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Recommended reading Maths learning Stages: 3 to 5 years

Refer to the Basic maths ideasOpens in new window in the 25–36 months section of this Parenting Resource. These basic concepts are still the important topics for continued learning about maths. When tamariki are involved in activities that use matching, sorting, classifying, comparing, making patterns and identifying more, less and equal, they’re ‘playing’ with the foundations of mathematics.

With repeated opportunities to practise using them, their learning is consolidated and their confidence in maths understanding is growing. The more practice the tamaiti has, the more sophisticated their understanding will become.

Everyday activities

Sometimes it may not seem so obvious, but maths is being used all the time. When we’re shopping, preparing meals and sharing kai, doing the washing, getting dressed, going for a walk, or playing with blocks, puzzles or card games, maths concepts are being used. We’re always finding things that go together, organising things into groups, counting and using ideas about shapes, colour, size, number, position and pattern.

Playing with blocks, simple puzzles, shape-posting boxes and pegboards help children to learn about size, shape, colour and one-to-one correspondence. And that’s all maths.

Hands, eyes and patterns

Threading is a popular activity that gives tamariki opportunities to count, match and make repetitive patterns. Many different and varied objects found in the home or out in nature can be thread onto wool or string. Buttons, beads, leaves, shells, cut-up straws, bottle tops or paper clips can all be used to increase active maths learning.

Children aged 3 and 4 can participate in games such as snakes and ladders and Ludo, and card games such as ‘snap’, ‘fish’ and ‘memory’. There are also many games on digital devices that promote maths concepts, and young children are becoming very adept at using iPads, smartphones and computers.

Keeping a balance

Having a balance in the types of activity is really important. A board game or game of cards can directly involve a number of others, and has the bonus of encouraging adults and children to talk to each other while having fun and strengthening their relationships.

The Early maths – countingOpens in new window session note in the 25–36 months section has more ideas to try on this understanding of numbers.

Some 3-year-olds will be beginning to understand the actual meaning of ‘one’,’ two’ and ‘three’ — before now they’ve been able to chant the numbers, but without any real understanding of what they mean. Playing games that require them to choose ‘one’ object or identify ‘three’ things gives them practice in this developing skill.

Wherever they are, whānau can make the most of the situation to introduce maths through games. For example, when they’re out in the car they could be looking for different colours, different types of vehicles, basic shapes (circles, triangles and squares), or counting trucks, buses, cars, bikes, dogs, people walking and so on.

Further information

Look at these links for more ideas on learning about maths:

  • Raising Children website: Preschoolers — Early learning matters in new window

  • Scholastic website: Math activities for ages 3–5 in new window

  • How Wee Learn website: Preschool math activities — Our playful math curriculum

 Some activities based on numbers, shapes, measuring and patterns. in new window

  • Ministry of Education website: Play ideas: Maths — Pāngarau in new window

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