Maths in early years

Mathematics (maths) is an important part of learning for all children in the early years and receiving a good grounding in maths is an essential life skill. 

Children learning about shapesAs well as numeracy, it helps skills such as problem solving, understanding and using shapes and measure and developing their own spatial awareness. It helps them to recognise, create and describe patterns, which is essential for early problem solving skills. 

Introducing maths to children from an early age helps to develop their understanding of all elements of problem solving and reasoning in a broad range of contexts. Practitioners need to be able to provide opportunities for children to practice their developing skills and knowledge so they improve their competence and confidence in using them. 

All children can be successful with maths provided they are given the opportunities to understand it in a way that makes sense to them

Ensuring children are engaged, motivated and thinking critically for themselves is vital for mathematics. 
For example, encouraging children to problem solve by asking: ‘How many spoons do we need for everyone in this group to have one each? How many have we got? How many more do we need?’ 

From birth, children have a keen interest in the world around them, but to have the confidence to explore it they need the support from adults around them. 

Our relationships with children help them gain the confidence to discover and develop their mathematical skills

Outdoors, children can spot shapes and numbers naturally, explore and investigate and build dens which can help children explore shape, space and measure using equipment like boxes, crates and building blocks. Indoors, numbers and shape, space and measure can be integrated into all activities and areas of learning e.g. using measure to mix paint and cooking activities that help children learn about quantities and measures. 

To help children develop their maths skills, practitioners also need to have confidence in their own abilities and the confidence to plan for maths opportunities throughout the setting. An understanding of the brain and cognitive development of a young child, and how it relates to mathematical development, will also help develop the skills practitioners need to support maths skills in very young children. 

More support for maths in early years

See our introductory-level online course for new practitioners all about Making Maths Matter in early years and our higher level course for experienced practitioners and graduates. 

Find out more about our Maths Champions programme to help you build your team’s confidence in maths through structured activities and online training.

Discover how to use songs and nursery rhymes to help children learn maths in our Supporting Maths Using Rhymes publication.
Link every outdoor situation to learning about numbers, shape, space and measure with our Mini Maths Explores online course. 

See all training resources