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Our Approach

#325 Developing Literacy and Maths – Wigwams Nursery

Nicole Atkinson

What did we do?

One of the main aims for the project was for all staff to work on an area within maths and literacy, that they felt inspired by, confident and enjoyed the most, with the hope this would build their confidence in their abilities to teach maths and literacy. Each staff member would choose a book and plan activities for their key children to participate in and the book would be changed every 2 weeks. One of the books that were chosen by a staff member was ‘Oh no George’ and we extended the opportunity by taking a small group of children to the theatre to see the live show. We selected the children who we felt this would most benefit and where this opportunity would support their literacy and maths skills, as well as build their confidence and resilience. Each staff member also highlighted which area’s within maths and literacy they feel they need support with.

Literacy was the most common area staff felt they need support in, so we booked some literacy training (Story telling) and staff have been using different techniques and activity ideas from the training, within their practice. One of the main things staff have changed since this training is reducing the number of books within the room at any one time. We have seen this repetition of a smaller number of books has impacted the children hugely. The children have been more engaged with books the more they have been read, some children have been showing increased confidence by asking questions and telling us what they notice, and we believe this is from the amount of exposure the children have had to the same books has enabled them to become familiar. The literacy training has also supported staff with mathematics because part of the storytelling session spoke about the use of mathematical language and exposing children to new language, for example instead of saying big or large, using words like enormous and gigantic, which I have observed staff using more and more.

As part of the project the Opportunity Area has delivered frequent training for those participating in the project. Some of the training that Laura found beneficial she put into a presentation and delivered training to the entire team. Peer observations are completed monthly amongst staff, this ensures that each member of the team is working at an outstanding standard and supports them with their confidence and areas to improve on, ensuring better outcomes for the children. We created Maths and literacy home learning bags which the families have just started taking home. There is a list of activities they can use to support them with their home learning or they can use them how they feel would be most beneficial

“The focus on literacy and mathematics at group time has really helped my key children with their confidence. At the beginning some of the children could recognise numerals 1-5, and now they can recognise up to 10, some of them can now recognise their names and letters that they could not before. One child could not recognise any numbers and he can now identify numbers 1 to 10”

One of our early years educators

Summary of impact

The project has boosted confidence in teaching maths and literacy within the team, it has become more of a focus and staff are using maths and literacy-based language throughout day-to-day interactions and activities as well as focused work. The children have been really engaged in the focused activities and the stories and are able to use their new skills independently within their play. By analysing the tracking data, we can see that children have progressed within their mathematics and literacy. Before the project we had 4 children emerging in reading, 2 children emerging in writing, 5 children emerging in numbers and 4 children emerging in shape, space and measure. All of these children are now where they are expected to be within these 4 areas, and 2 of these children are exceeding in mathematics.

Steps taken

Initially I observed staff in the preschool room, noting down areas I felt could be improved and what they were already great at. After speaking with members of the team, asking them to complete a survey, peer observations and looking at tracking data from the previous term I discovered that the need for additional support was equal for both maths and literacy. I worked closely with the team to put forward an effective plan that would both be sustainable and impactful. I shared my ideas with them and asked for their input too. They shared with me that they used to each choose a book read with their key children for 1 month at every group time, the idea here would support the children’s confidence in re-telling stories, understanding how books work, extending vocabulary and much more.

We agreed that one month was far too long so reduced it to 2 weeks and planning activities that directly focus on both maths and literacy which would develop the children’s maths and literacy skills, keep the book interesting, build on staff confidence and teaching abilities and improve outcomes. Staff began planning their books and activities and carrying out the planned work. This changed every 2 weeks. I looked through our resources and decided on what we needed. These were then chosen and ordered. We ordered a table with scales on for the mud kitchen, some potion bottles that have measurements on, giant beads and patterns, table top scales, hand puppets, number pebbles, story sacks and some nesting dolls. Some of these resources we have been using in the room and some have been for focused activities and a lot for the families to borrow at home. Laura planned and delivered training that felt would support staff most, this was focused on communication, language, and speech as it is an area that has been significantly impacted since the pandemic began. Being a prime area, it was essential to focus on communication and language as this will support the children’s maths and literacy skills. Since the project has been on going, I have regularly checked in with staff and adjusted the original plan, to better support them and the children. For example, initially the plan was that staff would have their own area within to focus on. We found that after the first six weeks of continuously planning activities for the same area of learning, it became less exciting, staff lacked inspiration and enthusiasm dropped. It also made staff feel limited with what they were able to do.

We quickly adjusted the plan so that staff would focus on any area of maths and literacy, the area’s they felt their key group would benefit from most. This has been a much more successful plan; staff have enjoyed it and the children continue to be engaged and are learning.

What would we do differently

I would have spent more time focusing on the families and developing their knowledge and confidence in teaching maths and literacy. I would have loved to have planned ‘stay and play’ activities with the families so they could see what we do first hand and hopefully learn from it. I also planned to do some Zoom calls/online videos to show families simple ways of teaching maths and literacy with their children, just by using everyday items or when outdoors but found there were many limits with covid cases and sickness.

Resources required

I found that the main thing I needed to implement the project was time. Everything that was achieved took a lot of time and careful planning, which I felt was key to ensure that the project was successful and most effective. Resources that were purchased were beneficial but not essential. From the £2,000 project money £400 was allocated for training, £250 for the storytelling training and £150 for some phonics training booked in for later this year. £60 was spent on a theatre trip and the rest was spent on resources both for in setting and for families to take home, as felt this would be the biggest benefit to the children. Other than money we needed a laptop and the internet which was already accessible through Wigwams.

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Developing literacy and numeracy teaching in an EY setting - Nature Den Nursery

Developing practitioner confidence in teaching early literacy and numeracy - Wellington Nursery

Making Maths Matter - St Helen's Playgroup

Implementing Maths into the Early Years Setting - ABC Childcare

Improving Literacy Skills - Early Years @ Highfield Whitehouse

Improving Maths as an Early Years Implementation Lead - Happy Tots Pre-School

Supporting Early Literacy - Rainbow Bright Nursery

Maths in Action - Little Learners Nursery

Developing early numeracy and literacy - Daisy Chain Pre-School

Improving mathematical and literacy development in all areas of learning - Sunflowers Preschool, Ipswich

Improving Early Literacy - The Children's Triangle Nursery


Wigwams Nursery

Lisa Wright


Wigwams Nursery

Tash Soames

Preschool Senior