‘Roots to grow; wings to fly’

Maths Reasoning

Date: 3rd Feb 2018 @ 6:56pm

Thank you to those parents who came to the maths reasoning information evening. I hope that you found it useful. 

Here are the photos of the activities set up in the reception classroom to give you an idea of some of the activities we are doing and the discussions we are having in reception in relation to maths skills and reasoning.

The idea behind reasoning is to give your child a greater understanding of number and mathematical concepts to provide them with a stronger base for their mathematical knowledge, which will serve them as they move up the school. When we reason it involves exploring the problem and answers to find out why, not just accepting that that is the answer just beause it is. The children can then explain why. For example, lots of children can receite numbers to 20 off by heart (almost like a song) but do they undertand why they are in that order?

Questions and phrases like 'How do you know...?' and 'I think that is becasue...' all help your child to gain a greater understanding of how things work. In reception we explore maths skills and reasoning vocabulary and phrases through stories, songs, rhymes, exploring and play. One of our favourite books this year has been 'Would you rather...' by John Burningham. In this book the children were asked to reason whether they would prefer to eat spider stew or slug dumplings, or would you rather help Father Chrstmas deliver presents or a wizard make magic. In play we have asked things such as; would you rather cuddle a stegosaurus or an apatosaurus? These situations allowed the children to problem solve and think about their answers, saying phrases such as "I would rather cuddle an Apatosaurus because it would be smooth" or "I would rather help Father Christmas because I love presents!" We were then able to transwer these problem solving and reasoning skills to mathematical problems; Would you rather have 2 sweets or 5 sweets? "5 because I love sweets so I want more" or "2 because then I would have less and would be healthier." Here the children have used the same phrases and problem solving skills, combining them with an undertsanding of bigger and smaller numbers. 

In reception, and in fact in all year groups and in maths, working practically with concete objects is essential. Use them to help explore the problems and explain the answer- can you show me why you think that? Objects help children to explain their reasoning and allows them to understand that maths is everywhere and that you can use anything to count, add, subtract etc. Practical objects also allow the children to touch and move things as they count, helping them to improve their accuracy and counting skills. 

Pictures are also great, and the next step from practical objects. Take a page from a favourite story and look at it with your child. What maths can we get from this? Adding/ subtracting, counting, sorting, positional language (above, next to, behind, 1st, 2nd, last), shape recognition, time, days of the week, measurements, comparing heights and length etc etc. 

There are hundreds of fantastic books that can be used for developing maths. Here are some lnks to some ideas:




Other reasoning questions that we have used include 'True or False' questions: true or false, when you add more your amount gets smaller? False because when you add more, your amount/ number gets bigger. Get your chidl to them prove this to you prctically. 

Spot the mistake is an absolute favourite as they love to pick up on the mistakes that you have made, especially writing numbers incorrectly! Is this how you write seventeen? 71. "No because the one needs to go first for teen numbers." You could take the explanantion further by explaining that it is because 17 is 10 and 7 more.

Prove it questions are a great challenge question to really stretch their minds: Find me all the ways to add to 5. Have you found them all? Prove it. This way they have to show you all the ways and explain why there are no more (because it would be more than 5). Again using practical object such as counters helps to reason this (see photo). 

Sorting and grouping is another good reasoning skill. We have used this in play, for example in the dinosaur small world, sorting the dinosaurs into herbivores and carnivores- "The T-Rex is a carnivore because it has sharp teeth and claws". This is then easily transferable to maths skills- sorting shapes (2D/ 3D, straight edges/ curved edges, more than 4 corners/ less than 4 corners) "The pyramid goes in 3D shapes because it is not a flat shape." For numbers sorting them based on whther they are more or less than a given number or have a certain digit in it, or maybe odd and even. (Sorting also works for phonics too! Words with certain sounds in/ vowels and consonant letter sorting).  

Do not be afraid to talk about and explore mistakes. Children learn from their mistakes and it is important to explore and explain them so that children learn from them. If children incorrectly write a number or answer a question, look at it with them and reassure them that it is ok to make that mistake and then correct it. Why isn't seventeen written as 71? Why isn't a square a 3D shape? 

In reception the most important thing is just for the children to explore maths and for it to be a fun part of everyday life and play.

Here are some links to useful websites:




How to encourage maths through play (a very good summary):



If you have any questions, or would like to know areas that you can work on with your child, then please do come and see us, otherwise I will speak to you at parents evening. 

Many thanks for your continued support

Mrs Williams


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