Problem solving

And mathematical skills

When we teach maths and encourage children to explore maths in their world in the nursery we find it useful to focus on two main areas of learning;

  • numbers as labels and for counting
  • shape, space and measures

Recognising numerals

  • Children begin to recognise and match numerals. We teach them the number names and match the number to the correct amount.
  • We model counting sets of objects, to teach number concepts. When we model counting, we are teaching the order of numbers (ordinal number) and we teach that the final number describes the whole set (cardinal number).

Patterns and Sequencing

  • We can make a pattern.
  • We can see patterns and sequences in every day objects.
  • We can separate and sort out all the wheels from other construction pieces
  • We’re developing our understanding of shape, size and colour.
  • We’ve made a chain of wheels. We have used curved shape.

Working with blocks

  • Learning to plan and design in order to achieve a goal.
  • Representing and sharing ideas and working together.
  • Developing and revisiting these new ideas over time.
  • Acquiring new skills.
  • Learning about weight

Building with the wooden blocks throws up lots of mathematical questions………

  • Which tower is the tallest?
  • How many bricks have I used?
  • Which tower has the most bricks?
  • What happens if I use this shape?
  • When I put these bricks together,

  What shape do they make?

To find the answers to these questions, children have to talk, count, compare, describe, ask, experiment and observe – all good maths skills.


Cooking activities are a wonderful opportunity for lots of practical maths.

  • Weighing and measuring using scales, measuring jugs and spoons - ‘can you see if the dial is pointing round to 400g yet?’
  • Counting – ‘we need 3 spoonfuls……1…..2……3.’
  • Reading and using numbers – ‘how many eggs do we need?’, ‘what temperature shall we set the oven to?’ and ‘how long do we need to cook it for?’
  • Following instructions and sequencing – ‘we beat the eggs and then stir them into the mixture.’
  • Using clocks and timers, and talking about minutes and time – getting a sense of how different amounts of time relate to each other – it takes a long time to bake a cake, but a few minutes to boil an egg.

Problem Solving  and Reasoning

When children try to sort out minor problems independently can I get the hoop down or watering can out of the pond…...using the tools around  them to solve this, helps focus their minds on the sequence needed to solve a problem this is a valuable math skill.

Exploring the properties of 2-D and 3-D shapes.

Through play and exploration, children have opportunities to find common features in shapes, to use simple mathematical language to describe shapes and to discover ‘what happens if…………..’For example, if the child uses the flat sides of shapes for building. The children  are exploring tessellation; observing how shapes fit together with or without gaps between.