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The key focus of mathematics in EYFS/Year 1 is to build confidence and a love of number and maths. 


The children use a range of practical resources and visual representations to solve calculations and mathematical problems. Many lessons are planned thinking about Bruner's Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract approach


Mathematics in EYFS

In the context of mathematics, the framework says children must be given opportunities to develop their skills in the following areas:

  • Counting
  • Understanding and using numbers
  • Calculating simple addition and subtraction problems
  • Describing shapes, spaces, and measure


The DfE published revised guidance in March 2021 to take effect in September 2021.

The mathematics component now incorporates many elements of the mastery approach.

Specifically, the revised framework says:


Children should be able to count confidently, develop a deep understanding of the numbers to 10, the relationships between them and the patterns within those numbers.


By providing frequent and varied opportunities to build and apply this understanding — such as using manipulatives, including small pebbles and tens frames for organising counting — children will develop a secure base of knowledge and vocabulary from which mastery of mathematics is built.


In addition, it is important that the curriculum includes rich opportunities for children to develop their spatial reasoning skills across all areas of mathematics including shape, space and measures.


It is important that children develop positive attitudes and interests in mathematics, look for patterns and relationships, spot connections, ‘have a go’, talk to adults and peers about what they notice and not be afraid to make mistakes.



Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Have a deep understanding of number to 10, including the composition of each number
  • Subitise (recognise quantities without counting) up to five
  • Automatically recall (without reference to rhymes, counting or other aids) number bonds up to five (including subtraction facts) and some number bonds to 10, including double facts

Numerical patterns

Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Verbally count beyond 20, recognising the pattern of the counting system
  • Compare quantities up to 10 in different contexts, recognising when one quantity is greater than, less than or the same as the other quantity
  • Explore and represent patterns within numbers up to 10, including evens and odds, double facts and how quantities can be distributed equally

Cardinality and counting

When children understand the cardinality of numbers, they know what the numbers mean in terms of knowing how many things they refer to.


Comparing numbers involves knowing which numbers are worth more or less than each other.


Learning to ‘see’ a whole number and its parts at the same time is a key development in children’s number understanding.


Developing an awareness of pattern helps young children to notice and understand mathematical relationships.

Shape and space

Mathematically, the areas of shape and space are about developing visualising skills and understanding relationships, such as the effects of movement and combining shapes


Measuring in mathematics is based on the idea of using numbers of units in order to compare attributes, such as length or capacity.


Learning to count in the early years is a fundamental skill and key to mastering mathematical concepts in the future, but there’s more to it than you might think, says Sabrina Pinnock, a primary school teacher in Yorkshire.

According to researchers Rochel Gelman and C.R. Gallistel, these are the steps needed to successfully count:

  1. The one-to-one principle: children must name each object they count and understand there are two groups: the one that has been counted and the one that hasn’t yet been counted
  2. The stable order principle: children must know how to count in the right order
  3. The cardinal principle: children need to understand the last number in the set is the total amount
  4. Counting anything: children need to realise that anything can be counted, not just objects that can be touched, but also things like claps and jumps
  5. Order of counting doesn’t matter: children need to understand that the order of counting in the set is irrelevant and will still lead to the same amount

Assessing children to find out which step they are struggling with is key to helping them overcome difficulties and become confident counters.



We follow the Maths No Problem! programme. For an outline of the topics in EYFS and  Year 1, please see the overview below: