Let’s visit Numberland for the early years

Why Let’s visit Numberland

Numberland by early childhood pedagogue Dr. Gerhard Friedrich is an evidence based early childhood maths concept, research and field proven. And this is why:

⭐ Because of how smart, affectionate, and efficiently Numberland interweaves relevant maths and the emotional world of 3 to 5yo children! 

⭐ Because Numberland helps children understand, connect, structure, and organise all the mathematical experiences in their daily life.

⭐ Because Numberland is about so much more than ‘just’ maths! But role play, exploring the world, details, general knowledge, movement, arts …

⭐ Because Numberland improves the chances of ALL children and contributes to a happy childhood!  

⭐ Because Numberland is not a strict programme and not bound to fancy resources!

⭐ Because teachers can make use of cross-curricular synergy effects!

⭐ Because Numberland paves the ground for maths activities or programmes to follow, and often opens children for them in the first place. Thus, Numberland is not in competition with any other maths concept. It is a facilitator to unburden teachers.

Let’s visit Numberland is a most efficient, yet easy going approach. It started as a widely acclaimed German research project, turned into a standard early years approach, and is increasingly finding international ‘travellers’. In preschools and international schools, anywhere and also in low-resources countries which is truly heart warming!

Challenges for early maths

Maths is a beautiful and important language, meant to no less but to enable us to understand and to describe our world. Longitudinal studies underline how crucial it is to master this language, i.e. acquire a true basic conceptual understanding.

The challenge is that maths is an abstract language, while children children start from their concrete world and only gradually build their bridge over to abstract thinking.

The good thing is that all children have an inborn desire to learn this language, making it part of their natural development. It is our responsibility to provide an environment enabling children make the experiences they need and help them structure.

All maths experiences need to be embedded in children’s play – because playing is their way of learning. And this learning is a very individual process, based on each child’s individual experiences, needs, and associations.

Neuroscience and developmental psychology tell us that, when learning something new, we all build on what is already there, on our experiences, knowledge, associations as well as emotions. This is especially true for young children. They are self-centred and live in an emotional world, where everything is alive. They have a black-and-white view and a magical thinking. Anything new is associated with what they already learn – and how they feel about it.

So we need to provide an appropriate environment that helps them making the relevant experiences, structure them, and let the good things happen!

The complexity of numbers

We as adults tend to forget how complex the concept of numbers is and that children need enough time and many experiences to grown into them.

Here is a long list of the many important facts – which the children experience during their Numberland visits in many different, yet always meaningful way:

Cardinal aspect A number represents a quantity (3 cars, 3 children … 3 is always 3)

Ordinal aspect  Numbers have a defined order (1, 2, 3 …). They also stand for a rank (first, second, …) 

Invariancy  Quantities stay the same, no matter how they are placed

Partitioning  Numbers can be split into other numbers/ quantities (Crucial for becoming able to work with numbers beyond 10)

Subitising   Being able to grasp quantities at a glance

One-to-one-correspondence   Each element counts only once, and one elements of a set relates to exactly one of another set

Calculating   A number is the result of an operation (2 + 3 = 5)

Reversibility   Turning 2 + 3 = 5 back by 5 – 3 makes 2 again.

Operator   A number as the multiple of an activity (clap 4 times, hop 3 times)

Encoding   A number encodes a quantity, but also the rank in an order, a house, a birthday …

Geometric aspect   Numbers relate to geometrical shapes

Musical aspect Patterns in rhythms, beats

Cultural aspect   The meaning of numbers in stories and in cultures

Measuring   We encounter numbers as different measures, i.e. for lengths, volume, weight, time, money.  

The Numberland concept

‘Let’s visit Numberland’ was developed to appropriately address the evolving interest of small children in counting, sets, numbers, comparing, and geometric shapes. It supports children to build the bridge between their inborn understanding of maths (‘1, 2, many’) to the formal language of maths we developed to describe our world and to handle things. In Numberland, children acquire a profound, well structured conceptual understanding of the number range 0 to 10 (building the crucial fundamental basis to their mathematical understanding) and the numerals to 20. 

Yet the children benefit far beyond the matter itself: Language, self-esteem, concentration and cognition, motivation and creativity, social, motor and music skills are enhanced as well. 

The edge of “Let’s visit Numberland” lies within the embracing approach: The concept allows a child to experience the entire aspects of numbers with the entire self, i.e. body, mind and spirit. This way, children in their daily play develop a multi-faceted, positive image and a deep, lasting understanding which they can build on. 

‘Numberland’ is not an academic training but rather a central theme that triggers children to play in this carefully designed environment, and helps them structure their experiences. The specific elements encourage both children and staff to bring in own ideas. It can be easily adapted to individual needs and age brackets. Popular and established, relevant activities can be brought in and ‘Numberland’ can be a trigger for the further exploration of topics, e.g. bees with their six legs and their hexagonal combs. 

