Back to school tips – how to get started with Numicon

Children using Numicon and writing their workings out on the tables.

We know that starting a new school year can sometimes be daunting – especially when you’re going to be working with new resources. If you’re using Numicon for the first time this September, there’s no need to worry! Lydia Davison – class teacher at Overdale Junior School – has the answers to your questions.

How does Numicon help children learn?

We found that Numicon unlocks so many mathematical concepts for children and allows them to:

  • Explore
  • See
  • Think about
  • Talk about

maths in the classroom.

Does Numicon work for all students?

Yes. Numicon scaffolds the learning for all users.

Sometimes, we can fall into the trap of assuming manipulatives are not suitable or needed for those who have a good understanding of mathematical concepts, but this is not the case.

To ensure deep conceptual understanding, consider how you could extend the task within the practical phase of your lesson, rather than using printed resources.

How can I include Numicon in my lessons?

Think about the core knowledge that you want the children to understand by the end of a lesson and work backwards from there.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which resource will best help the children to see and understand this? If you are using a pre-planned Numicon lesson or activity, encourage teachers to walk and talk through it first
  • What is the language that will need to be drawn out?
  • What misconceptions will arise?
  • What questions will the children ask?

A great starting place is the online teacher guides and handbooks on Oxford Owl.

How do I get my classroom ready for Numicon?

Ensure that the children have space to explore Numicon.

We encourage the children to use the full tabletop so that they can make, write, draw and compare examples as they go. Sometimes a mini whiteboard just is not big enough!

Children using Numicon and writing their workings out on the tables.
Children using Numicon and writing their workings out on the tables.

How can I use Numicon? – practical examples

Lydia provided us with some excellent demonstrations of how she uses Numicon in her classroom.

Children using Numicon tiles to work out perimeter.
Children using Numicon tiles to work out perimeter.

In this example, the children are using Numicon to work out perimeter. The differently shaped tiles help children visualise complex shapes.

Children using Numicon tiles to work out area.
Children using Numicon tiles to work out area.

Using differently numbered Numicon tiles to make shapes with the same area gives children the chance to explore the relationship between shapes and numbers.

Using Numicon tiles to move between mixed and improper fractions.
Using Numicon tiles to move between mixed and improper fractions.

Numicon tiles and pegs make denominators and numerators much easier to visualise – helping children move with ease between mixed and improper fractions.

Using Numicon tiles to represent square numbers.
Using Numicon tiles to represent square numbers.

Numicon is a great way to introduce children to square numbers. Making squares by adding the odd numbered tiles together helps children visualise the consecutive pattern of square numbers.

Based on a concrete-pictorial-abstract approach, Numicon encourages children to explore maths using structured imagery and apparatus in order to understand and explain mathematical concepts.

Want to know how to get the most from your Numicon resources? Sign up for our NCETM-accredited Professional Development.

Go to our website to find out more about Numicon and take advantage of our 20% off back-to-school discount*.

*Ts and Cs: UK Schools only. Minimum spend £500. Valid on printed resources and apparatus only. Available 1st July 2022 – 30th September 2022. Excludes subscriptions and Nuffield Early Language. Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.