We are using a mastery approach to teaching maths in the Early Years which allows the pupils to gain a deeper understanding of number concepts by breaking down the objectives in to smaller steps; these can then be built upon to ensure fluency and a longer term understanding of maths.
Our key concepts:
Reasoning in maths helps children to be able to explain their thinking, therefore making it easier for them to understand what is happening in the maths that they are doing. It helps children to think about how to solve a problem and then explain how they solved it. If things go wrong, it also helps them to work out what they would do differently.
Problem solving in maths allows children to use their maths skills in lots of contexts. It allows them to seek solutions, spot patterns and consider the best way of doing things.
In Reception, problem solving might look like:
- spotting and following patterns
- estimating amounts of objects
- predicting how many times they can do something within a minute
- sharing objects between groups
- finding different ways to split numbers e.g 5 could be 5+0, 4+1, 3+2 etc
Another important skill is the ability to recognise small amounts without the need to count them. Initially this can be done using fixed arrangements of objects or patterns. We use dice and numicon to support this concept.
Later, it progresses to randomly arranged groups of objects and patterns that allow the children to mentally 'see' how many objects there are without counting them. This supports the children as they learn how to add and subtract.
Understanding that the total stays the same even when the objects move
When children start to use numbers, they often do not recognise that the total number of objects will stay the same even if they are moved in to a different arrangement. We practice this in many ways but a great one is the tens frames with counters that can be moved.
We want to develop the children's number sense so that they understand the number rather than just recognising the numeral.
Children need to understand that numbers can be represented in many ways. We use many different objects and pictures to show that numbers can be represented in different ways. These include money, dice, numicon, tallies, tens frames, multi link towers, arrays of objects, the fingers on our hands etc.
It is important for the children to undertsand that we need to say one number for each object counted. Touch counting plays an important role here and helps us to become 'careful counters'. We say that the final number when counting is how many we have 'altogether'.