early numeracy skill. Playing with, sorting and counting objects – books, buttons, blocks, toys, plastic animals and more – is a fun way for children to practice their skills. 

    Learn more

    The Federal Government has a  range of resources available to support the celebration of National Literacy and Numeracy Week, which runs from 31 August to 6 September in 2015. 

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

    The  Raising Children Network has articles on numeracy development, from babies up.

    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. 

    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.  


    Click on the the images below for Grow & Thrive information for families on numeracy.

    You can also download, print and share this information. 



 

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.