When wanting to encourage children to think about maths it is important to provide them with hands on practical activities. This week we have been asking our children ‘How long is a piece of string?’ (half its length times by two!!!) We presented our small groups of children with various lengths of string and some rulers. All used and showed understanding of mathematical language associated with measuring, e.g. “long”, “short”, “longer”, shorter”, “shortest” and with special emphasis for those who found “The Longest piece of string ever!!”.
As practitioners, we provide children with resources and follow their lead, some children wanted to use the string to measure other items, such as their feet, and each other to find out who was the tallest in the group, another child really wasn’t interested to begin the activity but became engaged when we measured his toy train. Those that got really engaged with the activity went on to order the lengths of string from shortest to longest, and some groups discussed and negotiated ideas as they determined who was the tallest member of the group by forming a line in height order. During one of our sessions the group was totally distracted by a passing beetle that decided to join us for our activity, being a Forest School and wanting to embrace nature at all times, we used this opportunity to measure the beetle!
We wouldn’t expect children of this age to use units of measurement (cms etc.) correctly, however it is important to allow children to use real everyday tools and equipment for measuring, and to introduce them to the language around measurement. Some children displayed their knowledge of number symbols and identified the length “my shoe is 7”, some showed good problem solving and recognised that they could identify the number by counting all the numbers along the ruler until they got to the number that they needed.
These fun, practical and informal opportunities to use maths will inspire children to enjoy maths and will go on to benefit their future development of formal maths teaching at school.