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* Drawings


Light sabres

    William (4 years 6 months) is fascinated by Star Wars and often

plays out various scenes with his friend. He has drawn a light sabre

for each of his favourite characters from the Star Wars film. The

colours are important; for example, red is for ‘Darth Maul’.

    His teacher explained, "William draws hundreds of these pictures

at the moment – either of light sabres or bows and arrows from the

Lord of the Rings – they seem to be linked to his fascination with

counting or amounts and he will count all sorts of objects again

and again".


  • Taxonomy: Representing quantities that are counted
  • Counting and quantities



“Look! No chicken! You want mushroom?” 

     Buying, preparing, ordering and eating food

together have significant roles in Shereen’s

family. Drawing on her personal and  social

knowledge of cafés, Shereen (AGE)

approached her friends for orders, making wavy,

writing-like lines and a drawing of a fish and a mushroom in response. 

     After a while she returned to ask her teacher

Emma, “what you want: rice, chocolate, cake,

chicken?”  Emma said she didn’t want chicken and

Shereen wrote a mark for “chicken” and drew a

cross by it, clarifying,“It says “x” - no chicken.”

     Later Emma said she would have chicken, but

pointing to the “x” she had written, Shereen said,

“Look! No chicken! You want mushroom?” Then

pointing to her drawing of a mushroom explained,

“Look. A tick, that mean we got some.”

    Shereen used a range of marks and signs to

communicate her mathematical thinking about some

and none, including drawings of a fish and



  • Taxonomy: Explorations with signs and symbols
  • Quantities: some and none.      




























Paper calculators

     This play began when Martin was playing with a

real calculator: he seemed to be using it as a digital

game, pressing the buttons and commenting excitedly

“Fighting games! Video games!”

     It was Martin who first decided to use a small

notebook to make ‘paper calculators’, explaining as

he tore off a sheet, “This is a different calculator with

computer games on”.

     Alfie (4 years, 3 months) watched Mason use

pages from a notebook to make‘calculators’ and

decided to join in. Having drawn shapes on his page,

Alfie ripped it off the pad and then made more

symbols, saying ‘6, 7, 8, 9, I’ve done a number 10’,

followed by a third sheet, announcing ‘9, 10, 11, 12’:

in twenty minutes Alfie made a total of seven paper

‘calculators’. The enclosed shapes suggest the

buttons on a calculator, and the reversed '7' signs

suggest numerals.


  • Taxonomy: Explorations with signs and symbols
  • Number sequences 


Stanley’s shoes

    Nine children were playing in the home corner, and

in the course of their play had removed their shoes in

order todress up. At tidy-up-time, Kylie asked,”How

many shoes will we need to find?, suggesting they

might find a way of finding out how many they needed

to locate.

    Hannah (5 years, 5 months) decided to fetch some

paper, and drew nine children. She counted all their

legs and then wrote ‘18’ at the foot of the paper.

     Stanley (5 years, 6 months) drew a horseshoe shape 

to represent each pair of legs and feet. He then couted

in twos, writing the accumulating twos beneath the

‘horseshoes. He had omitted to count the ‘feet’ of one

horseshoe. At first totally them to ‘16’: (the children had

been learning about counting in twos the previous  week).

When their teacher brought he children together to

discuss their various methods,  Stanley quickly realised

what he had done, and counted again – this time

counting them all to arrive at his total of ‘18’.


  • Taxonomy: Representing quantities that are not

        counted; counting continuously

  • Counting, counting in twos






















One is a snail

     The delightful picture story book, One is a Snail,

Ten is a Crab (Pulley Sayre and Sayre, 2004) uses

pictures of snails, crabs, dogs and spiders – each

with different numbers of feet - to support counting

to 100. After sharing the book with the children,

 their teacher Karen suggested that they choose

their own number and work out which combination

of creatures’ legs would total that number. 

     Shimae (4 years, 6 months) had decided to "find

out what is 100’. She wrote the number ‘100’ and

as she progressed, counted the legs she’d drawn.

After a while she said,"This is hard now, all this

counting. Can you help me?"

     So as Shimae drew, an adult counted with her,

Shimae noting the total she counted each time.

When she’d reached 100 she wrote: "6 spidr 3 insec

1 pursn 1 well (whale) 1 pig’.

     Other children counted in multiples, counted on,

counted back, estimated, used repeated addition,

subtraction and multiplication.


  • Taxonomy: Representing quantities that are


  • Number, counting                                                                



“My Dad’s got 5 eyes!”

Shakkai and his friend were drawing pictures of their dads.

Shakkai (4 years, 10 months) drew four eyes on his dad’s

face, and the boys laughed uproarisly at their drawings.

Shakkai said, “I’m going to add another eye. Look! He has

five now! ”


  • Taxonomy: Representing quantities that are counted 
  • Counting in twos