Board games can help improve maths skills

The Education Endowment Foundation has claimed that teachers and early years staff can use storybooks and games to help young children develop their early maths skills.

The new report, Improving Mathematics in the Early Years and Key Stage 1, reviews the best available evidence to offer schools five recommendations for three-seven-year olds, emphasising that story and picture books can be a powerful tool for engaging children with basic maths concepts.

It also cites some board games as being particularly beneficially to developing understanding of numbers. Snakes and Ladders is one example of a game that can support young children’s understanding of numbers, as the numbers are arranged in order and give children the opportunity to practise 'counting on' from a number, a key mathematical concept.

Another recommendation focuses on how useful concrete everyday objects such as pine cones and buttons, and maths resources like interlocking cubes and building blocks, can be for helping children to develop maths concepts.

The guidance on integrating maths into everyday activities is one of five recommendations in the Education Endowment Foundation’s report, which aims to improve early maths skills for all children but particularly those facing socio-economic disadvantage. In 2018, only 66 per cent of disadvantaged children achieved at least the expected level of development for number at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage, compared to 82 per cent of their peers.

Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Maths plays a key role in a every child’s development. Very young children are naturally curious, noticing differences in quantity and the shape of objects. Understanding maths helps children make sense of the world around them, interpret situations, and solve problems in everyday life, whether that’s understanding time, sharing food with their peers, or counting in play.

“Yet too many children struggle with maths early on and, as a result, risk falling further behind later in school. These pupils are disproportionately drawn from disadvantaged homes. To truly break this link between family income and educational attainment, we have to start early and make sure that all young people—regardless of background—have access to great maths teaching both in the early years and in primary school. As our report shows, there are many practical ways that teachers and early years staff can help support this important area of development. It’s often about planning simple maths activities throughout the school day, like at story time and registration, but can also include high-quality interventions to help those who are falling behind to catch-up.”

Read more