‘Number rhymes and action songs help children to become familiar with the number names. ‘ (Hopkins 1996) Rhymes can be used to link written numbers and can be adapted to provide extra challenges. Provision activities are available for children to experience free-play problem solving, investigating numbers, shapes, materials or books. The mathematic focus during phase two has been the teaching of number. ‘The primary number curriculum can be seen as a cycle of learning about the number system whilst using and applying that knowledge. ‘ (Hopkins 1996)
Children in the early years count and begin to use and apply their counting with simple calculations through interactive activities such as number rhymes, number cards and lines and practical counting games. The task involved the children selecting a number card from the number line 1-20, identifying the written number and making a tower of cubes to match that number. Recognise and use numerals 1 to 9 extending to 0 to 10, then beyond 10 (NNS 9-10 1999). Learning to count requires a range of different kinds of knowledge and skills and in order to evaluate the children’s numerical ability in counting I used Schaeffer (1974) stages of counting.
These are recognising small numbers, being able to compare more or less, being able to say the number names in order, being able to say one number for each object, knowing the last number you say is the number of the whole collection and being able to compare and estimate numbers. Child A was able to say the number names in order to twenty and when asked to choose a number she was able to select the number nine and build a tower of cubes independently. This child is able to recognise small numbers without counting but just by looking otherwise known as subitising the recognition of number symbols.
She is also able to say one number for each object by touching the cube and saying the next number word in sequence and has cardinal aspects of numbers as she was able to say the amount she had rather than counting the tower again. At the end of the activity child A was able to identify the smallest and largest number out of the children’s towers this is the ability to compare and estimate numbers (Appendix 1). Child A has a good understanding of counting and number recognition and is ready to progress beyond twenty.
Some activities to extend her development would be to match collections of a selection of objects to numbers, match numbers to dot patterns, find number pages in the books and spot numbers around the school and say what they are and to continue to record written numbers. Child A needs to be encouraged to take part in ludic activities involving practice and rehearsal of her skills already acquired to develop further learning and mastery skills in number. Child B is able to say the number names in order to ten and then she needs support.
She has no recognition of number symbols above three and simply guesses the rest. Gelman (1978) believes where a breakdown appears in the counting process between two and five the child has had limited early experiences. I asked child B to select a number and she choose ten but could not point to the number on line. She randomly pointed at several numbers before I offered support. When I asked why she selected this number she replied, ‘It is a big number and I want to build a big tower. ‘ From this I believe this child is aware of ten being a big number (1-10) but not in relation to other numbers above ten.
Child B was able to count ten cubes and build a tower independently and was able to say one number for each object when counting her tower of ten. This child has the ability to count in sequence with cubes using tag – counting. She has no idea of number symbols and cannot match a spoken number to a written number independently (Appendix 2). ‘Some children are able to count a small number of objects but with no recognition of number symbols. ‘ (Edwards 1998) She cannot match the written number 3 to three objects and can only copy numbers with evidence of emergent attempts to represent other numbers.
Her targets are to continue to recognise numbers 1 to 10 using number cards and fans in practical counting, sorting and matching the numbers to the objects. Interactive number games are epistemic experiences, which will help in the context of mathematical learning and development of knowledge and skills. ‘Learning which is consolidated and extended through games and gives children opportunities to practise their mathematical skills and knowledge’. (QCA 2000) Having these experiences will help to identify numbers around the classroom and this repetition will help her to copy and write numbers (to five) independently.