From the earliest age, children develop their understanding of maths concepts such as numbers, shapes, space and size. We know that it is difficult to make up for a lack of these foundational maths skills at a later age. We also know that early maths competence is linked to later achievement in maths and other subjects. In other words, preschool is the crucial window for putting in place the building blocks of learning.

Early maths learning is also important because it fosters what we sometimes call ‘executive function’ skills – which in turn make deeper learning possible, and also contribute to personal and social success. These are skills and dispositions such as attention, persistence, working memory, curiosity and problem-solving.

A wide range of activities and games can accelerate the learning of basic maths concepts – from sand and water play to talking about daily tasks and routines, and from shared storybook reading to creating patterns through art and music. Informal play is particularly important and has even been identified as the key factor responsible for the superior maths skills of Asian learners. Play creates rich opportunities for the kind of open-ended exploration that enables learners to reach beyond their current understanding and engage with greater complexity.

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