Delighted to have the incredible Elaine Bennett as a guest on the blog today - here is her post on how to make maths an exciting and 'real' topic for young children.
Well this week, we have been looking at shapes in our daily magic maths sessions. We started by looking at the flat shapes on our rug which we cant pick up and then looked at the 3D solid shapes which we can. We began with the plastic ones and the children looked at them and we talked about what they could be in our lives. The plastic cylinder became a rolling pin, telescope, nose and can of coke. The pyramid became a mountain. The cube became a box, a present, a robots head, a dice. Another day we put a shape in each hoop and I gave the children classroom objects to match to the shapes. The point I am trying to make is that we need to make sure that we provide the opportunities for children to see maths in their worlds, their lives, to see the patterns, relationships and connections. I wasn't expecting them to pick up the mathematical names....but they started to use them, recognising our deputy head teacher badge was a cuboid and her buttons were cylinders and not circles.
Today we went on a shape hunt outside and I was blown away. The children were highly motivated and engaged, excitedly making connections in their world, their environment. Seeing the planks they climb on are cuboids, our door strips are bendy cuboids, a stick is a cylinder, the wheels on the bikes we ride are cylinders, the 6 square waffle bricks together make a cube and that cylinders had been cut in half to make our ampi theatre..as whole ones wouldn't have lined up as neatly. Excited yells of "Mrs Bennett I found a cuboid! Cube! Cylinder!" filled the air.
Maths is ultimately about these patterns, relationships, links and connections whether they relate to numbers, measures or shapes. Children who can recognise and use these patterns are our learners who feel truly connected to maths.
Ironically that list wouldn't really tell me if they "knew" 3D shape.
So if and when you use the plastic shapes, when you take them back to the cupboard, don't take the learning back there to be placed on a shelf alongside the dog eared box with sphere thats broken in two! Ironically the shapes we used were not designed for children to actually explore as the cones bottom fell off!
NB Depsite my plastic shape bashing, I cannot recommend highly enough the magnetic polydron sets, which whilst pricey are brilliant for exploring shape!http://www.polydron.co.uk/magnetic-polydron.html