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The CAMathories® Approach

Much of the teaching of early mathematics to young children, including that provided by current online packages, is ineffective as it fails to take into account what we know about how young children learn. In particular, it has been consistently shown to be crucial that children are emotionally engaged by tasks, as they are playful and relevant to their interests. The approach of the current CAMathories® games design is fundamentally based on this considerable body of evidence which shows improvements in performance and learning in young children when tasks are placed in contexts that give them a meaningful purpose. This is a long-established principle related to children’s learning dating back to the early, classic work of Istomina (1975) and Donaldson (1978) (For a fuller discussion of these approaches, see Whitebread, 1995).

In CAMathories®, using a story (a meaningful context) that young children and parents are familiar with and fond of, is more effective than teaching abstract math as our approach engages the emotional and cognitive responses and development of young children that can give children confidence and ensures that they feel comfortable and engaged as they learn. 


Donaldson, M. (1978) Children’s Minds. Lindon: Fontana.

Istomina, Z. M. (1975). The development of voluntary memory in preschool-age children. Soviet Psychology, 13(4), 5-64.


Whitebread, D. (1995) Emergent Mathematics or How to Help Young Children become Confident Mathematicians, in J. Anghileri (Ed.), Children’s Thinking in Primary Mathematics: Perspectives on Children’s Learning, London: Cassell.

(Written by Dr. David Whitebread)


CAMathories®  Goldilocks and the Three Bears

principles of counting, characteristics of basic shapes, ordering of sizes


This first one of CAMathories® series, designed for 3-5 year old children, tells the tale of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears. What will Goldilocks find when she goes into this cottage that she hasn’t seen before? What will Daddy Bear, Mummy Bear and Baby Bear find when they return from their early morning walk?


This telling of this well-loved fairy tale involves young children in helping Goldilocks to enter 3 Bears Cottage, to eat some of their delicious breakfast, and to choose a nice comfy bed to have a lie down on afterwards. But if only she had read the sign over the door, she might have thought twice about entering a cottage when she didn’t know who lived there!


The math games and puzzles involved in this little adventure involve the children in:

• knocking on the cottage door the right number of times to open it

• naming the shapes of the toast, counting their corners (including the idea of zero)

and many more....


General notes on the CAMathories® website provide guidance for how to play the games with your children so that they have fun and learn some valuable math skills. Each game in the story is also accompanied by abundant parents' notes. The icon of Notes for each game is at the top right-hand corner of the screen. Click on it and the notes will pop up on the screen.

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CAMathories® Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf  

combinations and
permutations, observation skills, patterns and shapes

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CAMathories Ugly Duckling 

 principles of counting, adding number pairs, inverse relationship between addition and subtraction


If they are run straight through, these CAMathories® last between 5 and 10 minutes.
However, they all contain a number of games and puzzles, which are posed by Professor Cantab, and the time it takes children to solve these will vary. The stories, games and puzzles are written to be appropriately challenging for 3-5 year olds.
So, to begin with, it is important that as parents and caregivers you watch and listen to the stories and play the games together with your child. Enjoy chatting together about the games and encourage your child to talk about their ideas. You may need to help with actions such as dragging objects around the screen or selecting objects using a mouse, finger pad or touch screen.
If your child needs support, it can be helpful for you to show them how to play a game or solve a puzzle, carefully describing what you are doing. Once you have played a story with your child a few times, when you think they are ready, encourage them have a go on their own.
Young children often need a number of experiences to fully grasp a new idea, and this takes time. So it is helpful to follow up the mathematical ideas of particular games and puzzles using practical everyday examples which will build confidence and understanding.

Parent notes attached to each game give some advice about this.
However, the golden rule in all your discussions and extensions is to be playful and follow your child’s interests. The most important thing of all is that your child enjoys and has fun with our CAMathories®. If the story is proving to be a valuable experience for your child, they will want to play the same story over and over again. This will all help to build familiarity and confidence in learning and playing with mathematics.

Written by Dr. David Whitebread

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