Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Combining Self Directed Play and Number Agents To Teach Maths

Below are a range of photos that to me demonstrate some of the absolutely vital parts of mathematics we want to de developing to ensure children have strong foundational understandings to build on.  

Through self-directed play based time and games and activities through Number Agents I am looking for children to make strong connections. Through play I can provide materials and invitations that can explicitly develop these things.  I can work alongside children coaching them with the correct language, posing wonderings and simply discussing what they notice.  It is incredibly important during this time that I feed in the mathematics language with at least three statements or things I notice before I pose some sort of question.  

I love to capture this maths on camera and when we come back together for a short maths time the whole class can benefit from what one child or group has been doing.  I find this then prompts them to move off and try the activity themselves.  

Through Number Agents I use a range of games that promote early understandings and find children will often use this equipment in similar ways through their play.  Sometimes the games we play can take up half or all of our session and this is ok.

The understandings I want to develop through play and Number Agents initially: (certainly not an extensive list.)

1) Grouping,  and sorting.  Exploring.
2)Exploring colour and shape, looking for same and different.  Exploring similarities and differences.
3)Looking at sets and estimating.  Comparing groups and items, bigger, smaller, more, less, longer, shorter.
4)Maths eyes - noticing visual patterns, discussing and exploring what we notice.  Beginning to apply this to word problems etc.
5)Measurement concepts such as heavier and lighter.  Capacity of containers etc
6)Sequencing numbers and ordering.  Understanding 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc  Understanding before and after.
7)Zero.  That zero is important, it is a place holder and it represents that we have no tens, no hundreds etc.  Although it represents that I can have nothing of something.  Without zero our system of counting would not work.
8)Awareness of ten.  Counting in tens.  Sorting into tens.  
9.)Subitizing.  Seeing a pattern and knowing how many.  Exploring these and noticing different ways of making that number.
10) Breaking a number into parts.  We can have a whole set of seven for example, but I can split this into groups and join this back together.
11)If I take some away I have less, if I add I have more.
12)Creating patterns and talking about them.  Repeated patterns and following or making up rules.
13) Symmetry, lovely to explore using loose parts.
14) Understanding that a digit represents a group of that many.  Deep sense of number and what the digits actually mean.
15)Time, yesterday, today, tomorrow.  Morning, afternoon, evening.
16)Giving basic directions.  Positional language.
17)Basic addition and subtraction understanding.
18)Number Bonds and the relationship between addition and subtraction.
19)Number Sense
20) Beginning to record number problems and illustrate with visual strategies.

At every opportunity we talk about the maths, we draw attention to it, children quickly begin to notice and certainly have 'maths eyes.'  My desire is for children to see mathematics authentically and to understand the very real part it has to play in our world.

Number Agents as an approach then builds on and from this play.  Developing on these foundations to explore basic problem solving.  It is authentic because the world of Number Agents while imagined is very real for the children.  The problem solving has a purpose.  We are helping our clients.  It is like a storybook, we are the heroes of the story and here to save the day with our brain power.  Combine this with a growth mindset approach and they are unstoppable.

The villains and heroes weave in the mathematical language strongly and it is one thing most people that observe notice really strongly, children have a strong command over and understanding of mathematical language and an understanding of how to use pictures or materials to help them.

Even better children LOVE the villains and heroes, there is a strong emotional attachment and in turn children from this attachment and connection with maths.  How they feel about themselves as mathematicians is strongly shaped through these enjoyable experiences.   

Talk is the key, we talk a lot.  The more we talk, the stronger the connection made.  The talk moves are an absolute must for any teacher to explore further.

The Heroes

 The Villains

The balance between self-directed play and the more 'teacher' directed playful approach of number agents is really having positive benefits for my learners and I am loving it!  I feel my own maths teaching going from strength to strength and my confidence flows through to my children.

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