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Maths Week

October 3, 2016

Maths Week Ireland is an all-Ireland celebration of Maths and is a partnership of over 50 groups – universities, institutes of technology, colleges, museums, libraries, visitor centres, professional bodies – any group that sees the importance of maths and the importance of promoting maths.

Maths Week Ireland promotes, awareness, appreciation and understanding of maths through a huge variety of events and activities that are promoted on We have a number of different learning stories below, that encompasses an aspect of maths.


What is Mathematics?

Mathematics is the exploration and use of patterns and relationships in quantities, space, and time.

Children develop mathematical skills, ideas or concepts and language long before they enter school.We learn about maths from the day we are born, through routines and sequencing (a nap comes after feeding time),rythmic songs and lullabies, the simple act of stacking blocks introduces a baby to the ideas of shape, height and size, while playing with car toys introduces them to concepts of speed and velocity.We’re naturally good at sorting things (babies can discriminate between groups of one, two and three objects), at recognising patterns  and at problem-solving – all essential skills for learning about maths.

Children learn about maths through their play and daily life. Just as maths permeates adults’ lives, so it permeates the play and daily routines of children – from filling tubs with sand (size and capacity) to counting out spoons at lunchtime.Just as maths permeates a child’s life, so it permeates all areas of learning in Aistear from exploring and thinking to communicating. Each area of learning also reinforces and complements another. Playing with musical instruments, blocks and clay helps children learn about aspects of maths; conversely, children’s maths skills help them make ‘better’ music, towers and models.

One of the key ways that children make meaning of and develop confidence in managing and manipulating the world around them is through play. Through play children learn about mathematical concepts or ideas “full and empty” and they use mathematical language “she has more than me” etc.

In early childhood we want children to develop good mathematical dispositions or attitudes . This means that among other skills children are able to work through problems, that they are curious, ask questions, wonder why and make predictions. We also want children to have lots of experiences that promote mathematical thinking eg. sorting out the lego bricks by size to build a castle; finding the longest scarf in the dressing up box to make a den; discovering which car goes the fastest down the slope.

As early childhood practitioners we:

  • encourage children to persist and think through problems,how can I sellotape the big box to the little box?
  • provoke critical thinking,how do we know how much sand will be needed for the sand tray?
  • model and use mathematical languagelet’s climb over the hill and under the tunnel” and
  • challengewhat if we moved it around that way?”



Maths through Play Everyday!

Sing and dance with the children – this increases their sense of rhythm, raises awareness of counting and sequence, and it can stimulate the connection in the brain between fingers and numbers – choose counting rhymes with finger actions. We have a multitude of nursery rhymes to choose from on our website!

Read and recite rhymes and stories with a mathematical content and initiate discussions– Spot bakes a Cake, Titch, 1,2,3 to the Zoo,The Tiger who Came to Tea and so on. It’s important for children not to just hear the stories, but to discuss the concepts in them – Spot is using a big spoon with a long handle; is he using the BIGGEST bowl? Which animal is taller than the lion?
Books are a great introduction to abstract mathematical concepts and they help children to understand difficult concepts such as time or comparing size or quantity.

Play games such as board games, card games  or skittles. Many games are mathematical in nature- ‘go fish’ identifies pairs, as does ‘snap’;dice games involve counting; they encourage turn-taking and help children  explore strategies for playing games.
Note how the children devise their own rules for maths and counting games, that may differ widely from the ‘correct’ way. Very often, children need this exploratory stage before they are ready to play the game in the usual manner. It frees them from the frustration of something that may still be too hard for them.

Make the most of everyday mathematical conversations :

  • when dressing -counting buttons, fingers, toes, comparing sizes
  • when baking –  helping you weigh ingredients; identifying the best sized bowl or pot;talking about measurements and temperature; setting the oven timer ; setting the table with enough cutlery and dishes; pouring glasses of milk or water;
  • when in nature and outside- drawing attention to patterns and shapes in plants and wildlife; jumping in puddles- measuring their depth with a stick; drawing attention to numbers and shapes in shops, on packaging, on houses, or on road signs and buses;
  • when reading stories aloud- point out the mathematical language and ask questions
  • when reading poems and singing songs also take time to explain rhythm and rhyme


Promote maths in your environment

The ways in which we use our environment both inside and out, how we lay out and equip the various areas with materials, all contribute to children’s early maths experiences.

Display: Use low-level boxes or tables at different heights to make it easier to play with materials and interactive displays.
Display numbers and label items with names, where it is possible and useful in the room. Clocks, telephones, calculators, birthday board, photos with numbers ie house numbers. Have books in the display area with counting pictures; recognition of numbers as symbols or words; adding and subtracting in pictorial form will all contribute to a learners first knowledge of maths. Numbers can also be displayed outside in creative ways so children can touch and feel them as they count.
Storage: Make sure children can see and access resources easily. Shelving with baskets makes the perfect storage. It’s easy to see what’s inside and baskets can be easily transported around the setting.
Rugs and Cushions: Include a rug and a few cushions for comfort and bring the resources down to the floor as well as at different levels. Look out for cushion covers with numerals printed or stitched onto them and buttons in clusters for counting.
Props and toys  Provide props and toys which enable children to measure -how high and long something is, how heavy objects are, or how much can fit in containers, for example scales, rulers and tape-measures for building a bridge; watches and stop-clocks for timing a race or blowing the whistle at half-time; cups, jugs, kettles, bottles, pots, saucepans, sieves, spoons, and ladles for pouring, emptying, filling, transferring, and comparing
Use catalogues,signs,charts, posters, playing cards, receipts,application forms,price tags and other everyday items that can help inspire a maths element in pretend play.
Books Do you have a selection of bags with books (e.g. Titch,The Tiger came to Tea etc) and props, such as a tape measure, ruler (can also include measuring cups and spoons, coins, clocks, watches etc.)? 
Art Area Providing plenty of opportunities for junk art is a great way of promoting maths. Children creatively cut, stick and glue tubes, boxes, paper plates, string and ribbon to make wonderful creations.  In the process they are matching and joining shapes,  figuring out whether staples will securely hold material and cardboard together and learning through trial and error.  Having paint, large sheets of paper and a variety of paint brushes available allows and encourages the children to use the space on the page to make big movements with their arms and paint large circles. ReCreate have a fantastic selection of materials for junk art.
Use different shapes in playing with dough – have circle cutters and plastic knives to experiment making different shapes and identifying them with the children.
Make and identify different shapes in buildings and have pictures of different buildings beside the construction area. In block play children can sort blocks by different shapes, fit together and construct walls and towers, using different shapes and figuring out what size is needed.Through block play children can build their own structures and explore the properties of 3D and 2D shapes.  Promote maths play both inside and out -blocks and maths materials outside ; stopwatches and tape measures; pens and paper for recording;
Have different types of junk materials to build with, and have fun balancing and building with them.


For more indepth information see our page on




Shape and space


Measure and Compare



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