Mathematics is all around us and we engage in mathematics at some level a lot of the time. The children at Redcliffe Children’s Centre also engage in mathematics in their every day lives and through a stimulating play based environment where they can initiate their own enquiries some of which are mathematical. At Redcliffe Children’s Centre in mathematical learning we are focusing on children’s thinking and involving them in processes. We support children’s enquiry in all areas of mathematics which include number, measurement, space and shape and handling data. We use the EYFS as a basis for looking at development and it sometimes supports our discussions about the children’s learning
‘An ability to play with numbers is engraved in the very architecture of our brains’
Recent research has stated that babies as young as five months have some understanding of quantity. Children, as soon as they are born, want to discover their world and it is this thirst for learning that we want to foster and develop at Redcliffe Children’s Centre. Children uncover the mathematics of their world through play. Some children develop dominant schemas (‘patterns of repeated behaviour’, Athey, 1990), and this can be seen for example through a containing schema when children are interested in boxes and any containers, sometimes putting things in and taking things out and some times exploring a larger container by putting their whole bodies inside. Through this they are developing awareness of capacity, corners, angles and area.
Children also develop awareness of numbers and the functions of numbers in their everyday life. Children develop, for example, the counting sequence gradually building up a repertoire of number names and the counting sequence. Children who are developing the ability to tune into numbers in everyday life build a ‘Numeracy Set’.
This is the ability to tune into numbers in every day life, Carruthers, 1997. Children who have a numeracy set:
· Are aware that numbers have meaning in all mathematical areas and engage with numbers in a meaningful way
· Use numbers in their talk in the context of their own lives
· Play with numbers, often making up their own games
· Know that numbers can be written down and use their own written symbols, drawings and other representations
At Redcliffe we want all children to develop a numeracy set understanding and making sense of the world of numbers.
As well as learning through play and their own individual enquiries children learn with others and also in adult directed activities which are open and follow the children’s enquiries.
The Teaching of Mathematics (The adult’s role)
The Learning Environment
To support the development of children’s play and self-initiated learning the nursery environment must have opportunities for children to engage in mathematics. At Redcliffe therefore we have planning sessions every week to plan the play environment. We note children’s interests and plan from them as well as introducing new mathematical materials and equipment. Changes to the environment are noted in our environment map.
· Block play- children build with unit blocks, using 18 different shapes of blocks and engaging shape and space play.
· Water play- children in engage in volume and capacity play
· Sand play – children engage in volume and capacity
· Outside play – distance, time, space, perimeter, volume capacity, angles, corners
· Maths area – this area is to keep maths resources that the children self select and can use across the nursery.
· Food Room – children select cooking equipment and ingredients to make something of their choice. Children engage in weight, number, balance using the vocabulary such as how much, too much, more, less.
· Music Room – children select instruments and partake in keeping the beat (one to one correspondence)
· Art, design, making and marking area: children explore attach and make meanings with materials, models and marks: from these personal meanings mathematical marks and symbols emerge
· Graphics Area – a selection of mark making materials and mathematical equipment give children the opportunity to engage in making their own marks for their own purposes, some which may be mathematical.
Everywhere in the nursery there are possibilities for the children to engage in mathematics. We define the areas only because it is convenient for the adults to maintain the resources and the organisation so that the children know where the equipment is.