Outdoor Maths by Jo Baranek

29th August 2017

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Having fun with maths opens up a whole world of curiosity and excitement for preschool children. Providing exciting and engaging maths activities outside will spark this interest and inspire our children to enjoy maths and enable them to think critically for themselves, problem solve and generally find an enjoyment for maths and a thirst for learning.

The outdoors allows for a wealth of opportunities that the indoors isn’t able to, mainly space and freedom. Some children thrive better outside, accessing large scale active maths activities, and you need to provide opportunities for this in order to close the gender gap in the EYFS. Last year 25% of boys at the end of reception were not achieving the expected level of understanding in number and 22% of boys didn’t achieve the expected levels of development in shape, space and measure. Many boys prefer hands-on, active maths where they can practice their knowledge in different ways, and so it is vital that as early years providers we supply different types of activities to engage all children in maths.

Nature provides many opportunities for mathematical development, and of course, natural resources are all around us and free! Why not look at your garden and think about the different opportunities you have for number, shape, space and measure. Don’t just take the indoor activities outside; use the outdoor materials to enhance the learning.

Many children like to be active and many boys in particular need to be active for their brain to be engaged and open to learning. Ensure you have a good supply of resources for children to use to measure, count and trial out their theories. Here are my top five ideas for getting moving with maths.

1. Pose questions such as ‘how far can you jump?’ and ‘can you jump further than your friends?’ Ask the children how they could work out who jumped the furthest. They should hopefully reach for the measuring tapes or rulers if you have supported this learning elsewhere; if not you may need to introduce these

2. Bikes and cars are a firm favourite with many children and often they head for these toys when you open the doors. Well, how about you introduce maths here too! Introduce number plates, parking spots and car or bike keys. The children need to match the different numbered car to the right car then match the car back into the right parking space. This will give the numbers meaning

3. Provide opportunities for target practice for throwing, or use water pistols. Use numbers on the targets and see if the children can total up their scores with support. Have a blackboard or clipboard nearby so they are able to mark down their scores (this will encourage maths mark making without a worksheet in sight!)

4. Speed is often a difficult topic to introduce to children, but you have the perfect opportunity with your bikes and cars! Introduce speed limits in the garden (with signs of course) and have a traffic officer on duty with speeding tickets and a stopwatch. If they feel their friend is going too fast they can issue a ticket with a fine!

5. Races are another great way to use the concept of speed and measurement. Ask the children to measure out the course. Will it be straight or circular? Of course, they will need different tools for measuring the distance for different courses. Now ask the children: how they can measure who runs the fastest? Hopefully, they will head for your stopwatches! Why not have a slow race? This will require children to use different physical skills as well as cementing the concept of fast and slow for the younger children.

If you are interested in finding out more about engaging children in maths, these and more activities and training are available in the NDNA Maths Champion programme. You can find out more by visiting www.ndna.org.uk/mathschampions or email champions@ndna.org.uk

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