If children are to have a secure understanding of number, we must ensure that they have complete knowledge of counting and rapid recall of the total within a small group without the need to count. We know that children will be more efficient and successful in their understanding or number, and ability to manipulate number in future years, if they have a deep understanding of number from an early age. We understand that development in number is progressive and that children should not move on until they have mastered their current level of development and therefore, we use a progressive framework for both counting and subitising.
We know that counting is a complex task and not as simple as is often perceived. There are progressive steps to counting that children need to grasp before moving on to the next step and only when the final step is achieved can we determine that a child truly understands the concept of counting.
We use 5 principles of counting as our progressive framework to ensure that all our children are supported at the correct stage. We move each child through a stage only when they are confident and can demonstrate an understanding of the stage that they are being supported within to ensure that their understanding of counting is complete.
- Step 1: 1:1 Principle- Each object in a group can be counted once and once only.
- Step 2: Stable Order Principle- Number words are always used in the same order.
- Step 3: Cardinal Principle: The last number counted in a group of objects equals the final amount (total)
- Step 4: Abstraction Principle- No matter what the item is, we count everything in a group.
- Step 5: Order Relevance Principle: The order of object counting does not matter ,we count every object and we can count the objects in any order.
We also know that the ability to look at a small number of objects and instantly recognise how many objects there are without needing to count is important in the early maths develop of children and therefore we support this alongside counting. We explicitly teach our children the concept of ‘more and less’ and support them to subitise to 5. We use a progressive model where we begin with subitising using similar objects e.g.,3 red button, we then progress to objects that are the same but with a difference e.g., 2 red buttons and 1 green button. Finally, we move on to unrelated items e.g. 1 button, 1 pinecone, 1 twig.
We plan weekly activities for the children to support them with their counting and subitising. We use the pre-school daily routines to provide further opportunities for counting and subitising in real contexts as well as using opportunities within spontaneous moments of play, both indoors and outdoors, to encourage the repetition and recall of these early number skills.
Songs and Books
We regularly chant and sing number-based rhymes and songs and we are careful to ensure that we separate the names of the numbers so that they do not become one jumbled word. We use songs and rhymes primarily to focus on the stable order principle and chant the numbers in order both forwards and backwards.
Our shared reading books have been selected for their literacy content and vocabulary and therefore we do not use them to teach maths concepts. Instead, we have a core set of books that are entirely focused upon maths concepts that are used in the setting for the year. These books have been selected as they focus on different elements of maths including, subitising, counting at different stages, counting forward and backwards and the cardinal number principle.
We have a list of core words that we use when we are discussing and exploring shape with our children. This list of words is used continually across the year and the words are included in the vocabulary bag that is frequently revisited with the children. This enables our children to discuss and describe shape using a full and descriptive vocabulary which is retained over time.
We have a dedicated messy maths’ area where children can practice their counting and subitizing in a big, loud, and messy environment. We offer the children a messy environment to use their number skills in different ways which deepens their understanding of number through hands on experiences.