This weeks guest blog is from Juliet Robertson.
Juliet is one of Scotland’s leading education consultants who specialises in outdoor learning and play. She works at a national level delivering training, giving keynote speeches, leading and supporting innovative outdoor projects and writing content for websites, documents and case studies. She is passionate about enabling schools, play organisations and early years settings to provide quality outdoor learning and play opportunities for children and young people.
Today, she is going to be talking about mini maths measures…
Mini Maths Measures That Make a Difference
Creating a maths-rich outdoor environment is a challenge which has kept me engaged for years. I am interested in finding ways that lift the learning potential of the environment even when I am not available for every child every moment of the day.
One of my approaches is to create diversity within my continuous provision. I believe that this makes a subtle but noticeable difference in children’s mathematical play.
This is not an original idea. Go into a woodland and you will find that every stick you find is different. Every leaf has tiny variations. Every plant or rock is unique in its shape and form. Whilst there are similarities, the subtlety of the differences is where curiosity, problem-solving and high-order thinking begins to grow. It is a naturally made learning environment.
In an artificially constructed outdoor space, I believe we have to mimic nature. A naturalised environment is great, but even with manufactured resources we can take the concept of diversity found in nature and apply it to practice.
To illustrate this, let’s look at clothes pegs. To nip out and buy a packet of 30, will cost you a couple of quid. Whilst that’s a job easily done, you’ve now got a self-limiting resource. Every peg will be exactly the same. It will have the same attributes.
Instead, ask your colleagues to each bring in a pair of clothes pegs. Put a request to the children’s families to do the same. Doing this helps build your nursery community. It’s an opportunity to explain the learning behind the request. It helps children understand that maths is all around us. It is a more environmentally sustainable approach than purchasing new pegs.
Next, look at the diversity of pegs that arrive. As you can see from the photo, the mathematical possibilities have increased. The pegs can now be sorted in a variety of ways: size, colour, spring tension, mass, shape and material. Comparisons can be made between the fading and discolouration of the wooden pegs. I’ve presented pairs of pegs but children may want to find and gather their own favourite colour or type of peg for a particular purpose.
The impact on children’s play comes from the language, decision-making and problem-solving that now exists. The children will quickly learn that not all pegs are manufactured equally. Some will be easier to use than others owing to the design or the type and quality of the spring. Some will work well for hanging up their art displays but will be hopeless for den building. The collection means that children now have to investigate, undergo trial and error in their play and learn more about the properties of a peg in relation to its intended purpose.
From pegs, the concept can be applied to every aspect of your resourcing for the outdoors. For example, you could request donations of:
• Sticks, stones and other natural materials, gathered in line with the land access laws of your country
• Quick-drying materials for dressing up and den building
• Lengths or off-cuts of rope and string for construction, pulley work and den building
• Funnels, sieves, hoses and other water play equipment
It’s these small changes to practice that can make a big mathematical difference.
Juliet is also the award winning author of Messy Maths: An Outdoor, Playful Approach and Dirty Teaching:A Beginners Guide to Learning Outdoors
Have a look for more outdoor and maths inspiration!