Tag Archives: featherstone

It’s time to… Discover Maths!

By Trudi Fitzhenry and Karen Murphy, authors of the award-winning Time to… Featherstone Early Years series

Creating a positive maths mindset in young children is part of the reason for writing this book.  As early educators we model many of the attitudes and beliefs that young children absorb.  In our experience of supporting early years staff in a range of settings,  many of the adults we work with have a deep reluctance to engage with maths based on their own unhappy experiences of the subject in the past.  If we can offer ideas for making maths fun and remove some of the potential misconceptions held by maths-anxious adults then our youngest learners will benefit!

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Having the confidence to play with maths concepts in an open way, without the fear of being ‘wrong’, is crucial.  A fun way of introducing a maths problem is to allow the children to become the experts and you, as the adult, let their enquiries lead the learning.  So if you are looking at the number 5, you might ask ‘What do you know about the number 5?  Can anyone show me what 5 looks like?’  The children may place 5 objects together or may write the digit 5.  They may draw 5 spots on a whiteboard or show you 5 fingers.  All of the responses are welcomed and valued.  Encourage further sharing of ideas by asking ‘What else can we do to show 5?  Does anyone have another idea?’  Collect all of the children’s ideas and examples and create a book of 5, including songs and rhymes and simple calculations should these begin to appear.

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Taking maths learning outside is a powerful way of engaging children both in the natural world around them and in the natural patterns that exist.  Looking at flowers that grow around your setting allows children to compare petal shapes and quantities.  They can ask their friends which colours they prefer and create a simple tally or chart.  Collecting twigs, cones or leaves to use in a repeating pattern or as tools for counting or measuring engages the children in a worthwhile pursuit.  Looking for the tallest sunflower or widest branch, or seeing who can make the longest daisy chain adds a sense of competition that young children love!

Our message is simple.  If the children see us as adults engaging in exciting maths activities and hear us asking questions and following a simple line of enquiry, they will learn that curiosity is a good thing.  If we share our misconceptions and how we have figured out a solution to a problem, they will learn that this is okay, too.  With this kind of encouragement we can grow a new generation of maths-confident children and lose the all too common fear of maths that many adults share.

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The Games We Play

Simon Macdonald, author of The Little Book of Team Games, explains the importance of games in the early years. 

This Little Book focuses on encouraging emphasis on ‘togetherness’: a move away from the individual and towards the collective. Children in early years settings are faced with huge challenges regarding socialisation, sharing and growing in responsibility, and this book provides excellent opportunities for them and their carers to address these issues through team play.

I guess that I have always loved games.  For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to play them.  And I’m not picky.  Any kind of game will do.  The joy of game-playing is that once the rules have been learnt and mastered – or, frequently in my case, not – then there will always be another game along in a little while.  Or an old favourite.  Or a completely invented and arbitrary one.  Whatever it is that draws us towards playing games against someone else or in teams, I would argue that the feeling is something collective and shared: we want to challenge ourselves, test our mettle, push ourselves, but, overwhelmingly and perhaps more tellingly, we want to have fun and we want to have fun with each other.

The Little Book of Team Games is my attempt at acknowledging their value while being only too aware of the c-word lurking in the background.  Competitiveness has become a byword for all the evil excesses of team sports – and I share many of these doubts about the suitability of team game playing for young children especially when the role models they are shown can often behave rather badly when put to the test.  But I would argue that the extreme alternative of Sports Day events that dilute the need to compete at all – the following are ‘real games’ that I have witnessed at first hand: Walking Slowly, Hanging the Washing on the Line, and Sleeping Lions – do something far worse.  They dismiss the sense of taking part as a collective and cheering each other on as well as the sense of achievement a team may feel in doing well at something.

Yes, let’s not teach ourselves to win at any cost; to not only beat our opponents but to grind them into the dirt, but let’s encourage those who can run, throw, jump, catch, dribble and so on so that these skills are seen and valued as something to be proud of and, that we, as a team, are right behind each other.

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