It is very natural for children to travel to a country where numbers live: For a while, children regard regard everything around them as being alive. Anything magic strongly appeals to small children and going with that is a strong emotional thinking. 

In addition, children of that age need tangible experiences of the inherent abstract character of mathematics. 

In a nutshell

On their imaginative, cheerful journey to ‘Numberland’, the children meet the numbers 0 to 10 as nice, living characters who motivate them to deal with mathematical aspects and coherences. Number Lane, starting at 0, shows the way to Number Town where each number lives in its characteristic, geometrically shaped garden. The children decorate these gardens with houses, towers, flowerbeds, and other things going with the number. 

There is a mischievous (but not scary) little character messing around and a nice fairy/princess sorting things out. No matter how these two characters are named, children love the good vs. bad. Tales and music, lots of active games and other things children enjoy complement the experiences.

A neighbourhood full of maths

Let’s build homes for our number friends!

While building a neighbourhood with gardens and homes for their living number friends, the children experience all vital aspects of numbers, shapes, operations. It triggers a lot of communication, reasoning, helping each other and can be used to deliberately address an abundant choice of content. They are the starting point for cross curricular activities and support the transition to further, more abstract maths experiences.

All elements are designed to trigger children as well as to transport max mathematical content – structured but still flexible and different.

Imagine, someone invited me to a very special place …

— Number puppets   turn abstract symbols into living and lovable characters with distinct characteristics to play with and to talk to. They live in Number Town as happy neighbours.

— A Number Lane   leads us into and out of Numberland (from 0 to 10, then 20). So many fun active games we can play on and with it to ensure we always find our way in and out of Numberland.

— Number Gardens define the property of each number and correspond to the geometric aspect. We decorate these gardens and experience all number aspects at a glance. Access is strictly limited and, therefore, a lot of communication, detailed cognition and reasoning is triggered: “I wonder in which garden this little toy cow may graze?”

— Number Houses   because also numbers need a house to live in, with a matching set of windows and a house number on top of the chimney. Once we understood the concept 1 to 5, we can easily build those houses 6 to 10.

— Number Towers   built with single blocks for the beautiful view in each garden. Much to explore, also when we put them next to each other as an impressive staircase.

— Flowerbeds and a large Meadow for those gardening enthusiasts who love picking / planting / buying flowers or vegetables, exploring numbers, patterns, symmetry, even money.

— Hodgey Podgey and Forgetmenot These two imaginative characters account for our magic thinking. We particularly love cheeky Hodgey Podgey who ever so often messes around in Numberland, so that we have to spot and correct the mistakes! Fortunately, we can also call kind Forgetmenot for help.

— Number Stories   like that of poor Four who is sick! To cure her, a tea is prepared from four bits of four different herbs out of her square herb garden. After four minutes brewing time, four spoons of  honey are added and stirred four times – curing immediately…
Or that of Nine who needs to be rescued by his number friends …

— Number Songs because music, rhymes, and singing have the highest value for our body, mind, and soul. A refrain for the beginning as well as for the end of a visit to Numberland make these visits special. In addition, there are songs for each number the beat of which and number of tones corresponds to the number as well as the content does to the number tales. Popular nursery rhymes or relating songs can be included as well. It is fun to explore the patterns in rhythms and to sing, dance, and make music alongside Numberland.

— My Book of Numbers where I can collect my creative treasures around Numberland, maybe some activity sheets, definitely colouring pages of the number characters and a table to stamp the visits to Numberland. Highly treasured by children and a good documentation of a child’s development.

— Plennnnty of room for creativity, own ideas and needs, for free play, for cross-curricular activities – and to connect with things us children love and need.

— Games and Activities Each visit to Numberland can be the basis for lots of activities around the specific Number of the Week. Fun active games, related songs or rhymes, designing or moulding, exploring specific questions, sports or outdoor activities – whatever is part of the term anyway or an objective can be brought in.

The Numberland research project

Let’s visit Numberland started as a research project in Germany from 2003 to 2005. The objective was to find out whether combining findings from brain research, developmental psychology, elementary pedagogics, and maths into an emotional and imaginative, open and playful concept had significant effects on learning. 

And it had: Dr Gerhard Friedrich proved that within only ten weeks children aged 3 to 6 gained the mathematical competence and understanding they would have normally achieved only within one year. The same was true for language skills and for under-privileged children with partly very poor understanding of the German language. 

These findings were confirmed in a second study (2005 to 2009). 

Read more about the research and the peer reviewed publications.

Numberland publications in English

Gerhard Friedrich, Viola de Galgóczy, Barbara Schindelhauer (2010). 
Let’s visit Numberland – playfully discover the world of numbers. Self-published handbook, ifvl Waldkirch.

