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EYFS Statutory Educational Programme: Developing a strong grounding in number is essential so that all children develop the necessary building blocks to excel mathematically. Children should be able to count confidently, develop a deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers.


3 and 4 year-olds will be learning to;

  • Develop fast recognition of up to 3 objects, without having to count them individually (‘subitising’).
  • Recite numbers past 5.
  • Say one number for each item in order: 1,2,3,4,5.
  • Know that the last number reached when counting a small set of objects tells you how many there are in total (‘cardinal principle’).
  • Show ‘finger numbers’ up to 5.
  • Link numerals and amounts: for example, showing the right number of objects to match the numeral, up to 5.
  • Experiment with their own symbols and marks as well as numerals.
  • Solve real world mathematical problems with numbers up to 5.
  • Compare quantities using language: ‘more than’, ‘fewer than’.
  • Talk about and explore 2D and 3D shapes (for example, circles, rectangles, triangles and cuboids) using informal and mathematical language: ‘sides’, ‘corners’; ‘straight’, ‘flat’, ‘round’.
  • Understand position through words alone – for example, “The bag is under the table,” – with no pointing.
  • Describe a familiar route.
  • Discuss routes and locations, using words like ‘in front of’ and ‘behind’.
  • Make comparisons between objects relating to size, length, weight and capacity.
  • Select shapes appropriately: flat surfaces for building, a triangular prism for a roof, etc.
  • Combine shapes to make new ones – an arch, a bigger triangle, etc.
  • Talk about and identify the patterns around them. For example: stripes on clothes, designs on rugs and wallpaper.
  • Use informal language like ‘pointy’, ‘spotty’, ‘blobs’, etc.
  • Extend and create ABAB patterns – stick, leaf, stick, leaf. Notice and correct an error in a repeating pattern.
  • Begin to describe a sequence of events, real or fictional, using words such as ‘first’, ‘then...’


By providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding – such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and tens frames for organising counting – children will develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built. In addition, it is important that the curriculum includes rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics including shape, space and measures. It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.