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Understanding the EYFS: Maths Explained



Throughout February, we are taking a deep dive into each of the areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage or EYFS.

In short, the EYFS is how the government and early years practitioners describe the time in your little one’s life between birth and age 5.


It’s a legal framework to ensure a high quality of care and safeguarding for your child. You can click here to find out more.


There are 7 areas of learning to explore in total, and we are continuing today with Mathematics – let’s dive straight in!


In the EYFS, maths is one of the specific areas of learning and groups two aspects: numbers and space, shape & measure.


It sets our early learning goals up until the reception year. Here’s a rundown direct from the EYFS:


  • ‘Numbers: children count reliably with numbers from 1 to 20, place them in order and say which number is one more or one less than a given number. Using quantities and objects, they add and subtract two single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer. They solve problems, including doubling, halving and sharing’.


  • 'Shape, space and measures: children use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems. They recognise, create and describe patterns. They explore characteristics of everyday objects and shapes and use mathematical language to describe them'.


These lists are daunting for any child (and parent!) but rest assured, experts think that these goals are exaggerated for many children at this age. There are plenty of fun and practical things you can do with your little one to make learning maths easy!


As mentioned previously, maths is a specific area of learning within the EYFS, meaning that it will feature more notably in your little one’s learning from 3.


However, you may have noticed that even the simple act of stacking bricks will introduce a baby to the idea of shape, height and size.


And although so many of us say we’re bad at math, we’re actually born with mathematical abilities! We’re innately good at sorting things, problem-solving and recognising patterns.



Here’s a handy summary of the terms you might encounter when supporting your child’s mathematical development:

  • Numbers: one, two, three, ten, fifty etc.

  • Shape: square, circle, cube etc.

  • Space: in, on, under, above, below, between, behind, in front.

  • Measure: full/empty, heavier/lighter, bigger/smaller etc.

  • Order: first, second, third, last, before, after.

Other important phrases include ‘How much/many?’, ‘Too much/many/little/few’ and ‘same/different’.


Things to note when supporting your little one at home


  • Children learn about math through play and everyday life. Your little one needs to experience math so help them understand it better by chatting about it.

Whether that’s cooking at home (using measurements), shopping in a supermarket (using numbers and shapes) or using public transport (using numbers, order and space).


  • Let your child see you using math as often as possible, think out loud when doing calculations and encourage them to join in as you count.

This can be as simple as counting out fish fingers for tea or counting out the change before paying for a snack.


  • Change your perspective – instead of looking at math in a studious ‘sit down and cram’ way, try to look at it as a fun and practical activity. Click here for some inspiration, we’ve also included some ideas below.


  • And finally, remember it’s a lot for your little one to learn so don’t worry if they initially mix things up! It’s all part of the learning process.



Activities to support math development at home


  • Nursery rhymes and books

Storybooks and nursery rhymes help children stimulate their imagination and so make them better able to deal with abstract math concepts! Click here to check out some recommendations.


  • Games

Board games can help encourage counting as well as help children develop a better understanding of ‘more’ or ‘less’ and moving backwards and forwards.


  • Singing and dancing

Dance and sing with your little one! Not only is this fun but will also help them become aware of counting without realising it as well as help them learn about mathematical concepts like sequence and speed.


  • Model behaviours

Children are sponges, if you do it, they will want to as well. This can be great when it comes to enforcing positive habits and learning! Show your little one how you count, sort and measure for everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning etc.


  • Show & tell

Make the most of the everyday routine and chat about math as often as possible.

This can be when cleaning up, at bedtime, during cooking or when out and about shopping, here are some examples:


Cleaning up – matching socks, sorting shoes to help understand patterns, dusting to help understand shape and size etc.


Bedtime – counting buttons or toes, using a timer when brushing teeth.


Cooking – weighing ingredients, finding the best size of pot/pan, setting a timer.


Shopping – chatting about prices and amount of objects, talking about shapes of items in shops.


  • Structured activities

There are lots of great math activities that can help address an area of math that your little one may need a little more help in. Click here or check out our resources below for inspiration.


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