A piece of card divided into four squares. There is a die in the first square with 5 dots. A numeral 5 is in the second square. An array of five dots is in the third square and five raisins are in the fourth square.

Number Sense

Number Sense

What is number sense?

Number sense is the ability to understand number. It involves having a deep understanding of how numbers are made, the patterns between them and how the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) can be used to manipulate them. 

Number sense is important because "developing a strong grounding in number is essential...to excel mathematically." (Development Matters, Department for Education 2021). 

Developing number sense takes a long time. You can support your child by including number in your everyday conversations and activities.

5 everyday activities to develop number sense 
1. Cooking

Cooking is a brilliant way to expose your child to lots of mathematical language. Follow a recipe with your child and ask them to read the amount of ingredients. Talk about which pile of ingredients contains the most or the least. Practise weighing out different amounts.  

2. Go for a walk

Numbers are all around us. Next time you are out on a walk with your child, point out the different numbers that you see. Challenge your child to read the numbers on buses, car number plates and doors. Can they work out what would be one more, or one less than a number?

3. Shopping trips 

Shopping trips provide a wealth of opportunities to develop number sense. Ask your child to count out different amounts of fruit and veg. Ask them to put one more item in the trolley. Challenge older children to add up the price of different items. 

4. Bath time

Why not add some number practise to bath time? Ask your child to add five squirts of bubblebath to the bath. Can they count the bath toys as they put them in? Can they share the toys equally between themselves and their sibling?

5. Play a game 

Playing a board game or a card game is a great way to help develop number sense. If the game involves a die, encourage your child to say the amount of dots without counting. Challenge your child to be the score keeper. Can they say who has the most/least points? Talk about how many more points one player has than another. 

Remember that number sense takes a long time to develop. Talking about numbers often, during everyday activities, is the best way to help children develop  a deep understanding. 

For more activity ideas to help children develop number sense, take a look at the Preschool Number Activity CardsReception Number Activity Cards and Year 1 Number Activity Cards.