Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Mathematics outdoors - a work in progress

After the success of the outdoor diary I wanted to have another go at something similar.  I began to think about the outdoors and what I feel my weaknesses are.  Despite being confident in maths in the Early Years I feel that my outdoor mathematics is limited.  The main reason is lack of creativity - our outdoors is due a major overhaul (and is underway!) but it far from where it will one day be.  Other reasons are that mathematics outdoors should be more physical which requires larger scale resources and that practitioners don't always see what is actually mathematical outdoors.

Below I have listed some activities I have tried recently outdoors which cover many of the mathematical skills which we are working towards:

Working with bubbles:

We've had a spot of rain over the last few days and one of our popular activities is to play with bubbles on the ground.  We squirt washing up liquid and use sweeping brushes to make bubbles.  We then 'smoothed' this out and made foot prints.  The language used was considerable, "bigger, small, long, short, fat (wide), thin, push, stamp, run, walk." 
This activity can easily be repeated with any substance which shows up footprints - mud if you're daring!

Weaving and threading:

Weaving covers many of the different areas of the EYFS.  It encompasses Shape, Space and Measure in that the children gain a better understanding of the sizes of the gaps where they are weaving.  Personal, Social and Emotional if they choose to weave together (we weave either side of trellises etc.) as well as developing their fine and gross motor control.  Of course it also increases their language skills as the children think and talk to each other about what to do next. ("Through, under, behind, next to, around, push, etc.")

I devised a "spiders web" frame using a wooden frame I had designed in my NQT year (its faring well) and some wool.  I ensured that I made it very irregular, creating small and large spaces at high and low levels.  The children need to use both of their hands to weave and to communicate with their partner is they choose to do this with another child.  (Its easier to start off working with someone else, then they can progress onto weaving alone.)

Children can 'progress' onto weaving alone.  Try ensuring you use weaving structures which are uniform such as fencing and trellises.  We are using our builders fencing - we're reclaiming! 

Bread crates also make for excellent frames as they are uniform and have large holes for little hands.  

Tidy up time: 
This is a relatively new addition to our outdoors.  We have struggled to stay organised outdoors because we have to pack everything (and I mean everything) up at the end of the session and lock it away.  Our manager bought us a shoe wrack to store writing materials in and it worked slightly but it needed a little umphf! I printed some photos and added them with velcro. This helps at tidy up time because the children match up the pictures to the resources (SSM).  

Using natural resources in open ended activites:

Don't underestimate the natural environment when planning for maths.  Children find things in your outdoors which you hadn't even noticed.  But just in case they don't its always nice to have a wide arrangement of exciting 'natural' objects for them to arrange, count or sort.  

In the photo above we had some plastic numbers out but also a large collection of pine cones.  Little boy U. helped to place the correct number of pine cones onto the logs to match the numeral.

Below I set up a teepee of garden canes.  I had talked briefly to a few children about the leaves which were changing colour on the tree and had begun to fall off. We talked about the different colours we could see and about the different sizes of leaves.  We began to clip the leaves we found onto the teepee and to some extent to sort them and arrange by the properties we had discussed.  

Children need to understand that routine exists, even if they are outdoors.  We still have a bell to signal to stop and we sing our 'tidy up' song.  We then finish by getting into a circle and singing some ring games. This encourages the children to come together and to understand what will happen next (lining up and walking inside together.) 

This is not the exhaustive list but a snap shot of what we've been doing for the past few days. I will continue to add to this page where I can to ensure there is a balance of different activities to cover all of the mathematic strands. 

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