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P L AY N O T E S

November 2005

Enriching the maths in outdoor play


We all want to plan activities and experiences that match and extend our childrens enthusiasms and curiosity. Childrens imaginative play can be inspired by all kinds of things that we can provide if we apply creativity and lateral thinking. Remember that children love objects that reect the real world, such as hard hats, wheelbarrows, shovels and planks props that are as realistic as possible rather than toy replicas.

The Outdoor Mathematician


Sheila Ebbutt and Carole Skinner
*Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, QCA(2000)

Help children to see themselves as mathematicians *

We know that outdoor provision is an essential part of childrens daily environment and life. We also know that play is the most important thing for children to do outside. As practitioners, we can plan the resources and the stimulus so that children have the opportunity to develop mathematical thinking and learn mathematical skills as part of their outdoor play. They can count and measure and explore shapes, and develop their imagination and creativity through mathematical ideas on a large scale. All the mathematical learning children do indoors they can also do outdoors, but with vigour, freedom, and scale.

The weather should inspire what we do too. But we dont need to wait for a rainy day to have a puddle day and make puddles everywhere. If your hard surfaces are all at, you can construct a shallow puddle by using a very low wall of sand to contain the water. There is a lot of maths in making puddles: How big shall we make it? How much water will we need? How much sand will we need to build the wall? What is the largest puddle we can make if we only use a small bucket of sand? Children can look at the reections in the puddles, make circles in them with a stick, and explore stamping in them. And if it does rain, make the most of it by providing hoods, ponchos, hats, umbrellas and Wellington boots. Use a plastic gazebo, suspended shower curtains, waterproof groundsheets, and bubble wrap on a clothes horse. Children can experience the shapes these contained areas provide.

All photographs Learning through Landscapes unless otherwise stated.

This resource was originally created as part of the Early Years Outdoors membership scheme from Learning through Landscapes. To nd out more about membership call 01962 845 811 or visit www.ltl.org.uk

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*Draft Framework for Children's Learning in the Foundation Phase in Wales (2004)

Children should experience a wide variety of activities, some of which will focus directly on mathematical development and some that will draw out the mathematics in other activities. The indoor and outdoor environment should provide children with a context for activities that should allow them to investigate, estimate and to solve real life problems.*

In cold weather, supply woolly hats, scarves and gloves, and protection from the wind (although you can explore which direction it is coming from!) Do lots of physical, boisterous, noisy activities, such as zigzagging between lines of plastic cones or pedalling round a numbered obstacle course in the right order. On sunny days, create shaded areas with large umbrellas, muslin sheets, and a large sail over the climbing frame. Have lots of towels available so that children can splash around in the paddling pool, exploring the mathematical ideas offered by water play on a large scale.

footprints to count and to compare shapes. Put a wooden plank across the sand pit for children to balance on and to see their constructions from a different perspective. Have patches of damp sand as well as dry sand. Have available a range of large-scale equipment. Use it selectively so your children are not overwhelmed by stimuli. Talk about why some containers t inside others and some do not, how sand slithers down the side of a funnel and forms a cone shape, and whether the size of the hole means the bucket empties faster. At times, add natural materials twigs, shells, stones and include magnifying glasses and binoculars. Water play Ideally your outdoor environment will have a tap with running water so that children can play with hoses. If you do not have this, is there an indoor tap you can run a hose from? With ingenuity you can create fountains, waterfalls, lakes and streams. You need not go to the expense of motorised fountains. Use pond liners and bricks of different shapes and sizes to make sections within the water area, and change these regularly. You can use large and small containers of water for comparison of volume and weight. You could provide a range of things to experiment with the mathematical concepts of number, shape, space and measure. Here are few suggestions. Balsa wood rafts sent across a lake could link to other curriculum areas how many could you t on your lake. How much weight could your raft carry? Add some balloons and anchor them to a brick. Drop in cooked spaghetti for children to retrieve with tongs and forks, to count and compare lengths. Add some large porridge oats and provide whisks, ask the children to predict what might happen. The digging area You can change this from mud to sawdust to gravel to leaf mould to forest bark, to develop childrens ideas of capacity, especially if you provide a range of digging implements and containers. A digging scenario can turn easily into a problem-solving one when the hole has to be deep enough to bury three rocks in or a post for the washing line. Children can explore just how many stones can t into a newly dug hole.

Developing outdoor areas with maths in mind


You can enhance the mathematical provision in all your outdoor areas by providing rich and exciting environments to engage childrens curiosity and challenge their thinking. To help children benet from outdoor mathematical experiences, you will need to:

Talk to children about the activities in the different areas.

