Children are born ready, able and eager to learn. They actively reach out to interact with other people, and in the world around them. Development is not an automatic process, however. It depends on each unique child having opportunities to interact in positive relationships and enabling environments(i)
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(ii). Conversely, children who start behind in mathematics tend to stay behind throughout their whole educational journey(iii).
The objective for those working in Early Years, then, is to ensure that all children develop firm mathematical foundations in a way that is engaging, and appropriate for their age. The materials in this section of the website are primarily designed to support Reception teachers (those working with 4-5 year olds), and are based on international research.
The materials are organised into key concepts (not individual objectives), which underpin many early mathematics curricula. The typical progression highlights the range of experiences (some of which may be appropriate for younger children) but the activities and opportunities could be developed across the Reception provision.
There are six key areas of early mathematics learning which collectively provide a platform for everything children will encounter as they progress through their maths learning at primary school, and beyond:
You can explore these areas in further detail in a special Early Years episode of our podcast with Dr Sue Gifford and Viv Lloyd (https://www.ncetm.org.uk/resources/52709).
These areas form the fundamental mathematical basis of a CBeebies series of five-minute animated programmes called Numberblocks. The NCETM has provided support materials linked to the Numberblocks programmes ( These are designed to help Early Years practitioners draw out and build on the maths embedded in the stories contained in each episode. www.ncetm.org.uk/resources/52060