Maths - It's as easy as 1... 2... 3

11th January 2013 at 00:00
Ten Town characters help young children learn their numbers

When I started my career as a Year 2 teacher I was concerned by how many children could not write numbers correctly. It is not easy to teach multiplying by three when a child has not yet mastered writing the figure.

So when I became a Reception teacher I was determined to find something that would help pupils to form numbers correctly. I found the solution with Ten Town, where each digit is given a character with its own rhyme, which makes it easy for children to learn, and I have been using it ever since. Now there is an online version (, which makes it even easier.

Ten Town gives children reasons for why numbers face the way they do. And once a child understands that Sir Seven always bows towards King One then you almost never see a back-to-front seven again.

The children also form a visual connection with the characters which helps them to make sense of the abstract number shapes. Three, for example, appears to be a particularly tricky number - but with Thelma Three's handcuffs as an aid, children really "see" the correct shape.

The new website is very clear and easy to use and there is a large bank of resources - you can use them online or print them off. And even though we have only had the new version for a few weeks at my school, the children have impressed us with their ability to complete the online activities. They particularly enjoy the tracing-the-numbers games and see keeping their mouse "on track", and following the arrow, as a challenge. They are thrilled when they complete the numerals successfully.

Although Ten Town was created primarily as a numeracy scheme, it offers many opportunities for all areas of learning and is ideal for the revised Early Years Foundation Stage.

Fiona Five is a wheelchair athlete and her obstacle course is proving very popular, while Freddie Four is an explorer - we have now set up an "explorer's tent" in the role-play area because the children were so keen.

As with all learning, motivation is a key factor, and with the new version of Ten Town I have noticed all the children in both Nursery and Reception showing a real interest in numbers. Their faces light up at the mention of anything to do with Ten Town and this enthusiasm for numbers should help lay the foundations for successful mathematics in the years to come. This will be a relief for Year 2 teachers, who can get on with teaching them how to multiply by three rather than explaining how to form the number correctly for the umpteenth time.

Marilyn Sweet is Reception class teacher at St George's CofE Primary School in Bolton

What else?

Pupils can develop their confidence with addition, subtraction and other calculations using these hand-picked resources.


For more inspiration for your Reception class, try the TES Early Years Foundation Stage collections.


Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today