Thursday, 22 January 2015

Reflective journal: U&A mathematics/Maths provision

'Reflective:' I think that all practitioners, whether teachers, Early Years Practitioners or Teaching assistants need to be reflective in their practise. This article is about my realisation that something isn't working in my setting and that I want to change it. I will keep this journal over a time to show progression and I hope to be honest about the effect this has on the learning in the classroom. 

Mathematics is a subject close to my heart. I have blogged about it once or twice or 20 times. Its constantly evolving yet there are some things which stay constant (see maths basics). 

One of the big foci over the previous few years in the EY sector has been a push from plastic objects, which are often seen as closed ended, towards more natural open ended resources. The rationale behind it this move seems to lie somewhere in the theory that a 'natural' look within an Early Years setting can be more calming for children so that they learn better. However it has (to some extent) gone happily hand in hand with 'opening up' resources so that children can use and apply their mathematical knowledge more freely and in a way which is more EY centred.

Now, I'm not an advocate of a wholly natural (I call it washed out) approach.  I think there is a benefit to having a balance of the two and I feel that this is best achieved through vibrant and attractive displays and neutral furniture. But what I will agree to is the use of natural objects in maths, but not necessarily the way that it is used in some settings. 

Too often people will rid their maths area of anything plastic in favour of pinecones, acorns, pegs and other wooden objects which looks good but nothing actually happens with the resources. 

I'm getting away from my main point a bit here.  Maths resources ought to be open ended as best we can. Here are two examples I give quite a lot:

A jigsaw of a flower. Whilst the children can use the pieces as part of schematic play, the core mathematical skills and knowledge we want them to practise or learn is limited to understanding of space and to some extent shape as well as predicting skills.  

Whereas a small basket of metal keys (note - not natural!) satisfies development of colour and shape as well as patterns and sorting, matching, ordering and comparing.  A more natural resource such as a basket of shells would work in much the same way but I wanted to make the point that it doesn't need to be 'natural' in the sense that it comes from the earth but in that it has a context in the real world. 

The reason I titled this article 'reflective' is because I think that despite my hard work in maths, I'm actually forgetting these important elements.  My maths area at the moment is not where I want it [physically] but its also not at the standard that I would expect from myself.  Over the coming weeks I intent to develop this area, focussing much more on 'real world' resources which will excite my children but extend their thinking further.  

Day zero: 
At the moment there is mixture between objects I've made out of wood and plastic resources I've chosen to reignite the children's excitement. 

Bears were meant to add an element of size language and colour.

Games such as this cupcake game were intended to get children thinking about turn taking as well as patterns and colours. 

Dominoes were once again intended to encourage turn taking and thinking about colour. 
As it stands the children do enjoy playing with all of the resources.  The dominoes and bears are by far the most popular. Often children will count the teddy bears and talk about the colours. the dominoes are used as tokens in roleplay, usually a phone or money but if modelled the children will play dominoes properly.

My first starting point is evaluating the other resources and their effectiveness during free play. The shapes for example are not used and are very closed ended. The duplo bricks are also closed ended to some extent and have had their day. 

Day one:

Well not quite day one. Its the first day I've actually had time to do something with the area. Its been quite tricky to narrow down what I want in the area. I've hunted through quite a few different shops (home departments etc.) and its quite hard to narrow down exactly what I want. So I tried a few different things today:

Wooden spoons marked with simple mathematical terms and symbols. 

Baby socks for pairing and stones.. not quite what I had in mind but they have been successful. 
So just adding these three resources and having nothing else out has led the children to do so much pretend baking! That was the kind of thing I was hoping to do. I want the children to be using their maths in contexts which they are familiar with. One little boy this afternoon asked for a bowl and spent the entire afternoon mixing the stones with some playdough to make his cake.  

Its got me thinking that tomorrow I can add a few more things linked to interests at the moment (baking). Shall see what works.

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