Being a communicator

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A child engages with numeracy experiences that build bridges between family and community contexts and new learning.


  • begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work
  • build confidence and interest in counting
  • explore mathematical thinking, concepts and language.

Educators focus on the following aspects of children’s learning:

  • interest in exploring, recognising and making connections between patterns and relationships in everyday situations
  • developing awareness and understanding of the symbol systems associated with number, time and money
  • interest in counting, sorting, categorising, ordering and comparing collections, and in predicting sequences and events
  • developing ability to describe the attributes and properties of shapes, objects and materials
  • developing vocabulary to convey mathematical thinking and ideas
  • increasing understanding of mathematical concepts using vocabulary or gesture to describe size, length, volume, capacity, number, position, direction, time and money
  • interest in creating and using representation to organise, record and communicate mathematical ideas and concepts.

Educators intentionally promote this learning, for example, when they:

  • use numbers spontaneously or in everyday conversations and interactions, for example, during finger plays, games, songs, rhymes and chants
  • incorporate cultural events, symbols and experiences that involve patterns of repeated sequences, for example, in movement, songs, art, games, dance, manipulative play, routines and stories
  • draw children’s attention to patterns in the environment, such as leaves in sunlight, waves on sand, spider webs, bark on trees, birds in the sky, tracks in the sand
  • encourage experimentation with space, measurement, position, sorting and classification
  • provide explicit prompts to help children make abstract connections, for example, ‘Look at this one — it’s bigger than that one’, ‘Can you see a big one too?’
  • draw attention to and label concepts of difference, such as ‘more’ and ‘less’, ‘big’ and ‘small’, ‘over’ and ‘under’
  • draw attention to and label numerical symbols in the environment, e.g. calendars and clocks, page numbers in books, number plates on cars, signs and advertising, keyboards, mobile phones, GPS
  • engage children in discussions about symbol systems, such as letters, numbers, time, money and musical notation
  • model the process of counting to solve everyday problems, for example, ‘How many do you think we need?’ ‘Let’s count together!’
  • provoke thought in children’s everyday conversations, for example, ‘I wonder if it’s full yet?’ ‘That’s a big one!’ ‘Let’s look under the table!’
  • provide intentional prompts to assist children to recall numeracy ideas, for example ‘Can you remember when we counted up to 5?’
  • support children’s contribution to mathematical and scientific discussions and arguments
  • acknowledge children’s effort, interest and experimentation with numeracy ideas, for example, ‘Let’s make a list!’, ‘Draw a plan’
  • provide multiple opportunities for children to experiment with the properties of sand, water, blocks and natural materials
  • incorporate opportunities to make a whole, take away from, or cut in half, for example, games, clay, play dough and cooking experiences.

Educators look for evidence of children’s learning, for example:

In the familiar contexts of family and community when children:

  • use environmental markers to determine direction and position
  • make sense and order of their world through kinship patterns and relationships
  • mimick counting, for example, 1, 4, 3
  • hold up fingers to indicate ‘how many’ or ‘how old they are’, for example, ‘I dis many’
  • show an acute sense of spatial awareness and an intuitive feel for the surroundings and the objects in them
  • understand time in terms of, for example, night time, day time, bird hunting season, bush food picking seasons
  • make designs and patterns in play, dance and art.

In new and unfamiliar contexts of an early learning program when children:

  • play randomly with materials and resources
  • use gesture to communicate size, for example, use hands to indicate ‘how big’ ‘how long’
  • use modelled language to talk about the properties of shapes or patterns
  • experiment with combining objects and parts, for example, a puzzle, a mobile truck
  • attempt to use words to describe shapes, for example, round, square, star
  • imitate adults or other children using money in play
  • begin to respond to simple one-step directions to show understanding of position, for example,  ‘Sit on the chair’, ‘Put the rubbish in the bin’.

In the familiar contexts of a culturally secure early learning program when children:

  • explore, sort and describe the attributes of objects and collections
  • experiment in play with mathematical tools, such as rulers, tape measures, calculators, scales and measuring cups
  • dismantle, reassemble and combine objects and parts with purpose
  • recite number names in familiar songs, finger plays and games
  • respond to directions involving position, for example, ‘over’, ‘under’, ‘on’, ‘up’, ‘down’
  • respond to concepts such as big, small, long, short, high, low, full, empty, heavy and light in play
  • recognise some comparative language, for example, ‘This one is bigger’ ‘I need more’
  • use words like ‘long’ and ‘tall’ in simple sentences
  • pretend to exchange money in play
  • respond to ‘time’ words such as start, finish, begin and end.

As you reflect on practices, ask yourself

What everyday numeracy experiences can I use to introduce new learning?

In what ways do the children demonstrate their numeracy knowledge in the context of their family and community?

Do the learning opportunities that I plan connect with what the children know?

How can I embed opportunities for numeracy learning across all areas of the early learning program?

What do I know about the numeracy concepts in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures?