What are the big ideas in maths that students need to know – in the Early Years?

At the start of the school year most of the local primary schools got together to hear Di Siemon from RMIT speak about the big ideas in mathematics education. Di really challenged some of our teacher ideas and spoke about the big ideas in mathematics that all students need to learn. Some of the ideas here will challenge not only teachers but also parents – which is in part why I’m writing about this.

Di quoted the research by McIntyre and Melville [2005] who estimated the economic costs of failing to address the issue of the long tail of underachieving students in mathematics at $2.6 billion per year.

She argued that for too long mathematics classes have been about students solving written computational equations that few see the relevance of. Maths should be more argumentative [convince me style] with rich tasks, extended investigations, visulaisation, mental computations, use of hands on materials till well into secondary school. You learn a concept by experiencing and discussing it [I would add including reflecting upon its uses]. 

I am breaking up the article into 3 separate posts

Early Years Ideas

Di spoke about the importance of numeration in the Early Years [being able to model, name,write, read, interpret and use numbers] from 0-9 as all other numbers are based on patterns. She advised teachers to use the same colour counters as colours can distract younger students.

One of her ideas was the concept of building mental objects [visual imagery] so that students could recognise numbers without counting all objects – “subitising”. She believed that all students need to work on this almost daily up to year 4.

Subitising charts for 9 and 5.

I’d be interested to know of other teachers experiences here?

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5 Responses to What are the big ideas in maths that students need to know – in the Early Years?

  1. Sasha says:

    I like reading through an article that can make people think.

    Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!

  2. SarahJ says:

    I agree that subitizing is an important skill in the early years. At my school we use regular sessions with dot cards and ten-frames to develop this skill, as well as sessions with a Rekenrek several times a week.

  3. Steven says:

    I found your blog really interesting and useful so thanks

  4. mwalker says:

    Thanks Sue for the affirming comment – its great to hear the success stories – I’ll pass this on to the teachers.

  5. Sue Losada says:

    Hi Mark
    Have to agree this is the most powerful tool in teaching conserving number leading to ten facts and addition and subtraction. For the past 2 years have used dot number cards to reinforce subitising with great success. To make sure it’s done daily I just stand at the door at recess and lunch and use the cards as ‘passwords’ before students to go outside. Hand made using sticky dots is easy and there are endless uses and number combinations to suit all abilities.

Interested in your thoughts