Our Approach to Early Maths

Our approach has been guided by evidence from research from the fields of education, psychology and educational neuroscience.

We are constantly reviewing and revising our material in line with new findings from educational research, along with results and observations from our trials.

Below is a broad summary of the main areas of research that we have used to inform our work, however please contact us if you would like a copy of the full thesis.

Executive Functions & Maths:

The skills of working memory, attention and self-regulation - executive functions - have been found to be essential in the development of children’s maths (1).

Studies have shown low executive function skills to be associated with low maths achievement from a young age (2) and early executive function skills have also been found to be related to later maths competence (3 & 4).

Early years have been highlighted as a crucial time in targeting these skills, with higher levels of executive function skills being found to relate to faster growth of maths skills in primary school (5).

Performance in both maths and executive functions have been found to be disproportionately associated to socio-economic status (6) and so focusing on these two areas could maximise the efficacy of an intervention targeting children from lower income families (7).

Number Sense & A Flexibility With Numbers:

Children with number sense are able to use numbers flexibly – decomposing and recomposing as a strategy to solve problems. An absence of number sense has been found to be critical to low achievement in maths (8).

Children who are not taught how to be flexible with numbers will often try to memorise methods and procedures, leading to maths becoming much more difficult (9).

Children need to be playing with numbers in order to develop their number sense rather than learning to follow instructions and remember rules (10).

Visual Maths:

Representing maths concepts with everyday objects and encouraging children to visualise, explore and manipulate them, will lead to a deeper understanding of mathematical structures (11 & 12).

Mathematical learning is enhanced when children use different pathways in the brain and the right side, that handles visual and spatial information, communicates with the left (13).

It is therefore important to strengthen the connections between the two areas of the brain and particularly important to strengthen the visual pathways.

Number Lines:

The mental number line has been suggested to underlie numerical understanding (14) and so children need exposure to number lines.

A study into the impact of playing linear numerical board games on closing the gap in children’s numerical skills from different backgrounds found this approach to be highly successful in a very short time (15).

Number Talk:

Parental verbal input has been identified as strongly relating to early maths outcomes (16) and socio-economic status is positively correlated with quantity of parental number talk (17)

Findings like these suggest number talk being a key area to focus on in work with parents in interventions targeting children from lower income families.


  • 1) Menon & Uddin (2010)
  • 2) Clark, Sheffield, Wiebe & Epsy (2013)
  • 3) Blair & Raza (2007)
  • 4) Rothlisberger, Neuenschwander, Cimeli & Roebers (2013)
  • 5) Lee & Bull (2016)
  • 6) Geary (2007)
  • 7) Noble, McCandliss & Farah (2007)
  • 8) Gray & Tall (1994)
  • 9) Boaler (2009)
  • 10) Boaler (2016)
  • 11) Humphreys & Parker (2015)
  • 12) Yew Hoong, Weng Kin, Lu Pien (2015)
  • 13) Park & Bannon (2013)
  • 14) Okamoto & Case (1996)
  • 15) Ramani & Siegler (2008)
  • 16) Anders, Robach, Weinert (2012)
  • 17) Gunderson & Levine (2011)