Dear Family, your Operation Maths guide to Early Mathematical Activities (EMA)

Dear Family, your Operation Maths guide to Early Mathematical Activities (EMA)

Dear Family, given below is a brief guide to understanding the topic of Early Mathematical Activities (EMA) as well as some practical suggestions as to how you might support your children’s understanding at home. Also below, are a series of links to digital resources that will help both the children, and you, learn more about Early Mathematical Activities.

Junior Infants to Second Class
You can also find class specific tips at the back of your child’s Operation Maths At Home book

Understanding Early Mathematical Activities

Early Mathematical Activities is a strand in Primary Maths for children in junior infants only, although the activities can also suit children at the beginning of senior infants, as revision, as well as being suitable for many children in their final preschool year. The focus is on doing activities, that develop the child’s mathematical thinking, but that do not involve number or counting. The children will be:

  • identifying things that are the same, and things that are different
  • matching pairs of items that are identical and/or items that belong together
  • classifying (sorting) items into into groups that are identical and/or belong together
  • comparing items and sets of objects to determine which is larger or has more, and ordering objects according to to a certain criteria e.g. their length, size, weight etc.

All of these type of activities help prepare the children for later, similar activities, involving numbers and counting.

As mentioned, an essential skill is for the children to recognise objects and images that are the same and that are different. The objects may be completely identical in all features, or have the same colour but a different shape or size. The children will learn to match identical items (e.g. socks) and to match items that are different but belong together (e.g. fork and spoon). Later, the children will learn to sort items into different groups, depending on the purpose.

Practical Suggestions for Supporting Children

Most of the Early Mathematical Activities can be incorporated into the various tidying and sorting/organising activities that occur regularly around the home:

  • Putting away or sorting clothes. Ask your child:
    • ‘What items are identical (or exactly the same) and belong together in matching pairs?’ For example socks.
    • ‘What items are identical or exactly the same and but don’t belong together in matching pairs?’ For example any t-shirts, or jeans, or pieces of underwear that are identical.
    • ‘What items are not exactly the same, but do belong together?’ For example, a pyjama top and bottom set, a shorts and t-shirt set etc.
    • ‘What items are the same colour?’
    •  ‘What items are different from everything else?’
  • Sorting, for example, the drawer of kitchen utensils and/or cutlery:
    • Organise the contents into groups of items that are identical or exactly the same.
    • What items don’t belong in any group e.g. a large soup ladle or wooden spoon? These items are different.
    • Can you find any items that are similar, and do the same thing but do not look exactly the same? e.g. different types of spoons
    • Can you find items that are not the same but usually go/belong together? E.g. fork and knife
  • Tidying up the toy box or play room. Ask your child to suggest ways to sort the items into groups e.g.
    • Sort according to type: all the similar items together, e.g. books, cars, dolls etc
    • Sort according to colour: all the red items together, all the yellow items together
    • Sort according to size: all of the large items together, all of the small items together
    • Sort according to owner: all of each child’s toys together
    • Organise the Lego pieces; you might sort them according to colour, shape, size or purpose e.g. all the wheels together, all the doors and windows together, all the mini-figures together etc.
  • Identifying colours:
    • Pick up something and ask your child to find another one that is the same colour or a different colour.
    • Organise items into groups of the same colour. Ask your child to name the colour.
    • Ask your child to show you an example of items that are the same colour, but not exactly the same (i.e. different shades of the same colour), and to use the words dark and light to describe these colours e.g. light blue and dark (or navy) blue.
    • Play ‘I spy with my little eye something the colour of …..red’. Repeat with other colours.
  • Go on a walk outside. Ask your child if they can you find any items from nature that are identical or exactly the same? Can he/she find any items that are different?

Digital Resources for Early Mathematical Activities

Grade 5 Math - Online Enrichment ActivitiesHappy Numbers Pre-Kindergarten: Work through the activities from Module 1, Topic A and Topic B.


New game – Let's Compare | The Topmarks BlogLet’s Compare: A comparing sizes game, including picking out the biggest, smallest, shortest etc


Sort Objects by Color - Practice with Fun Math WorksheetSplash Learn – Sort objects by colour: after this activity try Sort by Size and Sort pictures.


IXL - Same (Junior infants maths practice)ixl.com – Which are exactly the same? After this activity, try Different, Same or Different, Classify shapes by colour, Classify and sort by colour and Classify and sort by shape


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