Literacy & Numeracy

Learning about numbers

Children begin to learn about numbers from everyday situations that mean something to them. Adults play a key role in modelling language and supporting children to explore mathematical ideas during play and real-life situations.

Supporting your child’s early numeracy learning

  • Point out where numbers are used in your home (e.g. telephone, computer, clock, TV remote, calculator, scales), as this helps your child to understand that numbers can be written and have a practical use (e.g. to count or measure).
  • Make links between children’s play and numbers in real life (e.g. cooking, sorting, matching, washing or counting scores in a game).
  • Learning to count requires repetition, but needs to be practised in meaningful and fun ways (e.g. songs, rhymes, stories and games).
  • Encourage counting for real purposes by pointing to real objects/pictures (e.g. Let’s count how many blocks there are. How many people do we need to set a place for at the table?).
  • Discuss and use mathematical ideas and words as you play with your child (e.g. ‘how many’, more/less, long/short, empty/full).
  • Respond positively as your child explores numbers (e.g. I liked the way you remembered to point to each animal as you counted).
  • Point out numbers, patterns, shapes or sizes around you and your child in everyday situations (e.g. when playing outside or on a walk).

Ways to encourage number play

  • Have various materials/objects, both natural and man-made, on hand that children can count, match, sort, and order.
  • Create pretend play spaces where children can ‘play’ using numbers (e.g. a shop, bank, café, post office).
  • Ask questions about numbers (e.g. How will the customers know how much it will cost?).
  • Provide props for number play (e.g. old computer keyboards, calculators, number tiles, dice, games, pencils, paper, number chart).

Understanding position, movement and direction

Use real-life experiences

  • Driving or walking – talk about where you are/where you are going next (e.g. We are going under the overpass. There is a truck behind us. Let’s walk along the creek.).
  • Moving around – talk about how to get from one place to another (e.g. I need to go back to the shed. Which way will I walk?).
  • Reading books/viewing TV – ask questions about pictures/the ‘story’ (e.g. How will he get from his house to the forest? Which way should she go? How did they get to …?).
  • Everyday situations – encourage your child to use specific words to describe position, direction and movement (e.g. I looked on top of the shelf and found the pens. I will turn the pancake over.).

Use play experiences

You or your child can:

  • describe movements as they climb/move or complete obstacle courses (e.g. I am going ‘up’ the slide. Go down the ladder. Walk backwards to the fence. Crawl under the chairs.)
  • draw a ‘map’ and mark a ‘path’ to the ‘treasure’  (e.g. Go around the table, through the door and over to the tree.)
  • hide an object/toy and give specific directions to find the object (e.g. Take two steps forward. One step to the side/right. Look up. Look under the book.)
  • follow directions to move to music (e.g. Stretch up high. Walk sideways. Turn around and jump back.).


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Disclaimer: the information in this resource sheet is offered as a guide only, and should not be treated as an exhaustive statement on the subject. December 2012. Information correct at the time of printing.
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