Friday, 15 April 2016

Guest Post - Making Maths Matter!

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.



Hands up...who has ever trudged down to the maths cupboard to sign out the box of 3D plastic shapes before so that they can "do" 3D shape?
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.
Boys in the willow den realised there was a square was at the top inside of it and took a photo on the ipad. By this time we were late for lunch. As we walked along the corridor lights, tiles, windows, doors, mosiacs and even our dinner tables proved fascinating to the children! It was honestly like they were seeing things they pass everyday with new eyes.Leading me to exclaim "Our whole world is made of shapes!" 
I guess my point is that we need to make sure that children see maths as important, relevant and meaningful. We need to provide the opportunities for them to make the connections, see the links, patterns and relationships. We need them to see that they are surrounded by maths....it involves them. It is LIFE! 
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.
In years gone by I would have called children over to "learn" shapes, using the box from the maths cupboard and a ticklist to complete of "who knows shapes". What I was really teaching them is that maths is abstract, plastic, brightly coloured, led by an adult, and happens at this table. This will only switch off learners.
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
Thanks to Elaine for this post & make sure you follow Keeping Early Years Unique on Facebook and @Keep_EYs_Unique on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. These are brilliant ideas. Kids often consider maths a tough and dry subject with not much creativity to teach them. Kids would love these ideas.

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