The Learning Lady has recently been working with schools to develop early mathematical understanding through everyday experiences. Using the Characteristics of Effective Learning as a clear starting point, practitioners have been encouraged to set aside their preconceptions, focussing on real life situations to increase engagement, active learning and the ability to make links across aspects of learning. A large part of this work has also involved working with parents and carers in a really informal way. The Learning Lady has been able to demonstrate that helping EYFS children to develop mathematically can be challenging, with high expectations for learning, but above all it’s lots and lots of fun!
The scene was set… the balloons were blown up, the party food bought and the invitations sent, but would anybody come?
There’s a wealth of research which suggests that many of us have been ‘put off’ mathematics as a result of our early teaching and learning experiences- me included! So, it’s been an absolute delight to work with practitioners and parents this half term to try to dispel old myths and create a love of learning mathematics at the heart of the EYFS curriculum.
From the very early stages of the planning, the practitioners and I recognised that the ‘everydayness’ of maths needed to be our approach if we were to actively engage both parents and children. Teaching and learning workshops in the EYFS had experienced considerably low turnouts, so we knew we had a challenge on our hands!
Decorating fairy cakes: The problem….you can only use 2 colours to make 5.
How many different combinations can you make?
We began by collating contexts for learning maths taken from within the children’s life experiences. Babies? Gardening? Shopping? The Car Boot Sale? Cooking? There was plenty to choose from. But the idea that stood out, the one that we hoped would engage the parents and excite the children was ‘Having a birthday party!’ We knew that that we could make this a lively day, crammed with practical real life problem solving for the children and parents.
Sharing out the crisps: The problem….can you equally share 4 different types of crisps equally between 5 bowls.
How will you make sure they are all the same?
The invitations were designed to immediately interest the parents and children, in the hope that the numbers attending would be larger than at previous events. The parents and practitioners spent a whole morning making party food involving lots of mathematical language and understanding. The atmosphere was relaxed, informal and the parents really got stuck in.
Shape sandwiches: The problem…. How many shapes, sizes and flavour combinations can you make?
We wanted the parents to be as involved as possible, with snippets of how they could help their children at home slotted in at timely intervals. It was important to the staff that the parents knew exactly what the children were expected to learn throughout the EYFS and what this looks like at home and at school. It was just the right vehicle for the practitioners to work alongside the parents, explaining the learning involved without the parents feeling like they were back in the classroom themselves.
Making Angel Delight : The problem….Can you use capacity and measure to make a delicious desert?
In the afternoon the children joined their parents for an actual pretend party in the hall! All of the games played were familiar traditional party activities, with a mathematical twist. It was a great opportunity for the children to show their parents exactly what they were able to do and some were really surprised!
Pin The String On The Balloon (mathematical language of direction and position)
- Guess The Missing Number (recognising numbers and memory)
- Yum Yum- a biscuit eating game (counting and developing and understanding of ‘less’)
- Musical Chairs (counting and developing and understanding of ‘less’)
- What’s The Time Mr Wolf? (time and counting)
- Pass The Parcel (with simple addition and subtraction problems to solve)
- Pass The Balloon (mathematical language of direction and position)
- The Chocolate Game (number recognition)
The participation and involvement of the parents far exceeded the expectations of the practitioners. Fourteen parents (and a few babies) attended the morning session. Some parents came for an hour here or there, but over 30% of EYFS parents attended in the afternoon; this was a first for the attendance at any mathematics workshop. There was a genuine buzz in the room. Practitioners commented on the confidence of the parents when joining in with the mathematical activities and the positivity of the relationships generally. Of course the children were very excited and had a great time and, although organising the party was a lot of hard work, everyone agreed it was well worth it.
Cheese and pineapple on sticks: The problem….can you count in
2’s and work out doubles to see how many you can you make?
All of the activities were provided for the parents in a user friendly booklet to explain the learning involved and how to continue learning at home. Why not engage the parents in your school in the teaching of early mathematics by having a birthday party too….. It will be well worth it I promise.
Download the free booklet for parents here…
Don’t forget to let The Learning Lady know how you got on!