The comparison of quantities is something that children begin to do as babies. When comparing, children notice attributes and begin to understand differences and similarities. The activities this week will focus on further developing this innate skill as the children are encouraged to focus exclusively on the numerosity of sets, without being diverted by colour, shape or size. They will then be encouraged to notice when quantities are equal or unequal, and will begin to consider how they can manipulate the number of objects in 2 sets to make them equal.
Language is a key focus and adults will need to reinforce the language of ‘more than’, ‘fewer than’ and ‘an equal number’ to describe how many objects there are in each set. ‘Fewer than’ is used rather than ‘less than’, as the focus is on countable things.
Previously, the children will have had practical experience of comparing by looking and by matching 1-to-1. In their work on subitising and composition, they will have begun to develop an understanding of increasing quantity.
Through further practical activities, the children will go on to develop their own ‘mental number line’ and the ability to understand which number is more than or fewer than another. When the children have a secure understanding of how to compare quantities, they will be better able to order numbers in Key Stage 1. In Key Stage 2, they will go on to compare multiple quantities and to sequence them from the fewest to the most. An understanding of comparison will also help to develop estimating skills by allowing the children to compare what they already know about quantity to an unknown number.
Considering equal quantities and equal distribution will also prepare the children for the meaning of the equals/= symbol when it is introduced in Year 1.