Teaching Maths, Phonics and Handwriting in Reception



Learning Progression 

Counting and beginning number sense

We work along side the children to assess their number knowledge when they join the class. We will then use a variety of resources to make learning fun and move the children on to the the next stage. Number takes place in all areas of the classroom, for example in the role play area we might need to work out how many cups we need for the teddies and when another one arrives what that will mean. Can we make enough play dough cakes for the 5 plates, and how many will we have if we drop one? In this way the children are involved in solving real life problems and find learning stimulating. Once they are secure with numbers to 5 we move on to 10 and then begin simple recording of number facts. Eventually the children will begin to count accurately to 20 and beyond.





One-to-One Correspondence






Being able to visually recognise a quantity of 5 or less.

Being able to compare quantities by identifying which has more and which has less.

The rote procedure of counting.

Includes both verbal counting and object counting. The actual meaning attached to counting is developed through one- to- one correspondence.

Being able to connect one number with object and then count each object with understanding.

Being able to tell how many objects are in a set – understanding that the last word in the counting sequence names the quantity for that set.

Understand numbers are nested inside each other and the number grows by one each count. For example 3 is inside 4 or 4 is the same as 3+1 more.

The number of objects remains the same when they are rearranged spatially. For example, 5 can be…

4and 1 or

3 and 2 or

2 and 3, etc.

In class we use ten frames , number lines, such as this numicon number line pictured above and later the 100 square, to help children visualise numbers and their order.

  Shape, Space and Measure

Children will be taught to:

  • use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems.
  •  recognise, create and describe patterns.
  •  explore characteristics of everyday objects and shapes and use mathematical language to describe them, and to be able to construct effectively using blocks of various sizes and shapes.

Supporting maths at home

Notice numbers  and shapes in the environment, e.g. on buses, cars and doors.


Top marks has some fun counting activities for reception age children.

 When sharing a bag of sweets work out how many each person will be able to have.

Set the table for visitors or a dolls party.

Measure ingredients when cooking and make sure you have enough cakes for everyone.

Count all sorts of objects, but also count things other than objects e.g. how many jumps or skips you can do.

Sing lots of number rhymes e.g. ten green bottles, 5 currant buns, 12345 once I caught a fish alive etc.

Here is one that goes up to 20:

 Phonics in Reception

What are phonics? 

Let's start at the beginning...

Each one of the 26 letters in the alphabet has its own ‘sound'. This is very different to how a letter is ‘said' in the alphabet. For example:

‘a' in ‘arrow’

‘b' in ‘bat’.

Of course phonics learning  is not that simple! There are more than 26 sounds in English language, in fact there are 44 sounds in total. Some of these sounds are made up of 2 or 3 letters. 2 letter sounds are called digraphs and three letter sounds are called trigraphs.



It gets a bit more complicated than that too!

For example the 'n' sound, like in 'nail' is also spelt ‘kn' like in ‘knot’ or ‘gn' like in ‘gnome’.

The sound that children struggle to spot the most when breaking down words into individual sounds is the 'split digraph'. Like a normal digraph, this is when two letters work together to make one sound, however with a split digraph, they are separated and have a letter in the middle.

Fortunately ‘split digraphs' always end with an ‘e' which does make them a little easier to spot!

Examples of split digraphs include:

 We appreciate there has been a few new words thrown at you  so below is a little phonics codebreaker .

The phonics codebreaker 

Phoneme - a sound as it is said

Grapheme - a sound that is written

Digraph- two letters that work together to make the same sound

Trigraph - Three letters that work together to make the same sound

Split digraph - Two letters that work together to make the same sound, separated by another letter

If you didn't learn to read using phonics it can seem very complicated, but once the concept of words being made up of just 44 sounds is understood, children are able to make remarkably quick progress in their reading.
Letter and Sound Charts complement Jolly Phonics | Jolly phonics, Phonics,  Phonics instruction

How are phonics taught in school? 

The first lesson in phonics is teaching children to recognise and differentiate between different sounds. This typically starts by asking children to listen to sounds that you can hear, such as the sounds that animals make, or sounds you hear when you go outside. Children are encouraged to 'sound talk' words, for example peg is p-e-g, in this way the child is noticing each sound in the word.

As schooling progresses children are then taught simple, single letter sounds from the alphabet, before moving on to learning about digraphs, trigraphs and split digraphs.

At Middle Street we use 'Letters and Sounds' a scheme of lessons with clear progression.

Children are also introduced to 'Phonics play' which has a series of fun games for the class to play on the computer screen.

'Jolly Phonics' has a memorable song for each phoneme and is used in Reception - see the video below.

To make learning fun,  teachers will often teach sounds through multi sensory activities such as singing or dancing or by playing games, both physical and online. All children learn differently so it is vital that teachers make learning as varied as possible.



Supporting phonics learning at home

Learn the songs and actions with Jolly Phonic videos. This video shows you the order the phonemes are taught in.

Reading the books your child brings home and noticing the sounds in words will reinforce phonics taught in the classroom. The class teacher will keep you informed about which sounds are being taught each week.

Read a bedtime story to your child, so that they become a good listener and a story lover.

Sound talk simple words and see if your child can say the word e.g. c-a-t = cat

Some words are known as 'tricky' words because they cannot be decoded using phonics. We need to learn these words, in reception these are:

The class teacher will let you know  which words you should be working on.

Try to make learning fun and if your child is getting frustrated take a break. 

You may enjoy the alpha blocks online.


What activities can help improve writing readiness (pre-writing) skills?

  • Threading and lacing with a variety of sized laces.
  • Play-doh (playdough) activities that may involve rolling with hands or a rolling pin, hiding objects such as coins in the play dough or just creative construction.
  • Scissor projects that may involve cutting out geometric shapes to then paste them together to make pictures such as robots, trains or houses.
  • Tongs or teabag squeezers to pick up objects.
  • Drawing or writing on a vertical surface.
  • Every day activities that require finger strength such as opening containers and jars.
  • Pre writing shapes: Practice drawing the pre-writing shapes (l, —, O, +, /, square, \, X, and Δ).
  • Finger games: that practice specific finger movements such as Incy wincy Spider.
  • Craft: Make things using old boxes, egg cartons, wool, paper and sticky or masking tape.
  • Construction: Building with duplo, lego, mobilo or other construction toys.