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Younger Children and Early Number Sense

Mrs. Joanne Price-Camargo
Mrs. Joanne Price-Camargo (4 posts) EYFS & KS1 Coordinator and Reception Teacher View Profile

The term “number sense” was developed in the 1980s but began to be used more frequently during the late 1990s and early 2000s. There is some disagreement amongst academics on a clear definition but in essence it is the ability to recognise and identify numbers in many representations, manipulate them by composing and decomposing numbers and using this knowledge to solve mathematical and reasoning problems that are not bound by traditional algorithms. 

numbers sense

Most recent research has divided number sense into seven crucial components.


  1. An awareness of the relationship between number and quantity.

  2. An understanding of number symbols, vocabulary and meaning.

  3. The ability to engage in systematic counting, including notions of cardinality and ordinality.

  4. An awareness of the size of numbers and an ability to compare numbers.

  5. An understanding of different representations of numbers.

  6. Competence with simple mathematical calculations.

  7. An awareness of number patterns including recognising missing numbers. 


It is important to remember that number sense is something that develops over time through constant exposure to numbers, their varied representation and conversations around quantities and comparisons of quantities. When teaching number sense, a crucial factor is taking the time to allow young children to explore each number using lots of different resources and materials, and having lots of conversations around each number.  Young children need to develop mastery and expertise in each of the core numbers from zero to ten in order to build a strong foundation in number sense. This will provide them with the building blocks to work with higher numbers and calculations. 


I would love to invite you to attend my workshop next week on how BCB supports younger children in developing number sense, and what you can do at home to enhance this even more.