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Numeracy Mind Moves®

Melodie de Jager

One of the most fundamental problems in Numeracy is the lack of

concrete experiences to build a solid foundation for more abstract

The ability to think is crucial to learning. Critical thinking skills help a learner to sort through
and organise everything he sees, hears, smells, touches and tastes in order to understand
the world better and solve problems in a practical and creative way.

The window of opportunity for developing critical thinking and creative problem solving skills
is between 4 and 11 years of age. Ideally spoken, during this period, the child gathers
various and sufficient multisensory experiences and impressions that he commits to
memory, develops the vocabulary to talk about these experiences and become ready to
apply this newfound knowledge to the everyday world. By exploiting this opportunity in the
child’s life to the full, a solid foundation is laid for the development of abstract reasoning and
higher learning.

If learning is difficult, you might wonder if there is a problem with the child’s IQ. Alternatively,
you might question the child’s EQ and ask yourself, what is happening at home; what is
happening in class; does she have friends; did he move home recently; did she loose a pet,
friend or family member? These are good questions and might indicate the source creating a
barrier to learning, but may not necessarily provide the full answer.

In recent years, the important role of the body in the learning process has come to the fore
and showed that not only IQ and EQ are role players in preparing a learner for learning
ease, but that PQ also has a vital role to play. To illustrate and explain how the body can
influence the quality of learning, one can look at the learning process by making use of The
Learning Triangle. The Levels of Learning Triangle is an interpretation of the Triune Brain
Theory (MacLean, 1990) and stands on PQ, as a small but pivotal point.

IQ Cognitive ability

EQ Emotional & social ability

Cr an iu m

Cerv ical v er teb r ae Man d ib le

Clav icle

Scap u la

Th o r acic v er teb rae

Hu m er u s


Lu mb ar v erteb r ae

PQ Physical ability
Pelv is

Sacr u m
Uln a
Co ccy x Rad iu s

Carp als

Metacar p als

Ph alan g es

Femu r

Fib u la

Tib ia

Talu s
Calcan eu s
Tarsals,metatar sals & p h alan g es


©Mind Moves Institute, Johannesburg. 2012

2a. Cognitive level
Thinking on a cognitive level involves a few skills, like the ability to recognise (that
some things are the same and others are not) similarities and differences between
things - thus applying logic to categorise objects. It is also about the ability to (put
things in order or sequencing it) from the biggest to the smallest or from the most to
the least. This type of thinking involves the observing of objects – and ultimately
situations – from different positions (above, the side, inside and outside).

Thinking and problem solving skills are used to discover the answers to the who,
what, how, when, where and why of things - all based on abstract reasoning.
Adequate comprehension of shapes, colours, quantities, numbers, time and spatial
orientation are concepts that indicate a readiness for numeracy.

2b. Emotional and social level

Thinking on an emotional level involves a positive sense of self and an eagerness to
learn. It means that you accept that making mistakes, and not knowing everything, is
part of developing and learning.

Thinking on a social level means to be aware of the feeling that I belong – I am a part
of the group of children in a class and I experience it as a safe environment in which
to explore and discover the world.

2c. Physical level

Thinking on a physical level happens when your senses work together to create an
accurate and almost identical representation in your brain of something you have
observed, heard or felt through touch. If in your mind the representation of the object
you see in reality is accurate, it is called accurate visual perception. If the sound in
your head represents the exact sound that you hear coming from your environment, it
is called good auditory perception. If you touch things and are able to reconstruct the
shape, texture, temperature, size, etc. accurately in your mind, your tactile sense is
well developed.

The brain prefers to receive new information on a concrete level; using as many
senses as possible to form a clear perception of the information. Concrete learning
means learning with real objects that you can touch, hear, see and smell, e.g. think of
the difference in quality of learning when you simply tell learners about a lion,
compared to visiting a game lodge where they can smell lions and see and hear
them moving and roaring in nature.

Up and until grade R is the prime time

for multi-sensory learning and having a myriad of real life experiences to
name and discuss.
It is NOT the time for learning to read and write.
Concrete experiences like outings and experiments fill the brain with multisensory
experiences that elicit strong emotions. When information is emotionally charged,
that information is glued to memory and in so doing, it broadens the memory banks
and is readily available to be assessed and used for abstract learning.

©Mind Moves Institute, Johannesburg. 2012
Only after having had the advantage of years of concrete sensory experiences do learners
fully benefit from looking at books, pictures, and TV or DVD images of experiences (semi-
concrete level). Only then can information like that evoke a memory of the multisensory
concrete experiences they have had, and as such create a positive and easy learning
experience. Learning on a semi-concrete level without first having experienced the objects
in real life, makes it much harder.

It is like comparing the experience of a delicious meal to looking at a picture of the same
meal without ever having tasted it before – it is just not the same. Most of the information
received on a semi-concrete level would be abstract and quite incomprehensible to those
learners without prior concrete experience. For this reason, concrete learning experiences
in the early years of the child’s development (4 to 11 years), are invaluable for numeracy


4a. Spatial orientation (Where am I?):

It is the child’s ability to place himself or an object in relation to another object.

