Do we really value children’s early mark- making enough to develop mathematics?


The benefits of early mark making

• Helps communication also enriches and extends thinking

• Helps problem solving and is all about ‘thinking on paper’

• Helps sequencing and processing information

• Helps to make sense of the world, discovering different ways of finding and organising solutions,

• Seeing objects in symbolic form

• Providing opportunities to talk about processes

• A way of representing thoughts and feelings

• Using symbols to carry meaning

• Manipulating relevant amounts

• Using marks as tools to make things visible

• Marks support the developing concepts of mathematical language

• Motivation and disposition towards learning

• Pure physical enjoyment – the feel of the pen as it glides, or grates on bumpy tarmac or the look and

feel of bright paint dribbling

• Sensory learning

• Develops confidence

• Develops dexterity

• Recognising patterns

• Develops an understanding about the value of recording

• A way of holding more information

• Developing further the ability to follow meaningful lines of enquiry

• Following a fascination with numbers, shape and space

• There are many more - mark making is more complex and is incorporated into a child’s thinking

In the independent Review of Mathematics Teaching in Early Years Settings and Primary Schools, chaired by Sir Peter Williams in 2008, it established that while it is quite common to see children making marks in role play, it is comparatively rare to find adults supporting children in making mathematical marks as part of developing their abilities to extend and organise their mathematical thinking.

After fifteen years of research and study, Carruthers and Worthington, and Mills and O’Keefe argue that a ‘true mathematical literacy must originate not from a methodology, but from a theory of learning – one that views mathematics not as a series of formulas, calculations, or even problem solving techniques, but as a way of knowing and learning about the world. Carruthers and Worthington argue that it is clear that emergent mathematics helps children become confident mathematicians, and that children’s own mathematical graphics and the way in which they use their own marks to make their own meanings allows them to link their informal play based concrete mathematics with the abstract symbolism of school mathematics. 

• Become aware of the developmental stages that children work through on their way to becoming a confident writer

• Consider how mark-making can be encouraged throughout your early years setting

• Provide as many appropriate opportunities as possible, through using interesting writing resources and accessible low level storage both inside and outdoors for children to develop emergent writing and numbers that they can initiate themselves

• Plan to spend time with children in their role play to demonstrate that writing and note making is a valued activity, and very useful for the children to use. Provide initial ideas and use appropriate vocabulary when modelling different ways to record and use writing for a purpose.