About cookies

The NCETM site uses cookies. Read more about our privacy policy

Please agree to accept our cookies. If you continue to use the site, we'll assume you're happy to accept them.


Personal Learning Login

Sign Up | Forgotten password?
Register with the NCETM

Calculations : Early Years : Mathematics Content Knowledge

Key Stage
Key Stage

Next Question

Enter the Self-evaluation Tools
Self-evaluation Tools
Currently viewing
Early Years
Question 1 of 28

1. How confident are you in explaining the following key concepts which underpin the ability to calculate:

a. object permanence?


Babies often think that objects have gone for good if they are out of sight. Most young children know that this is not the case, but providing examples to confirm this can aid children’s calculation skills, especially for those with learning difficulties.

For example, counting a known number of marbles into a bag and then asking a child how many she has if she is given 2 more makes her calculate with objects she can no longer see. A mischievous teddy hiding things under his hat can be used to develop the same principle.

What this might look like in the classroom

A soft toy or puppet which can hide things (under a hat of in a pouch or bag) is an excellent teaching aid for mathematics. Using a brightly coloured sock with stuck on fabric eyes is a great way to introduce this. 'Oddsock' can grab things with his mouth and put them into another (but differently coloured) sock. Children can talk about how many he has put in there and a dialogue can be established. Oddsock can pretend he has only put in one etc. Children can hold his sock bag and get really involved.

Taking this mathematics further

Being sure that objects and later quantities stay the same whether in or out of sight, is the beginning of a long road of human development. Once children have achieved this stage in cognitive maturity, they can begin to move on the much more sophisticated and abstract thought processes which mark them out as mathematical beings. From this very 'concrete' stage (Piaget) they can begin to think about and visualise quantities, patterns and numbers and to mentally manipulate them.

Making connections

In infancy, object permanence occurs when a very young child or baby understands that something is still there even though it has been hidden from them. In mathematical terms this is an important mathematical piece of cognition which progresses into the understanding that the number of objects stays the same whether they are close together or spaced apart. Only when a child understands this, are they ready to begin moving groups of objects around in pre−addition activities.
If a sock puppet is use, later when the children already he can be referred to as the 'subtraction sock'

Related information and resources from the NCETM

Related information and resources from other sites

Related courses from the NCETM

Add to your NCETM favourites
Remove from your NCETM favourites
Add a note on this item
Recommend to a friend
Comment on this item
Send to printer
Request a reminder of this item
Cancel a reminder of this item