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Mathematics- how to support your child at home.

Finger gnosis- what is it and how can it help?

Finger gnosis is counting on fingers.Neuroscience research has shown that good finger gnosis is linked to higher attainment in mathematics (Berteletti and Booth). A way to support your child is to ask them to show you various numbers on their fingers from 0 to 7. Do this in an informal way, for example, whilst they are in the bath or shower, at dinner, on the walk home from school etc.

Sets- how you can help your child with this concept.

Sets are basic to children’s thinking. They are also the base of our number system. Children need lots of opportunities to work with sets. This is matching,sorting, combining, comparing and ordering. Examples of this might be when tidying toys. 

We have used baskets to sort construction materials using a single attribute. In the example below, we used colour. In our outside area, we sort metal objects into the mud kitchen and plastic into the water area, so this attribute is what material the object is made from.

You could sort Lego according to colour, nail polishes according to colour, cutlery according to type, fruit and vegetables according to colour or teddies and dolls, big shoes, little shoes etc.

Once your child has grasped this concept, you can compare and ask what things are different? Is there anything the same? eg, bananas and lemons are BOTH yellow but one rolls on a table and one doesn’t. A collection of spoons are ALL spoons but some are wooden, some are metal.

Recognising numerals, placing numerals in the correct order, touch counting objects correctly and matching amount to symbol.

The skill of recognising mathematical patterns.

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You may think, as adult, this is too simplistic. However, children cognitively process the world around them differently. Their brains are pruning neurons. This is known as ‘plasticity.’ Children need to recognise mathematical patterns in readiness for KS1 and 2. Developing theses neural pathways now will enable them to do this. An example of a pattern they will need to know in Year 3, is the Fibonacci sequence. See videos below to help support your child with mathematical pattern skills.


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The skill of subitising

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This child can subitise up to 6. This is a skill your child will need to access mathematics in KS1 and KS2. NOTICE, HE DOES NOT COUNT THE DOTS, HE JUST LOOKS AND KNOWS. In EYFS, children only need to know how to subitise to 5.

Research document of child's learning in mathematics


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This child can do something called ‘subitising.’ She can confidently subitise up to 3 objects. This is when a person can look at a few objects and know how many are there without counting each one. As adults, we use this skill when we look at things because it saves cognitive space in our working memory, freeing cognitive space for something else. A quick way of checking this is to use a spotted dice or dominoes with your child. This skill is needed in KS1, KS2 and KS3.


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This child can touch count with her feet and match the amount with the corresponding symbol. Touch counting is an important skill and is NOT the same thing as rote counting. Touch counting is linked to cardinality, which is knowing the last number you touch is how many are in that set.


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This child is demonstrating correct touch counting. Notice how he goes back when he loses his place. This is self correcting and is necessary for learning independently in KS1 and 2.

Practical things you can do to help your child.


Instill number, or what scientists call 'numerosity', in your child, use mathematical vocabulary in day to day chats with your child.

Instead of saying 'Clear the cups off the table to make more room' say 'Clear the 3 cups off the table to make more area.'

When climbing up and down stairs, count the stairs. This teaches number sequencing, and if you ask at the end, 'how many steps?' it also teaches how many things in a set (cardinality).

When putting shopping away, say 'put the 2 tins of cat food on the bottom shelf next to the cat biscuits.' This will teach cardinality and positional language.  Children often struggle with 'in front of' and 'behind.'

Look for numbers whilst out and about. 'How many people in the car?' 'How many aeroplanes in the sky?'