Preschool numeracy: fun with odds and evens

On one of our regular FaceTime calls last week, my granddaughter Daisy made one of her frequent surprise announcements. She carefully explained to me that she and Daddy “are even numbers” and Mummy “is an odd number”. She added that, following her next birthday, she (Daisy) would be odd, Daddy would also be odd and Mummy would be even – quite a turnaround!

Obviously, she was talking about their individual ages, and whether they were an odd number or an even number; Daisy is four years old and very proud of it.

Daisy continued to explore her curiosity about odd and even numbers with me, explaining that hers is an odd-number family and that they live in an odd-number house. 

I didn’t know what had triggered her recent interest in this topic, but I think the seed was probably planted many months ago when she watched the Numberblocks episode about odds and evens, and that she’s had an opportunity to explore it further when playing with her set of multicoloured Mathlink cubes.

Numberblocks Mathlinks cubes are shown configured for the number three (3) and four (4) to show the distinction between odd and even numbers
Daisy’s interest in odds and evens was triggered by Numberblocks

Being able to use the correct mathematical vocabulary is part of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Number patterns and vocabulary can easily be slipped into our conversations, and young children quickly learn this language as we use it in their daily lives. 

Children will gradually gain the confidence to apply that vocabulary to understand and make comparisons in the things that they see. For example, Daisy’s bike has an even number of wheels, while her scooter has an odd number of wheels; she has an even number of small-world toy cats and an odd number of dinosaurs.

Activities with a 100-square number board or a simple 100-square printable sheet will also help children to visualise number patterns, while playing with math cubes or counters helps them to see the number patterns in their play. 

Before long, you may discover that they’re calculating which members of the household are odd, and which are even!

Granny Smith says

Understanding number patterns makes counting, quantities and solving number problems so much easier to do – it is a skill worth nurturing gently when you see an opportunity during play sessions.

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