Adaptation of Komm mit ins Zahlenland by the same authors (2004), Herder Publishing (long seller with 65k+ sold copies)

NCETM National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (2011).  Focus on…Numberland.
Early Years Magazine, Issue 25/2011, www.ncetm.org.uk

Gerhard Friedrich, Barbara Schindelhauer (2014). 
Let’s visit Numberland: An Emotive, Story-based Contribution to Numeracy and Literacy Development.
In: Jörg F. Maas, Simone C. Emig, Carolin Seelmann (eds.). Prepare for Life! Raising Awareness for Early Literacy Education. Results and Implications of the International Conference of Experts 2013. Stiftung Lesen 2014 (pp. 79-85)     

Gerhard Friedrich, Barbara Schindelhauer (2015). 
Let’s visit Numberland: A highly emotive and efficient reason for reasoning.
In: Mathematical Association, Primary Mathematics, volume 19, issue 1, pp. 13-16. Mathematical Association, www.m-a.org.uk    

Further publications (in German) on www.ifvl.de

Numberland at conferences

It has been an honour and a joyful enrichment to exchange thoughts with experts on international conferences!

World Literacy Summit 2020

April 5 – April 8, 2020
Oxford University, UK

Over 160 speakers discuss how to improve literacy skills around the world.
Barbara speaks about how children’s natural interest in the language of maths relates to the topic.


Erasmus +

Kick-off Meeting 30th Mar – 3rd April 2020
Lodz, Poland

Erasmus+ CLIL project 2016

Start of a new project on creatively teaching maths with partners from Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Portugal, Cyprus.
Kick-off meeting with Numberland training with Barbara.

The 2019 Autumn Summit: Literacies

Oct 28 – Nov 3 2019
– online event –

Kathy Brodie broadcasts interviews with 20 early years experts.
Among them, Barbara talks about the chances of an emotional approach to the language of maths.

Subscribe to the online summit for FREE here:

Erasmus+ project ‘CLIL Bilingual Education a Step Ahead’, 2014 – 2016

Closing conference 2016
Lodz, Poland

Partners: Poland, Romania, Greece, Turkey. ‘Numberland’ as best practice approach being applied in Kindergarten 206 and in Kindergarten 156 in Lodz/Poland.

‘Numberland’ workshop held by Barbara Schindelhauer during the closing conference.

2. Andiner Deutschlehrerkongress / Congress of Teachers of German as a Foreign Language

October 2015
Santiago de Chile, Chile

Workshop on ‘Let’s visit Numberland – learning a second language with the help of maths’ by Barbara Schindelhauer

BCME8 – British Congress of Mathematics Education

April 2014
University of Nottingham, UK

Session ‘Let’s visit Numberland – an emotive, story based and practical contribution to numeracy and literacy’


Prepare for Life! – Raising Awareness for Early Literacy Education

March 2013
Leipzig, Germany


International conference by Reading Worldwide / Stiftung Lesen, Mainz, Germany.

Session on the contribution of Numberland to both maths and literacy, held by Barbara Schindelhauer.

Conference proceedings: 
Gerhard Friedrich, Barbara Schindelhauer (2014). Let’s visit Numberland: An Emotive, Story-based Contribution to Numeracy and Literacy Development. 
In: Jörg F. Maas, Simone C. Emig, Carolin Seelmann (eds.). Prepare for Life! Raising Awareness for Early Literacy Education. Results and Implications of the International Conference of Experts 2013. Stiftung Lesen 2014 (pp. 79-85)

Download the conference proceedings for free from researchgate.net

Delta Kappa Gamma Society
Bi-annual European Regional Conference

Aug. 2011
Baden-Baden, Germany

Keynote and workshop on Numberland, given by Barbara Schindelhauer.


Videos with Numberland

To watch any of these videos, just click on the picture. Hope you will find them informative 🙂

numberland teacher training free webinar

Recording of a webinar on how early children are like, the chances of early maths, and how Numberland combines both.

45′ approximately

British education expert Kathy Brodie and Barbara discuss the chances of an emotional approach to the language of maths.
This interview was part of Kathy’s Early Years summit 2019.

Listen to Numberland author Dr. Gerhard Friedrich and see Numberland in action.

What Personal Transition and Early Maths have in common.
Catrin Jacksties and Barbara discover amazing connections.

Teacher feedback on Numberland

Teachers tell us about their children:

⭐ They are completely enjoying it!
⭐ They have connected on an emotional level to the characters and are very enthusiastic about the Numberland sessions
⭐ Children in year 1 are so excited about Numberland, they have been talking about it in school and at home
⭐ They even brought their own items from home to decorate the number gardens, and are noticing when particular numbers are said in everyday conversation
⭐ They have become excited about maths and it is so good to see how engaged they are with it all
⭐ They love the fairy tale element and the two characters

Fancy more, detailed teachers’ quotes on teachers’ Numberland experiences? This way!

Numberland international and multilingual

Some Numberland enthusiasts around the world kindly translated information on the concept into their languages!

Some Numberland enthusiasts around the world kindly translated information on the concept into their languages! Can’t thank them enough 🙂

Follow this link to read about Numberland in various languages