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Other iconic signs: crosses and ticks

Crosses and ticks








“No! Keep out!” 

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, insisting,"No!  Keep out” You can’t come here!"

    Since his verbal request failed to have the

desired effect Mark chose an alternative means

to communicate his message and, fetching a

stick of chalk he drew large many 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


  • No, none                                                                                             

Nathan’s shopping list

When playing shops, Nathan (4 years,

1 month), decided to write a ‘shopping list’,

writing crosses to signify items on his 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 pretend play

at nursery.


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities: 

        Explorations with signs and symbols

  • Number, itemisation                                                                                     

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 (AGE)

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

in the following weeks.


  • Taxonomy - written number and

         quantities: Explorations with signs and


  • 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


    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 to read 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 


  • Data collection, counting 


“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 signs 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 multiple horizontal lines 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

of their game. Their 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