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Dunkirk Primary School

Dunkirk Primary School

Nottingham University and EEF Counting Collections


About the project

Counting Collections is an early mathematics approach to teaching young children about number, designed to develop their connected understanding of number and quantity. This approach has been used in other countries including Australia and America, typically with older children. 

The Counting Collections programme developed at the University of Nottingham is specifically designed for young children (under 5 years). It includes professional development sessions and materials to support teachers as well as carefully selected manipulatives (objects for counting).



The Counting Collections programme aims to support children’s counting, subitising, comparison of numbers and composition of number as well as their abilities to estimate and represent number (including understanding numerals). The randomised controlled trial will establish how much Counting Collections improves children's attainment in number in the classes where it is used, compared to the classes where it is not.

Methods and resources

Teachers will lead weekly counting collections sessions (approximately 30 mins) where children work in pairs to count collections of objects. The children choose a collection, decide how they will count it, count it together and record the count on paper. 

A counting library (boxes of objects) with different items to count and different sizes of collections is added to the classroom’s continuous provision to be used in the weekly sessions. The counting library can also be accessed by children throughout the week during play. 

The class teacher receives five professional development sessions in a group with other local teachers (one day in person and four half-days online). These use learning trajectories and other resources to support them to lead weekly sessions and support play in a way that is appropriate for their class. As teaching assistants are typically involved in maths sessions and play in reception classes, there are support materials for them to

The trial

During 2023-24, the Counting Collections programme is being offered free to selected reception classes in three areas of England:

  • North East (Durham, Sunderland, South Tyneside and surrounding area)
  • East Midlands (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby, Derbyshire and surrounding area)
  • South West (Cornwall, West Devon and surrounding area) 


This is a trial funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) who want to know how much Counting Collections improves children’s attainment in number in mathematics. To find out what this involves and how you sign up head over the Get Involved page.