6 Fun Activities To Promote Numeracy In Early Years

The need for young children to learn numerical skills in their early years can’t emphasised enough. But most children, if not all, usually find learning numbers a very complex subject. That’s why it becomes important for parents and teachers to adopt and facilitate simple yet fun activities to promote numeracy in early years.

In this article:

  1. What constitutes a good numeracy curriculum?
  2. The components of numeracy for an early-years curriculum.
  3. Activities to promote numeracy in early years.

As per Alberta Education (Govt. of Alberta, Canada), numeracy is the ability, confidence, proficiency and the willingness to engage with quantitative and spatial information, to make informed decisions with all aspects of day-to-day life.

It further goes on to add that an individual who is numerate, is someone who can mindfully guage when and how to apply quantitative and spatial understandings to his or her environment, so as to achieve, share or decipher an idea.

To be numerate, one should be competent with the number system in general, and has a range of computation skills, which includes an ability to solve numeric problems in any given context

What Constitutes a Good Numeracy Curriculum?

Numeracy brings with it additional skills of being able to classify and collate information. The United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) includes the following components that together constitute a good numeracy curriculum:

  • An understanding of number system and number concepts (ones, tens, hundreds, thousands)
  • The use of mathematical symbols
  • An ability to compare numbers (greater than, equal to, or smaller than)
  • Understanding number operations (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication)
  • The concept of money and quantitative monetary transaction
  • Measurements and standardised metric quantities (time, distance, area, weight, volume, etc.)
  • Geometry (spatial awareness through an understanding of shapes)
  • Visualising and interpreting data (numeric or diagrammatic)
  • Analysis of data (reasoning and problem-solving)
  • Arithmetic (understanding properties of numbers and manipulations through theories and law)
  • Concepts of decimals, fraction and percentages

It therefore becomes crucial, that parents and teachers are aware of the importance of all the aforesaid components of numeracy and its various areas of knowledge, and they are taught to children by adopting various methodologies.

The Components of Numeracy for an Early Years Curriculum

According to Alberta education, there are two components of numeracy for early year curriculum:

1. Quantitative Information

Quantitative information in numeracy refers to aspects that can be measured and numerically expressed.

Acquiring this component enables children to understand and realise that numbers carry magnitude, and therefore enables one to convey/communicate the size, extent or enormity of something. Once the component of quantitative information is established, it empowers them to apply numbers in various real-life situations.

As regards money, one of the most important understanding that needs to be driven is that money carries Exchange Value, which can be most effectively conveyed through fun role-play activities.

As regards statistics, the introduction of statistical information and its interpretation can be added to the learning experience using general day-to-day classroom scenarios.

For example: The strength of the class, number of boys, number of girls, number of tables, chairs, desks, cupboards, books, etc.

Building and recognising patterns are a vital part to the establishing numeracy concepts, which brings in the topic of spatial information.

2. Spatial Information

Spatial information pertains to aspects related to space, and carries the many physical attributes of objects, places or people.

To help children comprehend and understand the concepts of time, weight and height well, they can be encouraged to measure objects and things in their immediate environment, through individual exercises and activities.

In addition to time, weight and height, the concept of location and direction can also be introduced by making them explore the areas and spaces in and around their classroom. Once they get understanding of location and direction, they can be taught to interpret maps and diagrams, therefore helping them understand the different dimensions of shapes and the enormity and extent of spaces.

Thanks to advancements in digital technology and its contributions in the field of 3-D, design and animation, there is a renewed sense of awareness and greater attribution of significance to spatial learning.

Numeracy for children can be fostered by simple life activities, like:

  • The time at which they wake up in the morning to the alarm
  • The distance they have to travel to school
  • How far they can throw a ball
  • How many steps they have walk to reach the playground
  • Sorting the coloured pebbles in the playground
  • Participating in role-plays that make them use the concept of money
  • Judging how far to run or walk to reach an object they need during a treasure hunt, and many more.

All these activities, though seemingly simple, gives a unique and profound experience from a child’s world-view, therefore helping him or her progress towards development of numeracy skills.

A set of more complex numeracy skills can be fostered through fun maths activities for primary students. This can include:

  • The analysis of numbers through simple statistics
  • Navigating using a map (map of their class, the class next door and the school, to start with)Measuring ingredients (how many cups of water to fill a water bottle)
  • Recording their height and weight to track growth, etc.

Together, quantitative information and spatial information help an individual make sense of the physical world. Over time, these skills evolve into simple and complex life skills that helps one understand and appreciate the many nuances of things and life around.

Activities to Promote Numeracy in Early Years

Just a collection of objects (natural and man-made) found from within the immediate environment or nearby surroundings is all it takes for activities to drive home concepts pertaining to numeracy.

Here are 6 examples of play-way method of teaching numeracy through fun activities:

Activity 1

Painted pebbles with different colours can be mixed up in large bowls and a simple sorting activity is one of the fun numeracy activities for preschoolers. A variation with the same material can include a grouping activity, where children are instructed to make as many groups of pebbles, without repeating a colour in any group they make.

Activity 2

A patterning task can be initiated with the use of paper folding or an Origami activity.

Groups of three or four children are made, and each group is instructed to make something interesting with a simple 5 or 6-fold folding of paper. A chart that contains pictures of or the actual items/patterns that were previously prepared can be displayed, and the students can be asked to share their version of the paper-folding items/patterns/creations.

One of the most valuable benefits of group activities in children is that it can be a good source of skill building, as they learn to negotiate, cooperate and share their ideas and/or resources to reach the desired outcome.

Activity 3

Providing building blocks can help the child build structures that are tall, short, big, small, wide or narrow, therefore promoting concepts of volume, measure and quantity.

Activity 4

A calendar which indicates the various seasons in a year can be updated. Concepts of temperature, number of days in a week, month, year and so on can be established, following which the teacher can also introduce the concept of time and its related components.

A flannel cloth board can be used to drive home the learning and facilitate them learn the concepts.

Activity 5

Dice games, outdoor relay races and hopscotch mat games can also be used to foster the concepts of numbers.

For example, participant A rolls a dice, followed by participant B. They both add the number they just rolled, and come together to hop across the hopscotch mat with numbers written on them. This can be one of the most fun early numeracy activities for preschoolers, especially girl children.

Activity 6

Place (wooden) match sticks or paper straws* in the middle of the table and ask the child to build any shape of his or her choice. Once done, the child can be asked to count the number of sides the shape has, after which the child can be made to search for an object with a similar shape in his immediate physical surroundings.

* Kindly avoid plastics whenever and wherever possible. This can not only be our small mindful act of preserving the planet, but also be live example for our children, to whom we have the responsibility to leave a better planet behind.


Numbers are a very integral aspect of our everyday life. That’s why it is important that both teachers and parents ensure that their children are encouraged to participate in as many fun activities to promote numeracy in early years.

If there one thing parents should remember, it is that children can learn as much at home as they do at school. In fact, when children play the same game or perform the same activity they did at school, it reinforces their learning. The bonus here? They get to play with their parents!

Just like how a child would explore and understand things through trial and error, it is important that teachers too creatively experiment a range of activities to drive home the concept of numbers.