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Super Mario

     Elizabeth made a “Super Mario” game, in imitation of the real game

her older brother had. Drawing “buttons” on it, which, in her imagination

could be pressed. She added numerals to each, some of which were reversed: “3”, “5”, “1”, “2”, “0”, “2”, “2”, “0” and “0”.


     Note: Many young children reverse letters and numerals, 

and it has been found to relate to normal development and 

maturity in children up to the age of about seven years.


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities:  

        Numerals as labels

  • Number                 


Magnetic numerals
Max was exploring the basket of magnetic numerals and placed a line of magnetic numerals on the  

whiteboard. Daisy, noticing what Max had done came to join him, giving him other number nines that

she had found around the room and in the basket. She then placed a zero onto the board. Felicity,

  pausing whilst drawing at a nearby table, looked over and commented:

  ‘My mummy does not think zero is a number’. Alfie explained ‘Zero is in

  number ten’. The nursery teacher picked out a one and a zero from the

  basket of magnetic numerals and Alfie continued ‘Put another zero and

  that is one hundred’.  Martin came over and said ‘My favourite number

  is number five. When I get bigger...’ Daisy continued ‘my favourite

 number is one hundred’. 

     Alfie, obviously thinking about all these numbers and how you make them said ‘if you put a five and a zero that’s fifteen. The teacher said ‘ that’s really good thinking, fifteen  

       looks like this’ and she placed a magnetic one and five on the board.  Alfie thought about it and then replied to the teacher ‘I mean fifty, he self corrected. ‘And if you put a 6 in it, it will be sixty.’ 

     At this point Daisy was becoming increasingly interested in what number you could make if you put certain numerals together. She tested this out by sticking a group of numbers on the board. She asked ‘What number is this?’ The teacher answered ‘sixty-three thousand and one’. Daisy then proceeded to move the zeroes from the sixty three thousand and one over to the other side of the board, asking each time ‘What number does this make?’ The teacher told her what the number was each time she moved the numerals, explaining that this was ‘631’ then ‘63’, then ‘number 3’ and then ‘0’.

     Obviously thinking about all these numbers and how you make them, Alfie said ‘if you put a five and a zero that’s fifteen. The teacher said ‘ that’s really good thinking, fifteen looks like this’ and she placed a magnetic one and five on the board.  Alfie thought about it and then replied to the teacher ‘I mean fifty, he self corrected. ‘And if you put a 6 in it, it will be sixty.’ 


  • Taxonomy - number and quantities: Numerals as labels
  • Number             


Tommy and the elephant

Tommy (4 years, 11 months) decided to copy the numerals from a hundred square on the door of the classroom. He was very focused as he carefully wrote numbers to ‘60’. He then drew a tiny hamster by the numeral ‘1’ and drew himself above the numeral '4'. Finally he drew a (tiny) elephant by the number ‘60’.

      The previous day Tommy had been  with his class for a visit to the zoo. When he showed his teacher what he had done, he explained that hamsters do not live very long, and that he was four years old. He then drew on some new knowledge,”elephants live a long time” [i.e., as much as 60 years], information he had gleaned from a talk from the zoo-keeper..

     Tommy had made a significant step in relating his knowledge about ages and the approximate life-expectancy of the two animals he’d drawn, to the 

numbers he had written, combining his knowledge with his recent experience at the zoo.


Taxonomy - written number and quantities:  Representing quantities that are counted

Number, age                       


Marcus’s ‘spy gadget’

         Marcus (4 years, 6 months) was watched Leola nearby as she took a piece of yellow card, and

 began snipping cuts snipping cuts around its perimeter. Clearly

 intrigued by this, Marcus copied what she had done. Taking a pen

 he wrote a string of letters and numerals on his card, reading "sk’ ‘714bp10" and, lifting it to his face, explained it was “a spy gadget,

'sk' is ‘to keep the password safe” explaining next “To switch it on

you have to say '714bp10’'’. Asked if there was a way to switch

his 'spy gadget' off and he replied excitedly “Yeah! You have to read

it backwards!” promptly reading, “10 pb417”. 

     Whereas Leola had turned what she had done into a card with a message to her mum, Marcus’s imagination took him into the world of contemporary film heroes and computer games where he

invested his gadget special with technological powers and drew on his considerable knowledge of passwords and controls.  

     Marcus’s spy gadget reveals its multimodality, combining materials and symbols (cut and folded card; a stamped clover-leaf and his written string of letters and numerals), weaving these into inter-related

whole so that it contains his meanings - also enabling him to wear it (by  covering his face for secrecy).


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities:  

        Numerals as labels

  • Number                     






James the Red Engine

Matthew (3 years, 9 months), drew one of his 

favourite storybook engines, “James the Red Engine” and wrote a numeral ‘5’ on it, which was the number of the engine in the story.  

     Matthew was very interested in numbers, not  only on trains but also in bus numbers and the 

destination of buses.


  •    Taxonomy - written number and quantities: Numerals as labels
  •    Number                                                                   


“How old are you?”

     Baylee (5 years, 0 months) wrote the numbers 1 - 10. Having added some ticks, she decided to put a dot beneath each  (as if to make it easier to see where the tick went). Beginning with the ticks beneath '5' and '7' she then  went around the class with her clipboard, asking each child how old they were. When she 

 showed her teacher, she also had ticks beneath ‘7’ and ‘2’ and explained her brother was ‘7’ and her friend’s sister was ‘2’. 

     Baylee asked her teacher how old she was (35), and thinking hard about the number, she wrote it down at the top of her paper and gave it a tick. Baylee clearly thought about layout and ordered the data as 

she collected it, making her findings easier to read and discuss (or analyse) afterwards. 


  •    Taxonomy - written number and quantities: Representing 
  •     quantities that are counted
  •    Number, data collection




Big numbers!

Francine (4 years, 5 months) was very excited that she could write

a million, and, as she wrote each line of numerals, she attempted to

read the number aloud. , Several other children joined her, keen to

 write equally large numbers, and Francine reminded them that they

needed “six zeros." Pointing to her first line of figures she announced that it was “the biggest."    

     Whilst this does not imply that Francine has a full understanding of the number system into the millions, there Is good reason to support young children’s interest and curiosity in numbers that extend beyond

10 or 100, and how they are written.                                              

     Meanwhile, Hayden (4 years, 8 months) appeared to be writing a

range of numerals that he knew, occasionally pointing to a number and explaining that it was his brother’s age, or the age of his friend.


  • Taxonomy - written number and quantities: 

        Explorations with signs and symbols

  • Number