How we teach maths at Fairfield

Through our maths curriculum we aim for our children to be:

  • Competent and confident

  • Be able to investigate and test ideas

  • Be able to explore maths through their own lens, ideas and daily routines.


Children will learn and develop their understanding of:

  • Cardinality and counting

  • Shape and space

  • Measures

  • Pattern

The first few years of a child's life are especially important for mathematics development. Research shows that early mathematical knowledge predicts later reading ability and general education and social progress (NCTEM website).

"It is vital to lay a secure foundation in early mathematics".(The national strategies)

At Fairfield we have been inspired by Mary Everest Boole (1832-1916). Boole was a mathematician concerned with supporting the teaching and learning of young children through a practical and engaging way. She promoted the use of natural materials and how children become competent mathematicians through their own play and explorations. One child said, "I thought we were being amused not taught. But after I left I found you had given us power".

Boole also invented 'curve stitching' which today we refer to as string geometry. This links with our creative curriculum. The work of Barbara Hepworth and her exploration of strings connecting her sculptures feeds into our Arts Award work and children making links in their understanding of art, artists and their own creativity.


Cardinality, counting and comparison

"We want young children to engage with numbers and to see how to use them in their everyday environment for labelling, quantifying and calculating: in other words, giving children the tools to develop a better understanding of the world in which they live" (The National Strategies, Numbers and patterns: laying foundations in mathematics)

Cardinality is the number that refers to the quantity of things it represents. When children understand cardinality of numbers, they know what the numbers mean in terms of knowing how many things they refer to. Children begin by learning about this through their play and everyday activities such as lining up objects, asking for one/ two items. Children learn through seeing numbers in their environment and also by beginning to learn numbers through reciting them. Numbers are on display around nursery so these can become familiar to children from a young age, and become part of everyday life.


Shape and space

"Here, the focus is on actively exploring spatial relations and the properties of shapes, in order to develop mathematical thinking (rather than on shape classification, which requires prior knowledge of properties)" (NCTEM website). Children begin learning about this area through their play, young children often display schemas, these help children to begin to understand some concepts and can include filling and emptying containers.

The areas of shape and space are about developing visualisation skills and understanding relationships, such as the effects of movement and combining shapes together, rather than just knowing vocabulary (NCTEM website). Block play is a big focus within school; this helps children to develop their own structures, whilst figuring out what block should go next or which brick will fit in a space.



Measuring is based on the idea of beginning to use units to compare attributes, such as length, height, size, capacity and weight. This includes the beginnings of measure such as empty, full, half-full. Children need to begin to understand what is being measured, for example height or size. Measures includes learning about time and beginning to following daily routines such as beginning to understand what comes next. Children also learn about money and begin to include this in their play using it for a purpose.



Developing an awareness of pattern helps young children to notice and understand mathematical relationships (Clements and Sarama 2007). This area includes noticing patterns around them such as spots and stripes, and talking about these. The focus in this area is about beginning to recognise repeating patterns, and then to use this knowledge to create their own patterns. These begin with simple patterns such as two objects, an AB pattern, these can be with different objects and include different aspects such as colour, size and a variation of object, for example, car, train. This will then lead on to more complex patterns such as ABC and ABBC.


How we Implement maths

Our continuous provision supports the learning of maths. through play. Our core books support by introducing mathematical vocabulary. Children are able to practice their skills using our open-ended resources. This will help to provide children with the skills they need to support further learning and enquiry, giving them the confidence to 'have a go' and to develop their understanding and skills. It provides the important start in life that will help overcome the fears and reluctance to engage in mathematics that adults will often admit to. It will help turn an 'I can't' attitude towards mathematics into the more positive 'I can and do'. (The national strategies)

Number songs and nursery rhymes are used to introduce number names to children and to further develop their understanding of numbers. "Nursery rhymes use patterns in language and speech, and by recognising patterns in language, children are also able to recognise patterns in numbers, which helps with mathematical problem solving. Many nursery rhymes also use numbers in the content of the rhymes, such as "One, two, three, four, five" and "Hot cross buns," so children practice counting, addition and subtraction." (Head start Primary website)

Many children show signs of repetitive play; these are known as schemas, "Almost all schemas are linked to mathematics. When exploring one particular schema a child can be finding out about many different aspects of mathematics, e.g. capacity, area, space, shape, volume, perimeter, corners and vertices. Children's early exploration during early schemas helps them to understand more complicated mathematical ideas." (Maths at Play - Lancashire Early Years Foundation Stage Consultants) Children explore their schemas through their play, for example when young children line up objects (Horizontal), fill and empty containers (containment) and moving objects from one place to another (transporting). Staff observe children and plan activities based around their next steps in their learning.


Maths Curriculum