Developing the Foundations of Numeracy in Kindergarten

Area(s) of Focus: math
Division(s): Primary
Level(s): Kindergarten

This project examines the ways in which kindergarten students develop early numeracy concepts specifically in the area of composing and decomposing numbers to 10, through the use of intentional materials and explicit questioning from the ELK team.

As a kindergarten-only school in the Toronto District School Board, we are very aware that establishing an enduring understanding of number sense in the early years is crucial. Young children arrive with an innate curiosity to explore number relationships in their world through play and discovery. At the same time, it is also important for their educators to help them make those essential connections by setting up a math-rich, play-based environment, providing intentional materials to explore concepts, and asking meaningful, open-ended and thought-provoking questions. We wanted to focus our inquiry around the topic of number relationships in kindergarten and more specifically focus on the question of how kindergarten students develop an understanding of number relationships with respect to composing and decomposing the benchmark numbers of five and 10. In addition, we wished to create math kits which would contain resources that will help educators support teaching number sense in the kindergarten classroom. As educators, we wished to develop a systematic and developmentally appropriate way to scaffold the development of number sense for our students. We also wished to gain a more in-depth understanding of the learning trajectories, and develop instructional tasks and lessons that will move students along the developmental continuum for numeracy. We also wished to foster team building between the educators in the classrooms, both teachers and early childhood educators, so that the teaching team felt empowered and confident to deliver, and assess the learning of students in this critical area.

Team Members

  • Usha Shanmugathasan

    Toronto District School Board

  • Lindsay Keith and Zahra Moghadasi

    Toronto District School Board

  • Rupali Rodgers and Julie Ioannou

    Toronto District School Board

  • Isabel Chiu and Laura Brydone

    Toronto District School Board

Team Photo

The TLC Team at Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy

Professional Learning Goals

  • an increased sense of collaboration amongst the Teacher-ECE partnership
  • an understanding of conducting baseline assessments
  • how to create problem-solving tasks that take into consideration language needs and stage of development
  • how to use learning trajectories  as  a tool to inform instruction
  • creating dialogue amongst educators within the TLC project and outside of the TLC project


Activities and Resources

The release time provided really assisted in the collaboration amongst colleagues in the TLC project. The consistent meetings with a clear agenda allowed for the team to discuss various aspects of the planning process, and meet goals.

Reading the text, Learning and Teaching Early Math: The Learning Trajectories Approach Second Edition, and meeting as a team to debrief the research allowed us to be on the same page and apply those common understanding to the creation of tasks and assessments

Conducting a baseline assessment on the senior kindergarten students allowed us to understand exactly what our children knew in terms of content and strategies, which in turn helped us plan developmentally appropriate tasks


Unexpected Challenges

Timing was a factor. We needed more reflection time between tasks to tweak student misconceptions or consolidation of a particular topic. Additionally, the condensed timeline for the project as a result of project approval being delayed made it difficult for the children to process their new learnings.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Using the learning trajectory as a tool to understand where the children are developmentally in terms of their mathematical understandings and plan instructional tasks that are developmentally sequenced allowed children to be successful within their zone of proximal development. It fostered communication amongst students while they shared their thinking during consolidation of tasks. The tasks we chose to complete are applicable to all students, not just our own, as the tasks can be differentiated for students who are both higher and lower on the developmental level for selected learning trajectory.


We held an Open House for our family of schools inviting Early Childhood Educators, kindergarten teachers and Grade 1 teachers. The Open House was held on May 6, 2015 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy. The Open House was also attended by our Family of Schools Math Coach and our Superintendent for ER16.

The Open House was advertised via email through our principal in charge of early years for ER16, Julie Kwon.

During the Open House, we presented our project via PowerPoint presentation and experiential learning in which task kits were prepared for educators to experience and understand the learning our students had been involved in. During the PowerPoint presentation, we discussed the research and each team of teachers presented an instructional task in detail (i.e., the materials used, step-by-step instructions on how to carry out the task, student look fors, and how children’s learning was consolidated). The TLC team circulated during the experiential portion of the evening and answered questions, as the participants used the materials and tried out the tasks.

The participants left with a resource package of the tasks to be tried in their own schools.

Project Evaluation

We felt that our project was successful because we met our project goals. Both teachers and early childhood educators reflected on the collaborative aspect of the project and all members felt that the sense of collaboration in the classroom and as a team had increased. There was a sense of trust and community because we realized we were all striving for the same goal – the betterment of our children’s mathematical understanding.

We conducted a variety of baseline assessments to see where the children were and we felt that we were able to move children along the numeracy continuum. We worked together as a team to develop problem-solving tasks that took into account our English language learners’ language needs so that they could access the mathematics regardless of their stage of English language acquisition.


Resources Used

Clements, Douglas H. and Sarama, Julie. (2014). Learning and Teaching Early Math, The Learning Trajectories Approach, 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.

The Developmental Levels for Primary Grade Mathematics. A resource which describes how children develop mathematically for each of the five strands in Mathematics.

Capacity Building Series: Maximizing Student Mathematical Learning in The Early Years

Douglas Clements explains the Learning Trajectories