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Summary of Reference

Young-Loveridge, Jenny

The Acquisition of Numeracy

Bibliographic data:
Young-Loveridge, J. (1999). The acquisition of numeracy. set, Research Information for Teachers, 1.

Understanding the number system is the key to teaching and learning mathematics. This paper outlines a framework that shows how children think about the number system.

The framework consists of four stages, each characterised by a major shift in ways of thinking about numbers:

  1. Unitary concept (for single and multi-digit numbers). This involves knowledge of number word sequences, counting processes, part-whole relationships, numerals and number patterns.
  2. Ten-structured concept. The whole decade is partitioned into units of ones.
  3. Multi-unit concept. Units of tens and ones counted separately which can be traded and exchanged.
  4. Extended multi-unit concept. Units can be any power of ten.

This developmental framework is supported by research using a representative group of 97 seven year olds. It shows how children’s understanding of the number system becomes increasingly sophisticated as their thinking develops and allows teachers to differentiate among their students on the basis of the children’s understanding of the number system.

The paper gives a number of suggestions for teachers to help them in their teaching of place value. The use of concrete materials, particularly those which can be grouped and ungrouped as needed, is emphasised.