At Maidwell we believe in creating firm foundations of understanding of numbers. In order to achieve this we use Numicon Shapes.
Numicon Shapes are designed to exploit three key strengths of young children, to help them understand numbers. These three strengths are their abilities to learn by doing, learn by seeing, and to exploit their strong sense of pattern. The Numicon Shapes have been designed for children to manipulate them, to observe and notice, and to explore patterns when using them.
Mathematically, the design of the Numicon Shapes helps children to see connections between numbers by manipulating and making connections using the Shapes. A key understanding for children is that numbers are not just randomly occurring things, but that they form a highly organised system – which is full of many kinds of patterns.
There are two types of addition situations: those where quantities are added together and those where ‘something more’ is added (i.e where there is an increase). We need to introduce both situations, and use the language appropriate to each situation. The key words are ‘together’ and ‘more’. Adding prices together when shopping uses ‘together’, whilst discussing how much a child has grown involves ‘more’. We need also to remember to present both kinds of situation when using apparatus, so you will find that both these addition structures are addressed in the activities.
Subtraction involves four different kinds of situation, which is one reason that understanding (long doing) subtraction is much more difficult for children than addition. First, we can have ‘take away’, in which there is loss (e.g. if some of the biscuits on the plate are eaten). Second, there is ‘decrease’, in which there is less (e.g. when prices are reduced in a sale). Third, there is ‘comparison’, in which there is difference (e.g. when comparing the heights of two children of different ages). Fourth, we can keep adding to see how far we have to go to reach a target – we could call this ‘the opposite of addition’ (e.g. working out how much longer there is until lunchtime). Once again, when using Numicon apparatus it is important to present all four situations and emphasise the appropriate language.
Numicon Shapes are designed primarily to help children visualise and deal with number ideas. As they handle the Shapes, move and rearrange them, they experience and learn about shape and space, which are important ideas. They see and experience transformation and changes in position.
They will also notice the symmetry and asymmetry of even and odd Numicon number Shapes, and in fitting the Shapes together they can experiment by turning the Shapes over (reflections), turning them round (rotations), and moving them together (translations). The introductory activity in this Kit involving covering the Baseboard with Numicon Shapes (area) is important because this experience allows the children to explore the various shape properties of the patterns and begin to learn some essential geometric ideas, which will help them ‘see’ the connections between the associated number ideas in a visual language.
Creating a number-rich environment – Giving number a high visual profile.