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Awareness of Number

Number skills

This is a non exhaustive and non linear list of the number skills that we teach through play activities in Nursery.

Having read the skills through keep them in mind and, during play activities, spot the aspects that your child needs to develop.

Just a few minutes spent practising some number skills every day will be brilliant:

  • That objects can be counted.  Whatever you are doing encourage your child to help you to count - apples being put in the fruit bowl, toys back in the toybox, steps when out on a walk, knocks on the door etc.  
  • Help your child to recognise that the last number said when counting is the total.  How many steps to the tree? 1,2,3,4. Four steps to the tree!! 
  • Rote count confidently up to 10 and back from 10, including zero. The begin to work to 12/15/20...
  • One to one correspondence, each object to be counted is associated with one number - you tap the first object in a set and say one, you tap the second object and say two, you tap the third object and say three...
  • Beginning to understand 0 (zero) as the number for none.
  • Subitising - looking at a set of objects and knowing how many there are without counting them. For example recognising the spot patterns on a die.
  • Conservation of Number - Recognising that once a set has been accurately counted, if no more are added or taken away, the number of objects remains the same no matter how it is rearranged.  So if you have seven biscuits in a row then rearrange them to form a circle you know you still have seven biscuits without counting.  
  • Number recognition - looking at each written numeral and saying the number.  We practise recognition to 3 initially, then 5 and 10.  See also link below to Numicon Number Line - used when we are learning teen numbers.
  • Ordering the numbers practically (using number cards) from smallest to largest (0-10) then, when confident, largest to smallest (10-0).
  • Once your child has confidently ordered number cards to 10 you could take one away and ask, 'What number is missing?'.  Then rearrange two numbers and ask your child to put the numbers back in the correct order. 
  • Using a number line for support if needed, practise counting on or backwards from a given number. For example - start at 3 and count up to 11.
  • Matching a written number to a set.  Ask your child to count a set of objects then find the number card that matches the total.  For example, they count five cows and then find and match with the '5' number card.
  • Finding a total taken from a larger set.  As above but slightly trickier.  Start with the number card, ask what number it says then your child has to find that many objects to match to it.  For example, child is given a pile of ten books and a number card. Child reads '7' on the number card then has to count out seven books from the pile.
  • 1 more and 1 less.  Usually this concept is embedded in our play shop or cafe.  Ask for 3 carrots. Then ask for one more carrot. Begin by asking yourself aloud, 'I had three carrots then I got one more. How many do I have now?'  Model the counting process.  Your child will begin to copy you and you can support them as much as they need. Use the same process for one less.  With lots of practise through play your child will become much more aware of what is one more and one less (within 10) without having to count the objects.
  • Begin to overwrite (trace), copy and then form numbers 0 - 10 independently.
Number Ideas and Web links...

Numbers in the Environment

Challenge your child to see how many numbers they can spot whilst out for (another!) walk. 

Matching Numbers to 5

If your child is finding number recognition tricky, practise matching the numbers first.

Can you count to 20?

You can practise counting to 20 using this super song.  Each attempt goes faster the previous one. 

You might choose to discuss the different ways that different people pronounce words and practise saying 'twenty'.

Counting objects to 20 Lego Challenge

If your child is currently confident counting objects to 5 with accurate 1:1 correspondence (touch counting), then try to work to 6 or 7.  Don't feel you 'should' be working to any particular number, if your child is making progress then that is all that is important.

Numicon Number Line

We use Numicon shapes when learning about numbers 11 to 20 to help the children to visualise the teens numbers as 10+1, 10+2...

The number line in this link is a visual guide for you.

Ordering Numbers

Lots of ideas for ordering numbers above.  This link is for a set of number cards (0-100) to print if you need them.

Bud's Number Garden 

This BBC Bitesize game supports children in early number skills, recognition, ordering and counting objects.  Each activity begins by working with numbers to 5 then saves your progress up to working within 20.


We enjoy lots of these counting activities using the interactive whiteboard.

Counting Songs

Because who doesn't love to sing and learn!

Writing Numbers to 10

These are my two very favourite songs all about forming numbers to 10.  (And that is not even sarcasm :))

Numberblocks Songs | Let's All Draw Numbers | CBeebies

Writing numbers 1 to 20