01/02/2016 11:42 GMT | Updated 29/01/2017 05:12 GMT

How a Maths Revolution in Nurseries is Helping Children to Get a Good Start in School

Sometimes it's hard to see how the factors, formulae and fractions involved in GCSE maths relate to real life.

Have you ever called upon your trigonometry skills or done a quadratic equation since you wore a school uniform?

Maybe not but that base, background knowledge probably gives you the confidence to get a calculator out or scribble sums on the back of an envelope when that's what is required.

Besides, school leavers need that hard-to-get grade at GCSE to open educational and career doors - more so than ever before.

Vocations that in the past didn't require such qualifications - including childcare and apprenticeships across the board - now increasingly do.

It's a good thing that as a nation we are becoming better qualified. But at present, just 60% of children in England's schools are achieving both maths and English at GCSE. So what can be done to improve the situation?

Obviously the Government must support schools to support students to reach those attainment levels. Not just at secondary level but from the first day of primary school.

Currently, nearly a third of all children don't reach the expected level of maths by the end of their reception year.

So perhaps the real answer lies further upstream.

Should all children start learning maths before they start school?

Experts from the internationally-respected Education Endowment Fund certainly think that could be a good idea.

The EEF has just launched a new study with NDNA - actually its biggest ever research project - see exactly what the benefits of early learning in maths are, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

If you're now picturing a classroom and a blackboard, it's not like that at all. It's about embedding numbers in play and activities, indoors and out.

Having fun with counting, measuring distances and calculating weights and measures opens up a whole new world of excitement and curiosity for preschool children.

For the past three years, NDNA has run a Department for Education-backed project called Maths Champions, which enlists graduate teachers in nurseries to the challenging task of empowering their teams to really bring maths to life.

To be able to enthuse children about maths, we start by sparking an interest among the people who work in nurseries, who might not have excelled in the subject at school.

Many practitioners think they can't do maths. But Maths Champions shows them that, yes, they can. Often, their resulting delight is as clear to see as it is among the children.

When practitioners are excited, empowered and motivated, settings are in a great place to provide the best possible opportunities for the children and achieve better outcomes all round.

We've seen this happen in many nurseries through Maths Champions and we know the programme really helps children to get off to a good start at school.

A total of 95% of nurseries taking part so far have noticed a positive impact on children's progress and an improvement in staff's maths confidence and abilities.

Now, with EEF and academics from several top universities, we're taking things to the next level with in-depth research about what the benefits really are and how they could shape a child's future educational potential.

Findings will help to shape the future of maths in our preschools.

The opportunity is certainly there with more three and four-year-old set to spend more time at nursery than ever before under the Government's 30 free hours per week policy, starting with pilots this year and full roll-out in 2017.

So, this is the exciting bit. NDNA is now recruiting 120 nurseries across priority areas of England to take part in a year-long pilot scheme to trial Maths Champions from this summer.

Taking part is free and nurseries will also receive financial support to help them get the most out of the project. We need to hear from interested nurseries by May.

Does this sound like an exciting challenge for your nursery, or a nursery you know? If so, get in touch!

To find out more, see the NDNA website or call project administrator Kathryn Moses on 01484 407070 ext 242 or email by mid May.