## Teaching position and direction to children

Children's initial experiences should be practical and be based in familiar, everyday situations. Children should be allowed to explore ideas related to position and direction through unstructured and structured play.

Much of this 'learning through play' should involve the development of understanding and knowledge of relevant mathematical vocabulary (in front, behind, to the side, beside, underneath, below, above, on top, etc). Many of these can be developed through PE as well as in mathematics and through rhymes and stories. Initially, such descriptions of positions should be in relation to the child itself, but, when this is secure, positional relationships between two objects (other than the child) may be explored as well. Building an understanding of 'left' and 'right' is also important. Many children take a long time to distinguish consistently between these terms.

It is important to note that many of these terms (both positional and directional) are relative. For example, two people facing each other will have different viewpoints regarding what constitutes left or right. The same would be true of positional terms such as *in front*, *behind*, *above* and *below*. The fact that positional and directional vocabulary is often relative is very confusing for the child. A full understanding of left and right which enables the child to determine left or right directions from a perspective other than the child's own, for example, usually takes several years to acquire. Refer to page 27 in Section 4 and pages 86-87 in Section 5 of the NNS *Framework for Teaching Mathematics* for further details of typical activities at this stage.