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Using Ten Town to Develop Maths in a Reception Class


By Jayne Podmore, Reception Class Teacher, Burton Manor Primary School


In January 2017, we identified that several children were finding the concept of number recognition hard and, even with lots of intervention, these children were not making vast improvement. As a school we decided to invest in Ten Town. 


We began to use the stories, characters and games to add to, and support the intervention for these children. It quickly became clear that the children liked the scheme, as several of them went home and talked about Thelma Three and Freddie Four and the parents soon began to ask about these characters.


We then introduced the Ten Town characters to other children in the class, so the children in the intervention groups could tell the whole class about the characters before we played the story and games. This gave them a sense of pride, as they were able to share their knowledge, which motivated them to learn the next number the following day.


As a team we were all surprised that even the most capable children in the class wanted to engage with the Ten Town activities. We found that as well as covering numbers 10-20, other activities linked to all aspects of EYFS Curriculum within ‘Shape, Space and Measure’. This enabled us to use the resource across the whole of the year group and work on various activities to cover the EYFS Maths curriculum in both outcome areas.


By the end of the year, the percentage of children achieving the ELG in both areas of maths had increased. (This was a welcome surprise as the cohort form 2015-16, and those in 2016-17 had both shown the same on-entry percentages). This indicated Ten Town had helped us improve the outcome for children in our class.


Impressed by this improved data, in the summer of 2017, we decided to transform the maths areas in the room into Ten Town spaces. The main area displayed an interactive map for children to refer to numbers to 10, a Ten Town number line, and children had access to other Ten Town resources such as number sacks and number aprons. We wanted the area to be interactive (all numbers on our map can be removed as required) and for the children to be able to focus in this area, without too much visual clutter on the walls, instead only displaying the main concept we wanted children to pick up on, and more importantly use independently in their learning.




Instead of having a role play area which changed to different sets throughout the year, we decided to make it into ‘Tia Ten’s Studio’, and provide children with lots of cooking tools, ten saucepans, mixing bowls, wok, electronic scales, measuring spoons and plates, cups, and sets of cutlery. The children had access to various pulses, rice, pasta and other real cooking items to use in play, they also had a dust pan and brush to clean up any spillages!



In this area we displayed pictures of shapes, and a number line from 10 to 20. By keeping the area to one theme, the children were able to continually practise aspects covered by shape, space and measure topics. The children were also able to use this area with adult led support so that certain teaching concepts could be covered in play. Estimating, and weighing was a topic which quickly grasped the children’s interests.


On entry we baselined all the children using the same assessment methods as we had used for the previous two cohorts. We found number knowledge to 10 was once again low and so introduced Ten Town to the children, beginning with number 1 and introducing a new character daily. We introduced each new number, along with the concept of using learning walls to help the children remember what they had learnt already. This made it more real to the children, as they were not just looking at something we had constructed for them to use, but were part of the construction of this display, so it meant something to them.


Results gathered on number knowledge are listed on the table below:

The above data shows progress over one term. The results for this table were gathered at the start of Spring 1 to ensure knowledge was embedded, as children had just got back from a two-week holiday and had not received any re-capping sessions prior to number knowledge being assessed.


Results for 2016-17 Cohort- Ten Town not used in setting:

Number knowledge to 10 during Autumn Term has significantly improved by using Ten Town as a teaching aid. It shows that although this cohort (2017-18) was 7% more secure to 10 in Autumn 1, there has been a 47% ?? increase in the % of children with secure knowledge to 10 at the end of Autumn 2. This illustrates that Ten Town has made a huge impact on the number of children making improvements.


Since we began using Ten Town in Spring 2017, we have seen an improvement in the amount of children who were secure with number knowledge to 10, then up to 20.


Progress in counting, one more and one less than, as well as simple addition has also been noted in class. In the first week of Spring 1, just over 50% (23 children) had achieved the school’s mental maths quiz, ‘Maths Passport’, which meant they had to recall all numbers out of order from 0-20, recite numbers forward and backwards to 20, and have quick recall of one more or one less than a given number. Eight more children (17%) are almost ready to take their passport challenge, which is assessed by the Head in her office, so children must be number confident to enable them to have this quick recall and not forget when in a different environment.


Ten Town is a program that not only supports the teaching of numbers 0-20, and covers all aspects of Shape, Space and Measure topics, it also has many cross curricular links and enables some year one concepts to be taught prior to children beginning year 1.


