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Maths in reception

In Reception your child will be working with numbers every day and will start to explore ideas such as counting, measuring and using mathematical language. An interest in maths, numbers, and problem solving can be encouraged early in a child’s life through maths games and fun activities. The EYFS Framework says that by the end of Reception, children should be able to:

  • Count reliably with numbers from one to 20, place them in order and say which number is one more or one less than a given number.
  • Use quantities and objects to add and subtract two single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer.
  • Use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems.
  • Recognise, create and describe patterns.
  • Explore characteristics of everyday objects and shapes and use mathematical language to describe them.
Top tip

Use our Maths Language Jargon Buster to decipher some of the common terms and phrases used in maths today.

Maths in Reception

The methods and approaches to teaching maths at school have changed over time, so the work your child does in Reception might look very different from your experience of maths as a child. To best support your child, it’s important to try and use the same methods that your child is learning at school. For more help with this, take a look at our parent-friendly videos and bookletswhich are designed specifically to help parents understand the maths methods schools currently use.

In Reception, often maths will be linked to reallife contexts. Children will use resources such as counters, beads and blocks to work out a calculation. For example:

Teacher: How many counters do you have?
Child: Seven.
Teacher: If you take away five counters, how many do you have left?
Child physically takes five counters away
Child: Two.

Working in this way helps children to build an understanding of an abstract mathematical idea, in this case subtraction, which wouldn’t be possible if they only used numbers or tried to work out the problem in their head. Frequently, mathematics will also be worked into other things that your child will be doing. In most Reception classes, the teacher will take advantage of opportunities to teach maths in other areas of the curriculum. For example, if your child bakes a cake at school, your child’s teacher will use this as a chance to teach about weights and measures. They might also cover simple problem-solving, for example: ‘We have enough mixture for 10 muffins. If we wanted to make 20 muffins, how much flour would we need?’.

Tips to support maths at home

At home:

  • Playing games : There are lots of ways games can be helpful in supporting children’s maths, whether it’s identifying the numbers on a card or counting their way round a board. Building things with bricks is a good way of developing maths skills through solving problems (‘How many red bricks?’, ‘How many blue bricks?’ and ‘How many altogether?’) and practising using the language of maths (‘Hmm, I wonder which is the longest brick?’ or ‘Could you pass me the cube over there’).
  • Time: Talking about the time at which different things happen and looking at the clock together during the day is a great way of learning about time.
  • Using objects at home: Finding the same number of different items can help your child to understand what numbers represent, for example finding six pegs, six spoons of paint powder or six segments of orange. It’s also good to practise making patterns with objects too, putting things in order of size, height or weight.

Out and about:

  • Money: This is a useful way to introduce children to simple maths. At the shops, you could ask them to guess how much two items might cost. Give them small amounts and see what can they buy, or talk about the items you buy: which are cheaper and which are more expensive?
  • Counting everything: ‘How many buses / lamp posts / squirrels have we seen?’
  • Going on a shape hunt: ‘How many circles / triangles / squares / rectangles can you see between here and home?’, ‘Are they 2D or 3D?’.
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