Are we being (Numi) conned in Education?

If I need to train myself, my staff team, and my parents on how to use what seems to be (on the face of it) a simple resource or teaching strategy, and, there’s someone sat at the top of this chain making lots of money, I ask myself, am I (are we) being conned?


Please take the title of this blog as a pun, as I have experienced, witnessed, and read countless anecdotes of how Numicon (and many other marketed teaching resources) have benefited staff and children equally. Though funnily enough, despite the costly training etc sometimes associated with investing in Numicon, my personal favourite uses I have seen from it are from children’s own decisions:

  1. Young girl proudly adorned herself with Numicon around her fingers stating these were her jewels, and she was a princess.
  2. Young boy spinning them around his fingers, twisting his body, moving is arms up, down and across whilst doing so demonstrating what he dubbed ‘a cool trick’ (and so it was, great bilateral movement, and crossing the midline – fabulous pre-writing skills!)

Thus, learning and play is best when it is raw and organic, and I am seeing a lot of ‘manufactured’ or adult developed ‘gimmicks’ filtering into early childhood provision. I read a lovely cautionary tale blog recently on the perils or Pinterest no less, that whilst it can stimulate fabulous ideas, it can simultaneously create superficial practice that bares no resemblance to teaching and learning in the moment with a child, following their explicit interests and preferences or contributing to a genuine wow moment in their progression. I too share the story of what I thought was a marvellous Pinterest idea dubbed – ‘Quiet Glitter Spray.’ It was supposed to calm the volume in a fun way, without anyone bellowing over the top of loud play… It had quite the opposite impact! However, this did not cost me lots of time and money to implement, and subsequently, get rid of.


We appreciate that CPD takes many forms, yet can be expensive and difficult to afford, so when a provision signs up to a resource or teaching strategy they are often parting with a lot of time and cash, and often subsequent consumables or refresher training to ensure they can maintain the upkeep of such practice. At a time where we are all short on time and cash for provision, can we not reflect and revert to natural and organic learning? Not only natural and recyclable in terms of physical resources, but wholesome and led by the child from the offset. Try setting out a tray of Numicon next to a tray of random ‘junk’ items and see what the children actually migrate to, and, what they do with it, cue avoidance, princess jewellery or spinner tricks ?


Furthermore, hopefully as a society we are all trying to increase our efforts to go plastic free, recycle more and all in all, try to save our seas and land on our beautiful planet. Quite frankly, we don’t need lots of plastic bits and bobs being mass produced as ‘learning aids’ or ‘developmental toys’. Take Montessori and Froebel principles for example, the philosophy is that natural is better, referring back to Numicon and the EYFS ‘anything can be counted’ …so why not use fallen leaves, stones etc as aids instead? Theoretical Counting Principles that aid mathematical development can come in various (cheap and child-led) ways. So too can systematic phonics strategies… so too can STEAM experiments… so too can role play… so too can, well, just about anything really. So I urge you, before investing or parting with hard earned time and money, to think, can this be natural? Should this be child-led? Am I being conned?


With love and best wishes to all Early Years Educators, and please, don’t go throwing away the Numicon, but do indeed reflect ?

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