Plan and use mathematical language with the children. Encourage children to solve problems themselves by prompting them with questions such as, I wonder if all these stones will ll that hole?. Value childrens ideas and allow them to explain what they think before you intervene. Give children time to review and reect upon what has happened as the activity nishes. The sand area Capitalise on the special nature of the outdoors, the freedom it gives to make a mess and the opportunity to deal with a larger and deeper expanse of sand. Removing socks and shoes and wriggling toes in the sand leads to making

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*Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, QCA(2000)

Plants and growing Use hanging baskets at child height and involve children in planting and watering. Together, draw up a rota for watering and deadheading the plants, written as a chart so that children can see who did it last and work out who is next. Set up a potting table resourced with compost, bulbs, small bedding plants and plastic pots. Decide how many pots will be needed to pot up all the plants, how far up the pots the compost will come, and how deep to plant Make good use of opportunities the seeds and bulbs. Agree how much water each plant to talk mathematically as will need, and how often. children play or take part in Measure growth against normal daily activities* things that are familiar to the children: its exciting to compare tall-growing plants to your own height by standing beside them. Sunowers are ideal for this. Undisturbed piles of old logs create habitats for minibeasts. Encourage earwigs by resting ower pots on their sides and lling with straw. Find snails underneath large damp stones. Keep a large record display showing how many beetles, spiders and ants are seen each day. Draw a map of where each species can be seen. Make a tape recording of what to look for and how to care for the minibeasts in the garden (provide

soft paintbrushes to move minibeasts instead of handling them). Sensory experiences Set up large pots with plants that are interesting to touch and smell, including herbs and scented owers. Install a range of wind chimes made by the children as well as soft drums and rain shakers. Put out bowls containing a variety of small smooth pebbles and shells to handle, count and make patterns with. Set up a reection site and involve the children in noticing how things look through mirrors. Use distorting mirrors, and ask children to observe what they see, and how their size and shape changes.

Maths games outdoors


Capitalise on childrens love of active games and introduce the right amount of challenge. Inltrate the maths by setting up circuit training! Together with the children build an obstacle course that has elements such as zigzag running, touch the stone and three hops, walk sideways for ve steps and warm-up and warm-down. Games can play a major part in supporting childrens understanding of number and some of the best things about outdoor games are making a lot of noise, being able to jump about, skip, hop, roll balls, aim beanbags and puzzle over things with friends. To get the most from playing games, encourage children to re-count any collections of objects they have and give them the opportunity to reect on what happened during the game.

Grid Hopping A counting game for a group of two to ve children You will need
A large 5 x 5 grid chalked onto a hard

surface A collection of small objects A carrying bag for each hopping child A large 1 to 6 dice A caller to roll the dice and call out the number

How to play Put some objects on each of the squares. All the hoppers stand on a different square. The caller rolls the dice and calls out the number. The hoppers hop that many squares in any direction. If the square they nish their hops on has an object on it they can pick it up and put it in the bag. When the dice has been rolled ve times, the game is over and the hoppers empty their bags and compare the collections.

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*Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, QCA(2000)

Mathematical development depends on becoming condent and competent in learning and using key skills. To give all children the best opportunities for effective mathematical development, practitioners should give particular attention to many different activities [which are] practical imaginative and enjoyable*

More maths games ideas: Sitting on a log A game for up to ve children about recognising numbers You will need
Six small logs* arranged

in a large circle
A large 1 to 6 dice One to ve wooden

numerals or number cards


*Squares of carpet will work just as well.

How to play Give each child a number and ask them to choose a log to sit on. There should be one empty log. Roll the dice, say the number and the child holding that number runs and sits on the empty log. If a six is rolled everyone changes logs. Keep playing until either everyone is sitting on a different log to the one they started the game on or everyone is back sitting on the same log they started on. When the game is over discuss how many different logs children sat on.

Learning through Landscapes is grateful to all the settings who have supplied us with the images in this Playnotes.

Maths trails Setting up maths trails is great fun and offers children a different way of learning maths skills and using them. Maths trails encourage children to work together as they look for and nd particular features, such as numbers or shapes or patterns. Make sure that any activities on the trail are as varied as possible, and if the route is one way that the nish is at an interesting space or an unusual object. The last arrow could point upwards for the children to observe an unexpected ornament in a tree or bush. The scope of maths trails is endless and you can make

a maths trail to suit any part of your curriculum or any topic or for any interest of a group. You might want to follow a familiar trail with strides or tiptoeing or three hops between each symbol on the trail. Encourage children to use more precise maths words and discuss whether the trail they are making will be long or short, and how it goes around the tree and past the climbing frame and under the bench. Staff will nd it useful to consider the relevant mathematical language beforehand so that you are ready to introduce it as natural opportunities arise.

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**Curriculum Framework for children 3 to 5, Learning & Teaching Scotland 2001

Through activities that involve sorting, matching, comparing, classifying and making patterns and sequences, children, often in play contexts, will develop their mathematical knowledge of number, measurement and shape**

Mathematical thinking links to all areas of the curriculum. In the trail ideas below, opportunities arise for opening up ideas to other areas Five different trails to set up Flag trail Tie coloured material rags on a route that weaves in and out around your outdoor area. Encourage the children to make up their own route with strips of coloured crepe paper or orists ribbon that is easy to tie. Pebble path Lay a trail of large pebbles that lead to a treasure box with something to discover inside (or better still, dig up). You could suggest that children lay out their own pebble route for others to follow, or make a small world version. Arrow route Use twigs to make arrows and lay them on the ground for children to follow. Talk about trail markings of scouts, guides and trackers. Children could take it in turn to leave a message at the end of the trail or a wooden numeral to collect. Number trail Make a numeral trail for children to follow by choosing a number and suspending that same number along a wall and on the ground. Make the numerals in a range of materials, such as drawn in chalk, cut out of card or made from plastic or wood. Encourage the children to make their own number trails. Footprint path Make a path of card footprints to encourage the children to explore all parts of your outdoor environment. Cross two or three routes over each other so that the children have to make decisions about which route to take at the crossings. I Spy trail Take a selection of photographs of your outdoor environment and display them on a fence, asking children to draw a map or describe where each photograph was taken. Or children could use their own photographs to make into an I Spy book.

