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By Sheila O'Reilly, posted on 28th May 2020

Ordering and counting with Numicon

In my first post, I introduced Numicon to my three-year-old through a variety of play activities to familiarise her with the Numicon shapes, colours, and patterns. Now I’m going to take you through introducing your little ones to ordering and counting.

1. Introducing ordering with household objects

Before children can successfully order numbers, they need to be able to compare and order objects of different sizes. Rhymes, stories, and counting songs offer great opportunities to explore the language of size (small, smaller, smallest, and so on). For instance, my little girl loves Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which is perfect for discussing size and comparing pictures. 

To introduce your child to the idea of ordering, you could recreate this activity I tried out with my daughter:

  1. Present your child with household objects of various sizes (we used a selection of blocks).
  2. Together identify the largest and smallest objects.
  3. Ask your child if they can sort the objects, starting with the smallest and going up to the largest.
  4. Help your child the first few times, building their confidence until they can complete the task on their own.

By the end, my little girl was delighted that she could do it ‘All by myself, Mummy!’ and was ready to move on to ordering using Numicon shapes. 

2. Ordering with Numicon

If you have Numicon shapes at home, here are some steps you could try:

  1. Set out Numicon shapes 1–6 in a random order.
  2. As with the objects in the last task, sort the 1–6 shapes in order with your child.
  3. Help your child to order the shapes until they can do it independently.
  4. Add more shapes as your child develops confidence.
  5. Explore how to make ‘steps’ by turning the Numicon pieces.
  6. Talk about the different shapes and sizes of each Numicon piece.

There are a variety of games you could play with the ordered Numicon shapes too, including:

  • Identify the missing shape (where I removed one Numicon shape).
  • Unjumble the shapes (where some shapes were in the wrong order).

If you don’t have any shapes at home, you can download and print out these free cut-out Numicon shapes instead. As with previous activities, I recommend playing these games with 1–6 shapes first and then extending to 1–10 shapes when your child is feeling more confident.

3. Counting and conservation of number

My little girl can confidently count from 1 to 10, but this doesn’t necessarily mean she understands the value of numbers. The following activity can help your child develop this concept, known as number conservation.

  1. Ask your child to order the Numicon shapes from 1–10.
  2. Place the number cards under their corresponding shapes.
  3. Display the pictures side of the Zig Zag book (a number line with numerals, Numicon shapes, and pictures).
  4. Ask your child to count the pictures in the Zig Zag book as you point to the numerals and Numicon shapes.
  5. Encourage your child to say the number names as they point to the Numicon shapes.

We also used our collection of Numicon counters to make sets of numbers within 10. This can be done with any small objects like buttons or pasta shells. Setting out objects in groups that mimic the arrangement of holes in the Numicon shapes makes it easier for children to recognise and count the correct number.

There are all sorts of other activities you could try out using Numicon. Make sure to always model the activity first and then build up to more complex ideas. Good luck and have fun!

Numicon kits for parents

1st Steps with Numicon at Home Kit

Designed specifically to help parents support their children’s maths progression in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1.

The kit includes a 100-square baseboard, 52 coloured pegs, 32 shapes, 10 numeral cards, three threading laces, picture overlays, a feely bag, an inspiring activity book, and more.

Buy on Amazon >

Homework Activities Intervention Resource kit

Especially created for use at home, Homework Activities Intervention Resource kit supports children’s mathematical development and learning outside of school.

The kit includes dice, 60 coloured counters, 21 numeral cards, 30 shapes, a large table-top number line, and more.

Buy on Amazon >

Bag of Numicon shapes 1–10

A set of 10 Numicon shapes to practise maths at home.

The tactile, multi-sensory approach helps your child build their mathematical fluency, reasoning, and problem-solving.

Buy on Amazon >