Developing Primary Numeracy at Home
Written by Rhiannon Wallace
Primary Specialist at Modelex, Monaco

Numeracy is the ability to recognise and apply mathematical concepts in all areas of life. It is more than the ability to do basic arithmetic and involves developing confidence and competence with numbers, measure and shape. Numeracy skills involve understanding numbers, counting, solving number problems, measuring, estimating, sorting, noticing patterns, adding and subtracting numbers, and much more. It is an integral part of our lives that we use to do everyday things like:

  • solve problems – for example, have I got time to walk to school?

  • analyse and make sense of information – for example, how many wins does my team need to get to the top of the competition?

  • understand patterns – for example, what number would the next house in this street be?

  • make choices – for example, which bike is the best value?

Learning in numeracy takes place all around us, not just in the classroom. Indeed, numeracy skills cannot be developed in a vacuum. An example of this is telling the time. Children will be taught about how to read the time in school but unless they practise this regularly in relation to their own lives (e.g. I get up at half past 7; school starts at 8:15) and refer to clocks, they will not develop the competency to tell the time.

There are many ways that you can help to develop your child’s numeracy at home from an early age.

Early Years Numeracy (5 and Under)

  • Singing number rhymes and songs (e.g. 5 Little Monkeys)

  • Reading stories with numbers

  • Changing your tone of voice to describe concepts – for example, a deep, loud voice to describe something big, or a soft, squeaky voice to describe something little.

  • Sorting toys in different ways; by size, colour, shape and comparing how many they are of each

  • Arrange toys in order from longest to shortest

  • Make counting part of your everyday life. For example, count footsteps, toes and fingers; people around a table; toys as you tidy up; steps to the next level; how many jumps you can do

  • Point out numbers around you – on a clock, a door, a bus number, price tags

  • Refer to the time on a clock, particularly at mealtimes and bedtime.

  • Play with jigsaws

  • Look for different shapes around the house and outside

  • Use a growth chart or marks on a wall to measure your child’s growing height, and describe to your child what you’re doing.

  • Use mathematical language to describe what you and your child see and do e.g. “Look at the fast cars,” “That’s a tall tree,” My bag is heavy.”

  • Play simple board games, card games and puzzles with shapes and numbers, like ‘Snap’, or matching pairs or dominoes.

  • Race toy cars and talk about which came first, second or third.

  • Involve your child in cooking. Your child can help stir, pour, fill and mix. This helps your child get familiar with concepts like counting, measuring, adding and estimating.

Key Stage 1 Numeracy (Age 5 to 7)

In addition to the above activities:

  • Play board games such as ‘Snakes and Ladders.’

  • Play dominoes

  • Put a clock in your child’s bedroom and refer to it

  • Buy your child an analogue watch

  • Do timed activities e.g. Brush teeth for 2 minutes

  • Do more complicated jigsaw puzzles together

  • Build with Lego and other construction toys

  • Count in 2s, 5s and 10s

  • Sort a handful of coins

Key Stage 2 Numeracy (Age 7 to 11)


  • Play games which involve calculating scores e.g board and card games

  • Calculate the cost of a restaurant meal or take away

  • Estimate and measure items around your home e.g. The height of a door, width of a table; size of a screen

  • Set budgets for purchases and encourage saving

  • Compare prices of an item in different shops

  • Adjust baking recipes for more or less people

  • Involve your child in trip planning e.g. calculated time, cost and distance of different routes; using timetables

  • Try some origami

  • Solve puzzles requiring spatial awareness – and 500+ piece jigsaws

  • Use a clock or timer to set time limits for activities

As you can see, numeracy is incorporated in many things we do on a daily basis. By using mathematical language with your child from a young age and involving your child in activities and decisions as they get older, helping to develop their numeracy skills will also become part of daily life.