rening and practising their ideas as they put together their network of world knowledge, composing their own sets of rules. Young children learn lots about maths through their senses and through movement, and play gives opportunities to repeat the same activities and movements. There are repeated actions that most children engage in during play that support their mathematical experiences. These include: Collecting Young children are especially interested in making collections of natural materials such as conkers, acorns leaves and sticks. Encourage this by providing baskets and boxes for children to make collections in.

Supporting childrens mathematical learning


As adults, we all have ideas about how the world functions and we have formulated rules to deal with the world as we know it. We can adjust our rules as we pick up new information that doesnt quite t into these rules. Children in the Early Years spend a lot of time building, rehearsing,

Mark making Children begin to develop an understanding that a symbol can stand for something, and they create their own symbols. Provide a chalk board or easel near games for scoring; lay some agstones for children to chalk or paint on; encourage children to use fences and walls to display their drawn maps and writing; paint a wall with magnetic paint and use large magnets to x drawings, directions and notices to it; paint a wall with blackboard paint for large scale chalking. Hiding Children develop a sense of shape and space by hiding objects and nding them again. Encourage this by hiding objects in the sand area or under stones or behind logs; organise a scavenger hunt; play games such as hunt the thimble. Provide lots of paper bags, handbags and large and small boxes for children to hide toys, collectables and themselves in. Provide a selection of wheelbarrows, carts and trucks for children to play at packing up and moving to a different area. Provide bags, cases and rucksacks of different sizes, from the very small to the very large scale.

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Reasoning Children need opportunities to develop reasoning skills through problem solving. Set up situations that require children to puzzle things out, such as how to build a bridge over the sand pit; how to sail the boat from this end of the tank to that; how to make a den with some blankets under the picnic table. Children need access to a diversity of materials, a multi-sensory approach, and encouragement to explore ideas through play. Building Children need access to a large supply of building materials so that they can experiment and gain knowledge about construction, solving problems such as how to build a tall tower, or how to make a window in the wall of their house. Discuss how wide the arch needs to be for the truck to drive though, whether that block will t between the doorposts, how heavy that brick is, and whether there are enough bricks to nish the wall. Using the whole body Young children often need to experience things with their whole body to get a true sense of it. They curl in a ball to show a small shape, they jump three times to get a sense of the number, they run round and round to get the feeling of a circle. Playing outside gives children the opportunity to develop meaning through physical feeling.

Patterning Children explore pattern in different ways, from the casual arranging of shapes, toys and artefacts to making large complicated patterns. There is often a sense of symmetry about their pattern making, which you can encourage by providing balanced sets of materials. Young children also often make patterns of long, continuous lines of objects. Provide natural objects with which children can make trails.
About the authors: Sheila Ebbutt and Carole Skinner are both experienced Early Years teachers and are founder members of the Early Childhood Mathematics Group. They now work together at BEAM Education which is dedicated to promoting the teaching and learning of mathematics as interesting, challenging and enjoyable. Resources Outside Number Games resources box Includes curriculum information and ideas for number games. 80.00 plus VAT from Early Excellence www.earlyexcellence.com Tel: 01422 311314. Big Outdoor Maths Box Collection of large-scale colourful mathematical equipment for active maths outdoors and inside, notes suggesting ideas for enjoyable games and activities using all of the resources. 225 plus VAT BEAM (BE A Mathematician) Education tel: 01242 267945, e-mail: beamorders@nelsonthornes.com or view and buy online at www.beam.co.uk Online catalogue of multi-sensory resources for outdoor play; includes many of the items suggested in this Playnotes. Mindstretchers Tel:01764 664409
www.mindstretchers.co.uk

Useful books Maths Outdoors Carole Skinner, 2005, BEAM Education, ISBN 1-903142-36-9 orderline: 01242 267945 www.beam.co.uk. A Place to Learn: developing a stimulating learning environment by Lewisham Early Years Advice & Resource Network. Includes a section on developing mathematics in the outdoor area that offers many ideas. e-mail: eys.advisers@lewisham.gov.uk tel: 020 8695 9806. Supporting mathematical development in the Early Years Linda Pound, 1999, OUP, ISBN 0335-19887-2. Focuses on childrens mathematical thinking and successful learning. www.openup.co.uk or good bookshops. Useful websites
www.beam.co.uk

Website of BEAM Education, an organisation offering consultancy, training and resources for mathematics education, including Early Years.
www.childrens-mathematics.co.uk

Childrens mathematics network website. An international, grassroots network for practitioners and students regarding childrens emergent mathematics through making marks.

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