This enables a child to use himself as a frame of reference (fixed point), which builds security,
confidence and a sense of self. Once the child knows where he is, it becomes easier to
identify where other things are.

Spatial orientation is the key to a child’s planning, organising his environment and his
possessions as well as building the bridge to abstract reasoning. This skill is necessary for
comprehending form consistency, sequencing and closure resulting in accurate copying,
writing, spelling, reading and especially numeracy.

4b. Visual perception

The direction and position of objects, shapes, letters and numbers requires visual
discrimination, which is the ability to see similarities and differences. This is an
important skill in order to develop form consistency, which is the basis of letter and
number formation.

When drawing, position and direction of objects is unimportant. For instance when drawing a
man, he can face forwards, backwards, left or right and he is still identifiable as a man. When
a child writes down a letter or a number, it is important to be able to differentiate which way, in
relation to his own body, the letter or number has to face in order to be correct and

Language is the dress of thought

- Samuel Johnson –

4c. Language
Speech and language skills start from birth by naming every part of the body, piece
of clothing, and all the different kinds of people and objects the child comes in
contact with. Only once he has EXPERIENCED the object through his senses, can
he start building a vocabulary by naming the objects. This forms the basis of social
development, which is evident when he can start talking about what he saw and
experienced first-hand at the zoo.

©Mind Moves Institute, Johannesburg. 2012
Music and movement stimulate auditory perception and language development through
hearing a variety of sounds, feeling / experiencing these sounds and moving the body in
harmony with what is heard. This lays down the foundation of vocabulary and thought.

4d. Counting
Counting means to determine how many of an item there are. There are a few steps
that a child needs to follow in order to learn how to count and develop a concept of

 Say the words 1, 2, 3, etc. like a rhyme, but without actually counting out anything
 One-to-one correspondence naming the number. Match one apple to one person
 Counting and matching – count the number of people and match the amount of cups
 Recognising number patterns, e.g. 5 blocks or dots on a dice
 Recognising numbers / digits
 Match number pattern with number, e.g. 5 blocks and the actual number 5

4e. Sequencing
The ability to arrange objects, thoughts, symbols or sentences in a logical order.

4f. Abstract concepts

An abstract concept - like colour, shape, number, position in space, cause and effect,
time, quantity and quality - is a quality or description of an intangible object and is
not an object on its own.

Match objects of similar colour and shade
Name the colour
Categorise objects.

Match the same shape irrespective of colour or size
Name the shape
Categorise by putting all the same shapes together
Consistency – find a flower that looks like a circle.

Match objects of the same size
Name relative sizes (bigger, smaller)
Compare different shapes that are the same size.

Where are you? (in front, behind, etc.)
Where is the object? (under, over, etc.)
Follow verbal instructions: Stand behind, in front etc.

First take the biscuit and then put icing on it.
Link activities or games to the time of day
Link activities and games to days of the week
Link seasons to holidays and changes in nature
Order of family members by age
Experience time with egg timer and clock
Use a calendar (days of week & months of year)
Use time words like today, tomorrow and yesterday
Teach child to tell the time.

©Mind Moves Institute, Johannesburg. 2012
Cause and effect:
When…then (when it rains, then you get wet)
Absurd situations (Why is the road not made of

More, less, all, the same, nothing etc.

Rough, smooth, hard, soft, sharp, blunt etc.

4g. Memory
Memory is remembering what has been seen, heard, tasted, felt or smelt
(experienced) and storing the information in long-term memory for future recall.

Memory relies on two components – knowledge and emotion. Knowledge is that which has
been learned and is known. Emotion is the chemical reaction that happens spontaneously
when a child is excited about something or shows interest in it. When a child has a good
sense for numbers and is excited about learning more, he remembers his work so much
easier and is motivated to find out more.

4h. Puzzle building

The benefits of puzzle building are: visual perception, spatial orientation, fine motor
control, sorting, matching, sequencing, concentration, task completion, vocabulary
and forming abstract concepts.

It takes at least 6 years of intentional stimulation and interaction to

build basic Numeracy readiness skills


Mind Moves® that stimulate the necessary physical skills for abstract reasoning, problem
solving and Numeracy can be selected from the following list. Select 2 Mind Moves and do
each Mind Move 3 times prior to a numeracy lesson.

Creative problem solving and Numeracy Mind Moves®

Power ON (page 56) Antennae adjuster (page 53)

©Mind Moves Institute, Johannesburg. 2012
Homolateral walk (page 62)
Visual workout (page 61) and Bilateral walk (page 63)

Rise and shine (page 56) Trunk twister (page 69)

De Jager, M. 2007. Mind Moves – removing barriers to learning. Johannesburg: The
De Jager, M. 2006. Clever Play. Johannesburg: The Connexion.

©Mind Moves Institute, Johannesburg. 2012