fbpx

ECE Resources

Number skills: symbolic (understanding written numerals and number words)

Type 1: Rote counting/Ordinal relations 
Understanding the order of number words 1-10 either forward or backward, starting from the beginning, end, or somewhere in between

1 How to spot this skill being applied in free play

Talk

  • Spontaneous counting from 1 (‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5…’)
  • The child counts down from 5 in order to launch a pretend rocket (‘5,4,3,2,1, blastoff’) or before searching for hidden friends during a game of Hide-and-Seek
  • Noting which number comes after another ‘5 comes after 4/before 6’
  • Talking about general ordering (‘I want to be first/last in line!’)

Behaviour

  • Putting objects in line while labeling the objects in order (‘first, second, third, fourth…’)
  • Pointing to each object while counting
  • Distributing toys one by one to a friend, or when setting the table for ‘dinner’ during dramatic play

2 Check for understanding

  • Ask the child to count as high as they can starting at 1, count down from 5, or count up/down from other numbers. 
  • Ask the child what number comes before or after another number (e.g., ‘what number comes after/before 5?’)
  • Ask child to label the order of objects in a line (‘which one is first, second third, fourth, etc.’)

3 Guided activities to support this skill

  • Snakes and Ladders: prompt children to recite the count sequence to remind them of the next/previous number on the space
  • There are numerous nursery rhymes and stories that expose children to the verbal count list in forwards or backwards order (listed here). For more of a challenge, start at a random spot in the number sequence and have the child predict what number comes next
  • When following a cooking recipe, emphasise the order of each step (‘first we add the eggs, second we stir in the flour’). You can also emphasise the order of children in line

Type 2: Numeral identification 
Recognising and labeling written Arabic numerals (e.g., 4)

1 How to spot this skill being applied in free play

Talk

  • ‘That’s a 4’, describing a written numeral printed on playing cards, play money/register, or book pages

Behaviour

  • Gaining exposure to printed numerals via a toy cash register buttons/screen, or looking at numbers labeled on play money or book pages.

2 Check for understanding

  • Print numerals on cards and ask child to name them (‘what number is this?’) in a random order. 
  • Show child a series of 4 numerals all at once and have them point to the one that matches the number requested (e.g., ‘point to 4’)

3 Guided activities to support this skill

  • Go Fish: pointing to numbers on the cards and asking the child to label them
  • Snakes and Ladders: ask the child to label the printed numbers on the spinner and spaces
  • Ask the child to label page numbers and any printed numerals in storybooks
  • Ask the child to find/label numbers around the classroom/signs/clocks

By Dr Erica Zippert

PREPARED FOR THE EDUCATION HUB BY

Dr Erica Zippert

Dr Erica Zippert is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Purdue University. She studies young children’s broad mathematics development and how it is supported during social and playful interactions with parents and peers in a variety of informal contexts. She also examines the roles of context (traditional activities/games as well as digital apps/eBooks, activity goals), and parent and child factors (parental beliefs, child math abilities and interests) in determining the quality of early math experiences and subsequent math learning. 

Close popup Close
Register an Account
*
*
*
*
*
*