Teaching maths is easier and more fun when learned through other mediums, such as through the environment and through stories and poems. When we allow children to learn early maths skills and concepts this way, we are allowing a joyful experience that makes long-term neural connections because it is accompanied with positive emotions, fun language and play.
Stories with maths make a useful structure for extending play. During the summer break, JB will have lots of containers to use to fill, transfer and empty in a variety of shapes and sizes. I know he will do this because he enjoys doing it and therefore he needs it. This activity is extremely absorbing and teaches weight and measure. Language used will include ‘full’, ’empty’, ‘more’, ‘less’, ‘bigger’, ‘smaller’ etc.
Size can also be reinforced by playing with boxes of various sizes. Organising treasure boxes to discover and to make, ensures wonder and discovery is mixed in. An activity that I will enjoy with JB will involve collecting treasures we find outside; in the park, at the beach and fill the boxes with them such as leaves, twigs, small stones, and flowers. The objects collected will reflect the size of the box they will go in.
The language used will make essential links between the experience children get from the world and mathematics. Askew (1999).
Counting and the Outdoors
The ability to count with accuracy is the fundamental math skill to calculating and quantifying. The skills and concepts involved include reciting number names in order, counting objects as well as remembering which object we started with, understanding that any tangible or non-tangible thing can be counted and that zero represents nothing.
Games and Activities
After lining up 10 footballs, ask your child to kick each ball into the goal one by one. At the end, count how many balls went into the goal and how many did not. Vocabulary used here include, ‘aim’, ‘kick goal’, ‘miss’, numbers to 10, ‘count’, ‘how many’, ‘more’, ‘less’.
Find the Creatures
Bury a variety of plastic bugs in the soil or sand. Play with your child asking ‘lets see how many creatures we can find’, providing a small container to put them in. This can be followed up by categorising the creatures if you have a few of each spiders, beetles and frogs for examples as well as counting each category and counting them in total.
Let Your Child Lead You
For most of the day, I will allow JB lead the play with a short period of adult initiated activities. I find for JB that first thing in the morning and last thing at night are the best times. Before bedtime I would use fiction and non-fiction books.
If we know what our child needs to master, we can organise the activities beforehand and have the options available for our children to choose. For specific games and activities outside, I will plan to carry these out during the earlier part of the day when I know JB will most likely respond and be engaged. Children in general are happier when they have chosen their activity (as many reception teachers have realised and are now practising this) and as such, learning is more effective again, because positive emotions are being tapped into.
Sand offers a multiplicity of learning opportunities, especially when teamed with other materials.
- Metal and wooden containers provide extra-sensory experiences and invites plenty of maths language
- We can add larger versions of buckets and spades, reinforcing more weight and quantity maths concepts. Making mud food is and improvement of the old mud pies which also encourages children to move around whilst learning.
- using measuring cups and scales, we can develop fun imaginative play in a play kitchen which can set up outside and talk about weights and measures
Other Maths Activities
Apart from the abovementioned forms of play, there are other activities that I will use with JB. I have listed these in categories.
Visual and Auditory
A.R.R.O.W. | Doman dot flash cards | Mandala patterns | Face reading | Sign Language
Building with blocks | Printing with blocks | Playing with pebbles | Sand paper numbers | Sand, soil and water play
Sand and water play | Transferring | Mandala Patterns | Cooking | Cogs | Games | Imaginative play
Transferring | Sweeping | Cleaning windows, tables etc. (Spatial Awareness) | Cooking | Role play
Pointing out numbers | Counting objects in environments | Pointing out large and small objects in environments | Talking about objects that are the same or different (ie size, colour, shape etc.) | Running in different sized spaces (playing ‘tag’, encourages spatial awareness) |Singing number songs in transit | Talking about fast and slow
Specific Places to Visit
Historic places | Theme parks | Beaches | Animal Parks/Zoos | Museums | Live music performances | Theatre | Parks and playgrounds | Forests and walks | Art galleries
Focused one to one Activities
Puzzles | Sand paper numbers | Classification | Mandala Patterns | Maths language flash cards
Using the Arts for Maths
Using instruments | Listening and dancing to music | Counting beats | Singing number songs with actions | Painting | Printing numbers and shapes
Rhymes and songs | Stories and factual to introduce and reinforce a visit or experience | Reinforce maths concepts of quantity, shapes, classification , same and different
- Developing Early Maths Through Story (Book)
I will use most of these ideas for much our summer. There are however many more activities to do to address other areas of development but maths remains one of my priorities. I hope we all have a lot of fun with our children as we teach them and my hope is also to take care of ourselves and have some relaxation after each exhausting day! Look out for my next blog on summer activities to addrress Fine Motor Skills.