Preparing For Prep – Early Numeracy Skills

Author: Fi Morrison   Date Posted:10 July 2017 

Numeracy and literacy are the basic fundamental skills most parents and teachers focus on in the early years of a child’s life. They are crucial for everyday living as developing children and adults. While every state is different in regards to curriculum and teaching, there are some foundational skills you can be practising with your child before they start prep to ensure they are starting off on the right foot in regards to numeracy.


Please Note: As previously mentioned, all states and even individual schools have different expectations and requirements regarding literacy and numeracy levels of prep students. To obtain the most accurate information, it is best to talk with the school your child will be attending. The below are some basic skills and activities you can practise with your child at home based on my understanding of the NSW curriculum.


 Numeracy Skills that might help prepare for prep


Number Recognition 0-10

Exposing your child to the numerals 0-10 is a great start for their learning in prep. If they can recognise what the numbers look like and name them (for example, the number 1 is one), this is a good foundation for learning higher numbers as well as other numeracy skills later learned (such as basic addition and subtraction).

To develop your child’s recognition of these numbers, point them out in favourite books, everyday signs and labels (such as on a digital clock at home), or have them trace around numbers on a piece of paper while saying the number. Flash cards and a simple game of SNAP can also be a fun way for teaching your child the numbers 0-10.


Counting to 10

Counting is a numeracy skill that is taught to most children right up to year 2 (and beyond). By counting to 10 your child is able to recognise that numbers are a part of a sequence, will set them up to understand that there are numbers that are higher and lower than other numbers (for example, 7 is higher than 2). This in the end sets them up to understand basic number sense, that 7 counters is more than 2 counters, and again sets the foundation for future skills such as addition and subtraction.


To help your child learn to count, sing some basic and fun songs that include counting, such as “Doctor Knickerbocker” (The Wiggles), or a storybook like Dr. Seuss’ “Ten Apples up on Top”.


Developing a Basic Number Sense

One of the most fundamental numeracy skills a child can learn is understanding that numbers actually represent an object (for example, one finger is represented by the number 1, two fingers is represented by the number 2, and so forth). This skill can be difficult to understand for younger children.


Again, singing songs such as “5 Little Ducks” or “5 Cheeky Monkeys” (Where fingers are used to represent the number of ducks – also demonstrates basic subtraction) is a fun and simple way to teach basic number sense.

There is also power in everyday situational learning, such as having your child helping with dinner and discussing the number of ingredients being used. “We have 5 mushrooms going into our dinner tonight. See, there are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 mushrooms.”

A simple drawing of the number 5 along with this conversation shows your child that the number 5 is represented by five objects. You can play this in games with counters and flash cards, or use Pompoms and cupcake holders like this Pinterest idea.


Basic number sense is a skill your child will continually develop throughout their schooling life (I have had lots of students struggle with this at a Year 2 level), so there is no need to worry if they are unable to grasp it entirely before starting Prep – it is just a helpful skill for them to learn overall.


 Starting to recognise Simple Dot Patterns

While it may not sound like an important skill, being able to recognise simple dot patterns, like on a dice, is a very vital numeracy skill. It is called subitising, and refers to a child’s ability to recognise instantly the number of objects in a group without having to individually count each item.

For adults, we can roll a dice and instantly recognise the dot pattern we see as the number 5, however young children generally count the number of dots they see to find the number. Teaching children to instantly recognise a dot pattern is the starting point for learning other fundamental numeracy skills such as skip counting, and breaking numbers into parts (which we call part-whole relationships). For example, recognising that 7 dots is made up of 3 dots and 4 dots is crucial for developing strategies for addition and subtraction.

To help you child start to recognise simple dot patterns, exposure to dot patterns in a variety of activities and games is crucial. Gorgeous learning resources such as these ladybug stones can help your child learn to recognise dot patterns. However even playing simple dice games with your child can help them become accustomed to recognising dot patterns.


Fi Morrison is a trained primary school teacher and first time mum to an 11 month old boy. She is about to return part time to teaching of a year 2 class. Fi has a blog for new mums called Mumma Morrison, aimed at helping new and prospective mums on their motherhood journey.

Check out Mumma Morrison on



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