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E2BN Early Years Maths

30-50 months


  • Use some number names and number language spontaneously
  • Show curiosity about numbers by offering comments or asking questions
  • Use some number names accurately in play
  • Sometimes match number and quantity correctly
  • Recognise groups with one, two or three objects

Observation 1

At the easel, playing alongside a friend, Helen was spending a long time drawing with large marker pens. She repeatedly made crosses.  She was heard to say "I think I've made hundreds of kisses.  How many do you think you have made?"  She accompanied the drawing and the kisses with other mark making.

Comment: Helen spontaneously uses number names in play. Her mark-making represents large numbers of kisses, possibly inspired by the good feelings of working alongside her friend!

Observation 2

Kim had been removing dead plants in the vegetable garden. She found a dry runner bean pod on ground; she opened it up and found beans inside. She said, "I want to eat them" an adult talked about ripeness and cooking.  She looked again at the beans in her hand and moved them around saying, "Found one for May, I got 2. I need to find one for Ray". She looked around the garden "There could be one hiding in there".  She checked all the dry bean pods and found another bean, "Yeah, one for Ray, one for May and one for me". She pointed to each bean and counted, "1, 2, 3". The adult counted the beans again with Kim, modelling counting to four without overtly correcting Kim's attempt.

Comments:  Children have a natural pleasure in finding natural objects outdoors and this leads to rich mathematical experiences as they collect numbers of objects, sort their collections, classify and make patterns. Kim enjoys using her growing awareness of numbers. She wants to share her treasure and finds enough beans for each of her friends. She is beginning to count accurately in play but this is not consistent yet.

Observation 3

Lina is learning English as an additional language.  She choose to talk to us very fast in her first language with lots of gestures and facial expressions. During a previous activity, Lina had made a pattern with feathers and shapes.  The adult supported her in counting out six shapes. Lina appeared quick to see that she could get six feathers into her six sectioned sorting tray, doing this spontaneously. Later in the day, at the water tray, she shouted across the room "Mrs Ray, Mrs Ray......one, two, three, four, five, six!" She counted accurately.

Comments: Lina learnt the English for numbers up to six and used them accurately in her play alongside an adult. She then used numbers one to six correctly and spontaneously, and showed a curiosity about numbers. In observing children with EAL it's important to recognise how much more they may be able to show they know in their own language. Later on that day the practitioner spoke with Lina's mum and found that she used numbers up to 10 confidently and accurately in her home language.

Observation 4

Susan was playing with the candles and the birthday cakes. She put each candle into a hole on the top of the cake. She counted the candles as she put them in. She pointed out the numerals on the cakes but didn't identify them. She saw the number cards in the basket nearby and matched the card to the number on the cake saying, "Look"!

Comments: Susan was able to match number and quantity correctly and was able to recognise a numeral of personal significance. Next steps will be to introduce and encourage the vocabulary of number.

Observation 5

Ella was playing 'shops' in the writing area including using a calculator and till.  She asked an adult to join her, the practitioner then took the role of supporting her play by carrying out her instructions and developing her ideas. Ella asked the adult what she wanted to buy. When the adult asked how much a ruler was, Ella replied, "That's three."  She pressed the number 3 on the calculator. The adult introduced some silver milk bottle tops and used them to pay for her purchases, laying three in a row next to Ella, the adult then asked her to check that there were three.  Ella counted the milk bottle tops using one to one correspondence.

Comments: The adult supported Ella's mathematical thinking in her play. Ella was able to count three objects by saying one number for each item.

Observation 6:

A practitioner showed the children the Linking Elephants that they had not seen before.  Everyone in the group had a close look at them to see how they could join together. Brian was very interested and chose to go and play with these.  He made a long line of them on the table and when I an adult remarked on what a long line he had made he attempted to count them. He counted "One, two, three", and then said random number names, whilst maintaining 1:1 correspondence.

Comments: Brian shows he is interested in number and able to count to 3.

Observation 7:

Outdoor provision includes paint pots with brushes and access to water. Caroline carried the paint pot over to the steps of the climbing frame and painted the sides of the steps with water. An adult commented, "That looks fun." Caroline answered, "I am busy working, I have to count the steps and clean them all". She started painting from the top of the steps and worked her way down to the ground. As she did so she counted each step, "One, two, three, four, five".

Comments: Caroline uses number names and number language spontaneously in her play.