# 7 Ways to Build Number Sense

**Q. Why is Number Sense so hard to define?**

A. It’s tough because number sense is a broad idea that covers a range of numerical thinking. Whilst we can see evidence that indicates children have strong or weak number sense we’re not always clear about what they understand. It can be hard to pin down. One thing we can be sure of is that **Number sense rests on making sense of mathematical concepts** and different people reason in different ways.

Q. **Can you really teach it?**

A. Of course! It takes time and practice, and children must build and construct the understating for themselves. For example, I can show young children how to write number sentences, but they must build the understanding for themselves that 6 can be taken apart and put together in many ways – 3 and 3, 2 and 4, three 2’s and so on. Learning mathematics means learners are active constructors of knowledge, not passive recipients of it (Askew, 2016)

**7 TOP TIPS FOR BUILDING NUMBER SENSE AT HOME:**

**1. LINK MATHS TO REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES**

As part of your daily routine, present children with problem situations that relate to their experiences. This way they’ll learn numbers are useful for solving problems. Because number sense develops over time, children need regular opportunities to reason with numbers and hear others express their ideas.

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**2. ASK CHILDREN TO CALCULATE MENTALLY. WORK THROUGH IT WITH THEM.**

In our adult daily lives most often, we rely in mental computations to get to the cinema on time, only put £20 worth of food in our shopping baskets and tip in a restaurant. This means no pencil and paper, but only thinking and talking about a problem with others. I call this ‘hands on the table’ talk.

**3. ASK CHILDREN TO EXPLAIN THEIR THINKING** – **at all times, not just when they make mistakes. **

Probe. **“Why do you think that?’** and ask children to explain why that makes sense. verbalising a strategy brings the strategy to a conscious level and allows the person to learn about their own thinking!

**4. BE SURE TO DO LOTS OF MEASURING ACTIVITIES! Hear me out…**

Problems involving measurement help build students number sense because they can verify their estimates and calculations by actually measuring. A way to check their thinking in the physical world without relying on a grown up or the answer book. It’s empowering. It encourages children to take risks and try new ways of thinking.

**5. MANIPULATIVES. MANIPULATIVES. MANIPULATIVES.**

There is general agreement about the importance of using these and less clarity about why they are important (Askew, 2016). We are better off introducing children to a small number of models and working intensely with them over time. The simpler the better. Children will only come to appreciate the power of these through repeated exposure to them. These are the mathematical equivalent of phonics. A powerful set of tools that can help children make sense of mathematical activity. These need to be part of the pedagogical furniture in the classroom and at home (Askew, 2016).

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**6. Games – or as I call them ‘thoughtful practice tasks’**

Tasks will help develop confidence, curiosity and a have a go attitude! We have TASK BUNDLES you can purchase.** **These are a collection of additional thoughtful practice tasks to supplement each stage of the progressive approach.

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**7. Little and Often**

Developing mathematical fluency is best done little and often rather than in less frequent, longer blocks of time. Set time limits and stick to them! Practice needs to...

**Be simple to set up and do****Be done little and often****Keep everyone focused on the maths.**

ASKEW, M, (2016).* Transforming Primary Mathematics. *Oxon. Taylor and Francis.