Using Numicon for an inclusive classroom

Child using Numicon
Child using Numicon

Johanna Aiyathurai, CEO of Learn and Thrive, talks to us about the importance of an inclusive classroom, and how Numicon can help you work towards making your classroom more inclusive. She also tells us about Teach Me Too – a free online library of learning resources designed for children with Down’s syndrome.

The Numicon team at Oxford University Press are delighted to be working with Learn and Thrive as part of their Teach Me Too project, supporting children’s educational development in a fun and interactive way!

For more information on using Numicon to teach children and young people with Down’s syndrome, read Johanna’s other recent blog post.

Inclusion is key!

The evidence is very clearly weighted to the benefits of mainstream education for children and young people (CYP) with Down’s syndrome [1]. But it isn’t just our students with additional needs that benefit from inclusive classrooms. Research from large-scale longitudinal studies in several countries (including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Finland) also suggest that the inclusion of students with disabilities does not lead to negative consequences for typically-developing students [2], while many others have found inclusive classrooms advantageous to some typical peers.

More importantly, inclusive classrooms breed inclusive societies. When you look around a classroom you are looking at the leaders of the future, the people who will one day be employers, politicians, healthcare workers, social carers. How can we expect those children to turn into inclusive leaders who value the skills of a diverse workforce if we don’t expose them to diverse learning experiences?

Our Teach Me Too series covers a wide range of areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum; giving you a whistle-stop tour of how to differentiate and plan your lessons with our CYP in mind.

How does Numicon support an inclusive classroom?

We see Numicon being utilised to support learning, enhance inclusion, and benefit the whole class. It can be easily and quickly used to differentiate a lesson or task – our Teach Me Too videos show some starter activities and strategies for using the equipment for early counting skills.

When a class is using Numicon, the children look around and see other children using the same manipulatives as them, accessing the same lesson as them – a child just like them. They don’t see the ‘special’ child, in the ‘special’ corner, doing the ‘special’ work, with their ‘special’ adult. They see a member of their class. The power of that should never be underestimated! The fact that Numicon can be used by everyone to support their learning and keep stretching their skills is one of the key factors that makes Numicon a brilliant tool for every school.

Do you need extra support in teaching your learners with Down’s syndrome?

Teach Me Too is an online library of short educational videos and accompanying learning resources, all designed around the specific learning profile of children with Down’s syndrome. With over 60 videos now available you can find something to support your child or learner. It is run by the charity Learn and Thrive, so all the videos are absolutely FREE.

The video library is produced in partnership with:

  • Inclusively Down – specialist teachers focussing on key early learning concepts and skills.
  • Symbol UK – leading providers of training and syndrome-specific speech and language therapy delivering ‘exploring language’ videos to support children in learning language for the Teach Me Too topic videos.
  • Key Communication – specialist speech and language therapist demonstrating activities to build early language skills through play.

Watching the videos together, or even without your child, can give ideas for games and strategies you can use in learning activities or when you are playing together with favourite toys and topics.

Our children learn through doing and having fun, so to get the most out of the videos, help them to do the activities by setting up toys and resources – there’s information alongside many videos. Sometimes children play and sign and say the words while they are watching a video, or they may watch the video and then do the activities at another time. Having fun playing with other people, and lots of practice helps our children to learn new skills. The best learning activities are the ones that become favourite games.


  1. Buckley, S, Bird, G, Sacks, B, and Archer, T. (2006) A comparison of mainstream and special education for teenagers with Down syndrome: Implications for parents and teachers. Down Syndrome Research and Practice , 9(3), 54-67. doi:10.3104/reports.295
  2. A SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE ON INCLUSIVE EDUCATION. Dr. Thomas Hehir, Silvana and Christopher Pascucci Professor of Practice in Learning Differences at the Harvard Graduate School of Education: