Sunday, 11 May 2014

Maths: Back to Basics.

We're having our final intake of children at the moment. Its made us realise just how far we have journeyed with our N2's (older Nursery children who will go to Reception next year) and how far we still need to go with our N1's (we have these for another year). Our newbies who are coming in now are all N1's and they are coming in without many of the basic skills which we have worked to teach our other children, so.. back to basics.


At its most basic, maths is about labelling. We label a number, or a group of objects when counted. We also label objects such as coloured building blocks using colour names (even if they're wrong). By assigning these different names, children are demonstrating to you that they understanding there are differences between them. Children often sort objects by such properties, whether into piles or simply by selecting the ones they want from a large pile.


Comparing is similar to sorting in that children need to see the differences, but in order to compare effectively they need to be able to communicate what the differences are.  For example using language such as "bigger" or "smaller" in play demonstrate a child has understanding of comparing.

3 Stripes and 3 caterpillar holes - same number of things but different properties.

4 and 4


Matching (like comparing) requires an understanding of the term "same." Same is an abstract concept (bear with me here..) because sometimes two objects are the same and different at the same time.  For example look at these two objects:

 Same: They are both teddy bears.  They are both brown. They both have two arms, two legs, hands, feet, etc.
Different: They are different shades of brown, they have different size noses etc.

So at a basic level children can match similar objects but need to explain WHY they match.  This concept is very difficult at this level and the way you ask the question should not include why (see my post about Blank level questions to explain this).
Children need to be able to verbalise how objects are similar or the same or how they are different by using the plethora of vocabulary that you introduce them to.


So after children have an understanding of objects that are the same or are different (or even alongside) they can begin to order based on their comparisons.  For example children might order objects by their size, by their weight, by their colour (rainbow..?)

We so often see children beginning to line up cars in long lines - this is ordering.  They may not have chosen thees cars in an order which they can explain, but usually there is some reason for them.  I say this because all too often they reject one or two cars once chosen. Discuss with children who you see doing this - structure questions to encourage them to talk about the cars or objects they are choosing.

Which leads to:  Counting

Counting should not be part of mathematics until they have begun to work within each of these four areas.  That is not to say that children cannot have any understanding or exposure to number - but this should be limited in focus activities until you are sure they have understanding of these concepts.

Counting should begin from something they understand. For example as they begin to order their cars in lines (and hopefully talk about why they're choosing the cars they are) you can begin to introduce counting by placing one finger on each car and assigning a label (a number!) to them.  Children then understand that this car is purple, its long, its got 3 wheels (because its fancy) AND ITS 1!

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