How to build a solid foundation: Maths in the Foundation Phase

5 min read   •   March 29, 2023
Elmien Ackerman

How to build a solid foundation: Maths in the Foundation Phase

World Maths Day is observed in March, which is also the time when many of our homeschooling parents may start to wonder if they are on the right track. We offer some tips on how to lay a solid foundation when teaching maths to young learners. The subject often gets a bad rap as being difficult, but our Foundation Phase education specialist, Hilda Erasmus, shares her advice on how to ensure that your learner has a firm grasp on basic mathematical concepts so that you can help them learn to love maths.

Grade R: Introducing mathematics

Set the foundation for happy learning at the very start of your child’s learning journey! Your first building blocks for mathematics should focus on the following:

  • Introducing them to the first ten numbers (0 – 10).
  • Introducing them to non-abstract concepts (shapes, patterns, more than/less than, problem-solving, etc.).
  • Practising number sense in a practical way by including it in your daily routine, e.g., ‘touch four (4) of your toes, bring me two (2) pencils’, etc.​

Grade 1: Build on the basics

The basic principles taught in Grade R now start to evolve into abstract thinking with more unfamiliar concepts. In Grade 1, focus on the following:

  • Increasing the number range (0 – 100).
  • Making use of mental maths.
  • Keep focusing on number sense and practising combinations up to 10 every day.

“Number sense is very important,” explains Hilda. “Learners must grasp the full potential of each number, and it must make sense in their heads (mental maths).” Technically learners in Grade 1 only need to learn ten numbers (0 – 10). After that, the rest of the numbers are combinations of bigger numbers. “Number sense is not taught effectively on a worksheet,” she adds. This crucial concept can be taught more effectively by using the following methods:

  • Imagine the numbers and have the learner count them on their fingers.
  • Use number combinations.
  • Use memory cards with dots.

Use games like Fruit Punch or Cami Maths.

All about balance

In Grade 1, the most crucial skill little learners must grasp is that everything balances out. “This is the golden rule of maths,” Hilda says. Learners need to understand that what is on the one side of the equation mark should also be the same on the other side. Let’s look at some examples below:


18 = _ + 5

13 + _ = 18

_ – 5 = 13

_ = 13 +5

Hilda adds: “Understanding this golden rule will equip learners with the right toolset to tackle more difficult sums”. ​

Grade 2: Revisit and repeat

Many of the principles taught in Grade 1 are repeated in Grade 2, with only a few new concepts (like multiplication and fractions) being introduced. In Grade 2, Hilda advises parents to focus on the following:

  • Introduce them to more numbers (0 – 200)
  • Teach them how to memorise multiplication tables by repetition.
  • Take time to teach them place value (this builds on number sense).
  • Do a lot of mental maths every day to keep their brains fit.
  • Don’t be afraid to revisit some of the first building blocks to ensure that their foundation stays strong.

Grade 3: Fortifying your foundation

In the final year of the Foundation Phase, the lesson material builds on existing knowledge to help learners focus on more difficult concepts. The only new concept that learners will need to master here is division. In Grade 3, focus on the following:

  • Increasing the number range learners are used to (0 – 1000).
  • Practising mental maths by using simple equations and letting them beat their own time.
  • Revisiting number sense and expansion cards.

When to be concerned

Learners all master concepts in their own time, but here are a few key things to look out for if you think your learner is falling behind in maths:

  • Your learner has a negative attitude towards math​
  • They cannot remember and apply old methods.
  • They struggle to grasp new concepts.

If your learner is struggling with maths, use their report card(s) to identify the problem areas. Once you know where the hole in the foundation is, you can take the time needed to properly embed basic concepts. You can also consider enlisting the help of a tutor to support your learner.

Read more: Working around last year’s academic challenges or failures

Make maths fun

When content is fun, it’s easier to love and understand! Here’s how to make sure your learner develops a love for numbers:

  • Let your child be the teacher and have them show you how to do a sum.
  • Do a lot of practical problem-solving.​
  • Play maths-related game(s) with real-life objects​ where possible.​
  • Make use of mathematical equipment such as ​our Foundation Phase Maths Kit. The kit includes 13 educational toys and provides a ‘minds-on, hands-on’ learning experience.
  • Skip a worksheet if you can do it practically​.
  • Reward your child for a job well done.

Register with Impaq

If you are registered with Impaq, you also have access to live and pre-recorded subject guidance sessions, dorKk videos, Cami exercises and extra worksheets. Log in to OLP today and check out these valuable resources!

Not registered yet? Click here to register with Impaq today and build a solid foundation for happy learning.