The games are easy for children to use and do not require any adult input as they are modelled to the children before they start the game. This fact alone has enabled the children to access a lot of the on-line material themselves and they have been able to swop and change the games they play when they wish to move on. Although children can move from one number to the next, this is only possible when each number to 10 has had all activities completed, (unless teachers unlock the next number for the children). By not letting the children rush on independently, they are securing basic number knowledge to 10 but given a purpose to complete tasks, so they can move on to another number. 


Additional teaching videos have help educate children about various aspects of Understanding the World. Our children particularly liked learning about the life cycle of frogs and took a keen interest in learning about knights and castles. This interest spilled out into Continuous Provision, with lots of children, both boys and girls, making Sir Seven armour to use in play. This was a completely independent idea they came up with whilst learning in the creative area and was really engaging.


Three dimensional shape names are also understood and using the on-line story and looking at how Nina Nine Bows makes fat feeders for the birds to eat, we found children were interested in making their own 3D bird feeders, focusing on the names and properties of these shapes as the food was made and giving children a purpose and interest in the different shapes, which made it much more fun to learn about, although a little messy!                            

The interactive resources also enable lots of observations of children’s ICT skills to be gathered. Directional games, offered at two levels, provide enough scope to push the thinking of even the most able child in the class. This has provided all children in the class a level of challenge, although it was only the less able we initially bought the programme in to support. The second level on Sir Seven game, for number 17, really challenges children to problem solve and develop higher order thinking skills.


Additional supporting worksheets found on the site have enabled children to continue to embed the knowledge taught on-line. Children are keen to complete the sheets when provided for them as they can relate to the characters they have learnt about in class.


The work booklets provide appropriate teaching resources to continue children’s learning. Other resources like the number sacks and number aprons give teachers a practical learning tool which can be used in continuous provision to develop children’s’ knowledge of numbers and their values whilst engaged in play. The number cards contain two sets of numbers to 20 so can be used in various ways, including snap games, or memory games to match pairs, which all enable children to be exposed to numbers discretely and focus on them, so they can win the game. They are not aware that they are embedding their recognition of these numbers due to the fact they are constantly looking at them and having to recall the number.


The Government document ‘Bold Beginnings: The Reception curriculum in a sample of good and outstanding primary schools’ (November 2017, refers to the need to develop maths in Reception class due to increased expectations in the new Year 1 curriculum. If also states that for most schools, the emphasis is on the teaching of phonics in preparation for year 1 phonic screening tests. Secure number knowledge in Reception is vital if children are going to be well prepared for learning maths in year 1. The document states that maths schemes often start from year 1, but Ten Town can start introducing numbers to children from Nursery through to Reception.


Ten Town is  not a scheme as such but is an excellent way to embed maths knowledge for children. It introduces number bonds to 10 and 20, it shows abstract number sentences from number 10 onwards which not only introduce children to the plus and equals sign but gives them the understanding of the significance of the number one when shown in numbers 10 to 19. This is the starts of helping children partition. We have noticed this has helped children not break up numbers over 10 into two separate numbers, (for example: to begin with children will often see 12 as ‘one’ and a ‘two’, which does not help them understand the value of 12 - or the value of the number 1 when in the tens column. However, Tia Ten makes them understand the value of this number, and daily practise of the Tia Ten songs from 11 to 19 embeds this understanding. Introducing number 20 as a completely different character also helps children understand the value of 2 in the number 20 and nobody refers to 20 as Tommy Two and Zero Pond.


Children also write numbers, forming them correctly because the orientation of the numerals are taught and practised as part of the number games when learning 0-10. This helps learning in year 1 move on more swiftly, as next steps for children in maths in year 1 can focus on developing maths knowledge, rather than working on the correct way to write the numbers.


Ten Town numbers to 10 should be worked on in Nursery, to secure number knowledge and value of numbers. Numbers 10 to 20 are ideally introduced when children enter Reception class. Lots of practise of working with each number by using number sacks or aprons in Nursery play help the children gain concrete knowledge of number value and dispel lexical ambiguity often associated with the abstract number form. It helps children realise one, means this amount and it is more than zero even though, to the eye, zero is a larger shape pictorially.


There is so much to gain from subscribing to this interactive resource and we now use in Nursery and Reception


Ten Town is certainly working to support maths knowledge in our Reception class and we will continue to use it to enable more of our children to achieve secure number knowledge prior to them entering year 1.


If you would like to see Ten Town working and supporting learning in a busy Reception class, please feel free to contact us and arrange to have a look around our setting.







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