Numeracy for all (VSO)

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Stories, rhymes and games

Each culture has its own stories, games and rhymes which help young children understand the world into which they are born. If the stories, games and rhymes address mathematical concepts then children learn naturally to understand aspects of mathematics. We suggest you put together your list of teaching resources through talking to experienced teachers and families in your community or write your own if you can’t  find stories in your language. You'll find many of the links in this guide show you how games can be used in the teaching of mathematics.

The Games at Home video series for anyone wanting to help children learn mathematics. The videos show how to make and use no- or low-cost resources. Learning maths is not just about reciting tables - to be mathematically competent children need to be able to apply mathematics and they learn how to do this through practice in many different situations. Games are perfect for deepening learning of mathematics.

Stories: The link below gives you access to over 500 stories, drawn from different countries, covering 44 mathematical concepts. Dr N. Trakulphadetkrai from the University of Reading, UK leads an international team researching the learning of mathematics through stories. At the time of writing they are recommending over 500 stories:

Their guidelines for writing mathematical stories are here:
We recommend spending some time exploring this site. 

Teaching Mathematics through Storytelling - Dr N. Trakulphadetkrai, University of Reading, UK
The use of storytelling to enhance mathematics learning and teaching has the potential to develop not only children’s mathematical thinking, but also their language development (Hassinger-Das, Jordan, & Dyson, 2015; Purpura, Napoli, Wehrspann, & Gold, 2017). This is particularly crucial as existing research (e.g. Trakulphadetkrai, Courtney, Clenton, Treffers-Daller, & Tsakalaki, 2017) found that young children’s language ability (as measured by reading comprehension level and vocabulary knowledge level, among others) is significantly correlated with their mathematical word problem solving ability. However, a series of on-going international survey studies (e.g. Prendergast, Harbison, Miller, & Trakulphadetkrai, 2019) have so far found that the majority of teachers of young children in different countries are not aware that it is possible to use storytelling and children’s literature in mathematics teaching.
To address this knowledge gap among mathematics teachers, a non-profit project called was established to encourage teachers globally to become aware of the pedagogical benefits of using storytelling (particular in the picture book format) to enhance mathematics teaching and learning. The website offers a wide range of free on-line resources, for example, 500+ recommendations of mathematical stories; 100+ book reviews; lesson ideas and blog posts. Since the launch of the website in Spring 2017, it has now been viewed over 400,000 times by more than more than 85,000 teachers and parents from over 190 countries. The project also organises the world’s first annual international mathematics story writing competition for children aged 8-15 years old.
If you have not used storytelling in your mathematics teaching before, please visit the website to learn more about this mathematics teaching approach.

Hassinger-Das, B., Jordan, N. C., & Dyson, N. (2015). Reading stories to learn math: Mathematics vocabulary instruction for children with early numeracy difficulties. Elementary School Journal, 116(2), 242–264.
Prendergast, M., Harbison, L., Miller, S., & Trakulphadetkrai, N. V. (2019). Pre-service and in-service teachers’ perceptions on the integration of children’s literature in mathematics teaching and learning in Ireland. Irish Educational Studies, 38(2), 157-175.
Purpura, D. J., Napoli, A. R., Wehrspann, E. A., & Gold, Z. S. (2017). Causal connections between mathematical language and mathematical knowledge: A dialogic reading Intervention. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 10(1), 116-137.
Trakulphadetkrai, N. V., Courtney, L., Clenton, J., Treffers-Daller, J., & Tsakalaki, A. (2017). The contribution of general language ability, reading comprehension and working memory to mathematics achievement among children with English as additional language (EAL): An exploratory study. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Retrieved from:
Dr. Natthapoj Vincent Trakulphadetkrai is a Lecturer in Primary Mathematics Education at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education. He tweets at @NatthapojVinceT and @MathsStories.