Foundation Mathematics at school: what to expect

Focus on number

During the Foundation Year at school, most of the mathematics teaching time will focus on number learning.

By the end of the year

By the end of the year your child will be meeting the Foundation Year mathematics standard if they are solving realistic problems using their growing understanding of number, algebra, space, geometry, measurement and statistics. They will be using number names and writing numerals. They will be counting objects and may be describing numbers up to 10 in different ways.

Meeting the standard

This is a small part of the skills and knowledge your child is learning in order to reach this standard. Talk to the teacher for more information about your child’s learning.

To meet the standard your child will be learning to:

  • count forwards and backwards by ones, initially from 1 to 10, then to 20 and beyond
  • count and order small collections of objects
  • think about and describe numbers to 10 in different ways (e.g. 6 is 5 and 1. It is also 4 and 2.
    It’s 1 more than 5 and 1 less than 7)
  • sort shapes and objects into common groups, and describe how they sorted them
  • ask and answer simple questions to collect information
  • give and follow directions such as ‘It is in the cupboard’, ‘It is next to the couch’
  • compare length, mass and capacity of objects.

Mathematics problems at this level might look like this

Teacher: Here are some objects. Sort the objects into groups. Explain how you worked out the groups.

The illustration shows two students. Each has thought bubbles containing the same pictures of plant parts (leaves, sticks, seeds, stems and flowers) that they have sorted into groups in different ways.

Student 1 has made two groups: I worked this out by looking at the shape.

Student 2 has made three groups: I worked this out by looking at the colour.

Ask the teacher what your child is doing in mathematics. Talk about how you can work together to support your child’s learning.

© Commonwealth of Australia. Based on New Zealand Ministry of Education material

Image credits - Alamy Stock Photo: Elena Gurova; Dmytro Skorobogatov; Danny Smythe; Svetlana Zhukova; Alfio Scisetti; mahir ates; villorejo; Alfio Scisetti; SD

Mathematics at home

Support your child

Parents, family and carers like you play a big part in your child’s learning every day – you can support and build on what they learn at school.

Mathematics, like reading, is a skill that is learnt through practice

Talk together and have fun with numbers and patterns. Help your child to do these things:

  • Find numbers around your home and neighbourhood. Identify the number (e.g. ‘The number on the letterbox is 5. That is your age!’).
  • Compare the size of groups. Ask questions: ‘Which group has more?’ ‘Which one is smaller?’.
  • Practise sharing collections of items equally.
  • Count items in everyday situations (e.g. cupson a table) and think about ‘how many’ in
    different ways (e.g. ‘There are 1, 2, 3, 4 cups.That’s 2 cups plus 2 more’).
  • Talk about days of the week (e.g. ‘Today is Monday. What happens today?’).

The way your child is learning to solve maths problems may be different from your own experience. Ask questions. Get your child to show you how they do it and support them in their learning.

Involve your child in easy, everyday activities like these

  • Sort things like washing, odd socks, toys and cups while tidying up.
  • Share your favourite number with each other and explain why you like that number.
  • Model curiosity about numbers of things. Use a ‘notice and wonder’ routine in everyday situations (e.g. ‘I notice a group of people there. I wonder how many there are. Let’s count!’).
  • Notice and talk about shapes and numbers (e.g. ‘I wonder how many balls there are. How many do you see?’).

Mathematics is an important part of everyday life and there are many ways you can make it fun for your child.

Being positive about mathematics is really important for your child’s learning – even if you didn’t enjoy it or do well at it yourself at school.

For school holidays/weekends/rainy days

Here are some suggestions for what you and your child can do together.

  • Practise stacking and building.
  • Play with big cardboard boxes using words like ‘inside’, ‘outside’, ‘in front of’, ‘behind’ and ‘next to’. You can find these words and ideas in picture storybooks too. Access these at a local library.
  • Play verbal games such as ‘I spy something that is longer, bigger, smaller than …’
  • Do jigsaw puzzles together.
  • Guess which object is heavier or lighter. Practise comparing.
  • Dance to music and sing or clap to favourite songs.
  • Talk about time as ‘today’, ’tomorrow’, ‘yesterday’. Ask ‘What happens next?’ when you are doing things.
  • Play with water, using containers and measuring cups that have different shapes.

© Commonwealth of Australia. Based on New Zealand Ministry of Education material

Image credits - Alamy Stock Photo: YAY Media AS; Nuwat Chanthachanthuek; Moodboard Stock Photography