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Welcome to the international Children's Mathematics Network

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* Crosses and ticks






“No! Keep out!” 

 Oliver spent considerable time at the whiteboard relating

In the ‘garage’ role-play area outside Mark was playing in

an area enclosed on three sides. He objected that a number

of boys were riding their bikes and wheeled toys into ‘his’

corner and insisted "No! Keep out” You can’t come here!."

Since his verbal request failed to have the desired effect

Mark chose an alternative way to communicate his message

and, fetching a stick of chalk he drew large crosses,

emphasising his message by repeating his verbal instructions

as he drew. Finally the boys ‘heard’ his request and moved away

from where Mark wanted to play.


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantity: 

       Explorations with signs and symbols

  •  No, none                                                                                             


Nathan’s shopping list

Nathan (4 years, 1 month) chose to write a ‘shopping list’

when playing shops, drawing crosses to signify items on

the list as “carrots, potatoes and spaghetti." His mother

explained that they always wrote a list before the

family went to the supermarket, and Nathan had drawn

on his home knowledge in his play at nursery.


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities: 

        Explorations with signs and symbols

  • Number, itemisation                                                                                     






“This means you double lose!”

     Henry, Joe and Thomas, (4 years, 4 months – 

4 years, 7 months) were discussing how many goals 

they had scored in their ball game. They decided to 

use some chalks that were outside, making a variety 

of symbols to explain various aspects as they talked 

about the progress of their game.Henry explained that 

the single cross “means you lose”, and that the line 

with multipole horizontallines drawn across it, “means 

you double loose!”

     These are just two of the many graphical signs that 

the boys generated during the course of their game.

These abstract symbols had personal meaning for 

the children within the context oftheir game. This flexible

use of symbols also provides powerful understanding 

of using mathematical symbols


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities:  

        Explorations with signs and symbols

  • Scoring a game                                                                             


Making ‘Dinner Registers’ (4 -year olds)

     One day when her teacher called the dinner 

register, Natasha brought a piece of paper and a pen

to make her own. Natasha focused on the concept of

a list, and included some ticks and circles as she’d

seen her teacher do.

     Several other children wanted to join in, Gemma

using marks with some approximation of circles and

crosses (to denote either packed lunches or school

dinners), and Alice represented the children’s

responses in two columns [not shown here], in a

way that was easy to check when she’d completed it. 

     Each example shops the child’s current thinking

as she used ways of representing to help her think

about the data. Their interest on this day led to many

other children choosing to make their own registers

in their own ways during the term.


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities: 

        Explorations with signs and symbols;

  • Number, quantities, data collection                                                                     



























A zoo visit

     Tommy’s class had been on a visit to the zoo and

were arguing about which was the ‘best’ animal

they'd seen. Tommy (4 years 7 months) decided to 

ask his friends, and after he’d drawn a lion, a

crocodile, a giraffe and a zebra, took his clipboard to

collect his data.The choice of crosses was his idea. 

    Meanwhile, Bianca (4 years, 5 months was 

thinking about her personal favourites [not shown

here], writing her name in the lower right-hand

corner to show that she liked lions best, she

wrote two other children’s names nearby, using

the only remaining blank space other page. 

     For someone else reading what she’s done, the 

other children’s choices are not clear, but Bianca 

could recall what they had said. Tommy’s layout 

allows easier interpretation of the number of choices 

made by various children for each animal, the cross 

he’d written beneath each animal making it clear. 

     The children were free to use any means to

record their friends’ preferences, and some chose

to write individual names, some crosses and

others used personal marks or tallies, like Gemma,

using the means that best suited their understanding

at that time.


  • Taxonomy -written number and

        quantities: Representing quantities are counted

  • Data collection, counting