Using Books: Maisy Goes Camping

Age 3 to 5
Using everyday language to talk about addition and subtraction

Children often enjoy sharing a book with an adult and then acting out the story.

Adults could provide story props for indoors and outdoors. Here we focus on using Maisy Goes Camping by Lucy Cousins.


The Activity
Read and enjoy the book and discuss any camping experiences.
Retell the story with small world characters going into folded card 'tents', one at a time. Repeatedly ask, "Is there room for one more?" until children decide it's a squeezy squish-squash and characters POP! out of the tent one at a time. Add wooden numerals and cards with POP! written on.
Children can act out their own versions with props or with dens made outside.

Encouraging mathematical thinking and reasoning:

Tell me about this picture (with characters going into or popping out of the tent). What do you notice? What do you wonder?
Tell me what is happening. How many are inside now? And now?


How many will fit without a squeezy squish-squash? Why do you think that?
What will happen if another person goes in/out now? Can you explain why you think that? How do you know that there will be six in the tent? Shall we act it out to check?


Opening Out
Play a game with five toys - hide some in the tent. One is outside, so how many are inside? Shut your eyes and imagine - if there are three campers inside the tent and one more goes in, how many are there now? Two go inside, three are outside - how many are there altogether? Children can check by modelling. What if we have a larger tent? What if we have two tents?


Can you find some numbers to go with your story?
Would you like to draw a picture to show how many children are inside and outside the tent? Can you put something to show how many have gone in/come out?


The Mathematical Journey


  • cardinality - the last number tells you how many there are
  • counting for a purpose - to see how many there are


  • saying a number which is more or less

Number symbols:

  • reading and matching numerals to amounts, or recording amounts informally

Addition and subtraction:

  • adding and subtracting one or two from small amounts in a practical situation
  • talking about and solving practical problems involving addition and subtraction
  • using fingers for addition and subtraction calculations
  • using number facts e.g. "I know there are two inside because two and two are four"

Problem solving:

  • modelling a simple addition/subtraction word problem


Development and Variation
Children could:
  • Create their own versions of the story and illustrate a group book.
  • Use wooden or other numerals and Numicon to represent what is happening to the number of animals in the tent as they tell the story.
  • Make shadow puppets and recreate the story, drawing children's attention to what is happening to the numbers.
  • Play the Box Game.
  • Watch the animation Five Friends Counting - a Making Numbers animation by OUP (you'll need to register):

Other books for mathematical discussions:
Mouse Count by Ellen Stowe Walsh, about a snake collecting mice to eat:

The Double Decker Bus by Catherine Fosnot and Nina Uz explores numbers within ten:



Maisy Goes Camping by Lucy Cousins
Small world toys and folded cards to represent tents.
Large numerals and POP! cards.
Outdoor den-making equipment.
Pens and whiteboards or clipboards.

Download a PDF of this resource.

Acknowledgement: Helen J Williams
© University of Cambridge