Play idea: Maths – Pāngarau

Maths is about counting, sorting, matching, pattern-making, sequencing, (for example, large to small), comparing items, size, colours, weight and volume.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • All early learning services 
  • Educators, teachers and kaiako
  • Service managers
  • Parents, caregivers and whānau

Children learn through play. Below is some information about a play idea for your children.

Maths can help children to

  • learn to count, weigh and measure
  • learn to analyse and solve problems
  • develop hand–eye coordination and muscles
  • understand shapes, sizes and patterns
  • solve problems, estimate, predict, compare, classify, and notice differences and similarities.

Adults can support children by

  • drawing attention to shapes, patterns and numbers in their everyday environment
  • pointing out the maths in everyday situations
  • having a positive attitude to maths
  • taking opportunities to introduce mathematical language
  • choosing songs about numbers, counting or words
  • encouraging them to use mathematical ideas in different places.

Every day there are opportunities for children to learn about maths

  • counting eg dogs in the street or red cars that pass
  • singing number songs and rhymes eg in the bath or in the car
  • identifying numbers eg on letterboxes, number plates or road signs
  • sorting objects eg colours, metal, wood or plastic
  • measuring eg length of footsteps, the weight of pumpkins or height of children
  • comparing sizes eg stones, shells, houses or animals
  • identifying shapes eg round road signs or square windows.

Providing for maths

Maths can be found and supported in every area of play. When the equipment is set out, dividing the dough, and giving out drinks at morning tea, maths concepts such as sorting, organising and matching are being used.

Ideas for equipment

Put together kits that encourage the use of mathematical concepts:

  • bakery kit: recipe cards, bowls, cooking utensils
  • supermarket kit: empty boxes, play money, scales, shopping lists, price tags, cash register
  • measuring and weighing kit: tools such as rulers and scales.

Te Whāriki

Maths is relevant to all the strands of Te Whāriki. In particular, children’s developing maths capability is supported in the communication strand, where they experience the symbols of their culture, including that of numbers and other mathematical concepts. It is also supported in the exploration strand, where children develop working theories about spatial understandings and where they learn strategies for active exploration, thinking and reasoning.

This play idea has been developed for playgroups. Feel free to use it at other types of ECE service, but make sure you're still following the regulations and licensing criteria that apply to your service type. Parents may also find this information useful.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback