Enabling Environments: Tried and tested - Make it count

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Early maths resources must be inspiring and imaginative or they will lose the children's interest. Staff in early years settings check out a varied selection for Sue Hubberstey.

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COUNT AND SHOUT!
Beam
Age Range: 3 - 5
Price: £65
Contact: 01242 267945
www.beam.co.uk

This is a set of six collecting, matching and domino games covering counting, number recognition, matching shapes, positional language, number order and 'one more than', designed for use with small groups of children.

Tested by St Michael's School, Barnstaple, Devon

'The children were immediately drawn to these games and they have helped them to reinforce their number recognition in a very visual and fun way. They especially enjoyed playing the hedgehog game using positional language. The games have unlimited possibilities and the instruction booklet clearly set out the learning outcomes. One child thought up new games by changing the rules. All in all, one of the best resources I have used for developing simple mathematical concepts.'

RATING: ****

BUNNIES
Sweet Counter
Age Range: 3-plus
Price: £10 per set
Contact: 07973 152064
www.sweetcounter.co.uk

These are from the Playground Pictures range. The number line shows double laminated card bunnies numbered from one to ten in graduated sizes, with the brown and grey bunnies alternating to show odd and even numbers. Each bunny holds an appropriate number of carrots. The reverse side shows them without carrots and numbers so that children can order and write in their own numbers and then turn it over to check if they are correct. The set includes a photocopiable booklet.

Tested by Bolsover Infants School, Derbyshire

'The bunnies are colourful, attractive resources, but something which teachers could easily make themselves, especially now that images can be downloaded from the internet and good quality laminating is available. They are visually good for SEN children but would need to be more kinaesthetic and auditory to really grab them.'

RATING: **

DOTSY
Asco
Age Range: 3 - 5
Price: £51.50
Contact: 0113 2707070
www.ascoeducational.co.uk

This game features counting and number bonds, one to ten. It consists of a wooden box with lid, two leaf activity boards, 62 wings with dots and 48 round assignment cards, plus instructions. The game is designed to help children to find all the possible ways to split numbers up to ten and is for up to four players.

Tested by Oakington Primary School, Cambridge

'The packaging says this is for nursery children, but it is more suitable for Reception and even Year 1. You can only sensibly use this with two children, which doesn't make it good value for money, although it is well made. The concept is good and it's tactile and colourful, so all the children wanted to play with it, but not in order to enhance their mathematical learning. There were squabbles over who was to have the leaf. This seems to us much more limited than the company suggests.'

RATING: **

COUNTING CAKES
TTS Early Steps
Age Range: 3 - 5
Price: £29.99
Contact: 0800 318686
www.tts-shopping.com

Each cake has a number from one to ten painted on the side, with the same number of holes in which to put the candles on top. Included are ten cakes 7cm in diameter, 72 candles 5cm high, and a guide.

Tested by Dilham Pre-school, Norwich

'Our children were able to grasp the idea of counting the number of candles to put on the cake, and these reinforced colour recognition. The texture and size of the cakes made them easy to handle. The candles might be put into mouths. We were a bit surprised by the price - £10 to £15 seems more reasonable and would make it better value for money.'

RATING: ****

20 PENGUIN PUZZLE
Hope
Age Range: 3 plus
Price: £25.95
Contact: 08451 202055
www.hope-education.co.uk

These linking penguins, made of renewable rubberwood, are designed as a first number line and sequence puzzle.

Tested by Holy Cross Playgroup, Motspur Park, Surrey

'This had a variety of uses. It is primarily a number line puzzle from one to 20, but by splitting the puzzles into separate pieces the children could play with them as toy penguins, while lower numbers, say 1 to 5, were introduced according to the child's age and ability. The puzzle is quite difficult to piece together, as each bit has to fit in the correct numerical order, but this can be used to stretch the learning of the older children. We think it good value for money but wish that the puzzle had been supplied in a box to make it easier to pack away.'

RATING: ****

TALK MATHS FOUNDATION STAGE BOARD GAMES PACK
Beam
Age Range: 3 - 5
Price: £34.50
Contact: As before

The set comprises five A2 laminated board games, dice, spinners, counters and shapes, a hanging bag and teacher's notes. The games are In Our Street (number in order): Collecting (counting); The Car Park (comparing lengths); Footprints (properties of shape); The Park (position and direction).

Tested by Frederick Bird Primary School, Coventry

'The boards are sturdy and the resources provided to support the games are of good quality. Including the Early Learning Goals addressed by each game on the back of the board was useful. However, the games allowed only two to four children to play at a time and it was necessary to have an adult helper on hand to give support, which makes them impractical in a busy reception class of 30 children. If the games were simpler the children would be able to play independently. The pictures on the boards tend to be too fussy and detailed, which we found distracted and confused the children when they were trying to understand the purpose of each game. They are supposed to encourage children to use mathematical language through play, and while two of the games were successful in this, the remaining three did not extend our children's learning.'

RATING: **

STAR RATING
5 - Excellent
4 - Very Good
3 - Good
2 - Satisfactory
1 - Less Than Satisfactory

BEST BUY

For Lesley Parratt, Gaer Infant and Nursery School, Newport, South Wales

'We love our Squidgy Sparkle Numbers. We have had them for ages and still use them all the time. They are plastic numbers filled with coloured, sparkly liquid and are very tactile and versatile. We use them both indoors and outside, as they are big enough to make a number line which can be seen from a distance. We are also fond of our basic coloured wooden blocks, which we use for teaching shapes and for counting as well as for construction.'

Squidgy Sparkle Numbers 0 - 10 from TTS Early Steps, £19.99.

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