This week my mind has been largely taken up with maths mastery. I say mostly but it has also been a week of induction sessions for my September new starters, the usual chaos of Early Years, two incidents of interrupted water fights in the pre-school bathroom, several toilet incidents, a lot of rain leading to lots of giddy children and juggling three of my own children at home. Back to the maths though.
I am currently part of a maths hub project looking at finding mathematics approaches that are accessible to all, with a particular focus on being beneficial to children with special educational needs and children who are gifted and talented.
As I am sure most of you will know it is sometimes difficult to differentiate lessons so that all children are able to both access and progress. In addition most schools and settings are now making (or made some time ago) a much needed move towards whole class teaching, as opposed to taking children out of class during input sessions for intervention and as a result and depriving them of the opportunity to access the same learning as the rest of the class. It is always a bit tricky to be able to plan something which ticks all of the boxes though. To be accessible but stretching in equal amounts for the middle ability learners, the gifted and talented, the children with additional needs and everyone in between.
Over the last year we have had a heavy focus in class on the benefits of conversation and sustained shared thinking instead of information heavy inputs and focused activities. This has fit in beautifully with our P4C sessions and we are now doing a lot of our Development Matters learning via P4C enquiries. More recently Thinking Moves has given me an even better framework for creating these sessions and maths is a prime example of how a simple conversational session can create a complex understanding of a concept and still be accessible to every learner at their own personal level of understanding.
As part of my input into the maths hub project I created a quick guide to some ways in which Thinking Moves A-Z can be used to explore mathematical thinking in the Early Years. You can get a copy of that here on the DialogueWorks website.
You will also be amazed to see quite how many Thinking Moves come out of just one enquiry. Here is a lesson plan which is a perfect example. This one asks the big question ... "What is 4?"
This week I read my new copy of Thinking Moves A-Z by Roger Sutcliffe, Tom Bigglestone and Jason Buckley.
Thinking Moves is an easy to read mini guide to an A-Z of metacognition skills. For each letter you are given a skill and told how this is already seen in children and how it can be further developed. The book can be read from A to Z or dipped into as required. I am going to be dipping into it for inspiration every week. This week my lesson plan for P4C is based around the skill that is given for D - Divide. Next week I will be basing my planning on the skill for J - Justify.
Thinking Moves is a lovely slim book which makes it easy to pop in your bag. The skills and activities are beautifully transferrable from Early Years to Further Education.
For the full list of A-Z Thinking Moves please visit this link where you will also find more information about the framework and training, along with a video of Roger Sutcliffe talking about the approach.
To order your own copy click here
To give Thinking Moves a go with my letter D planning please see the below plans and enjoy. I will be doing this tomorrow with my 3 and 4 year olds.
Mathematics for Philosophy? Are they not the complete opposites? Philosophy embraces a search for an ultimate truth with an acknowledgement that it will never truly be found. It is open and flexible and creative. Mathematics is a world of right and wrong answers and structure (though I am sure those blessed with a mathematical mind better than mine would argue that it was far more complex than that). How can these co-exist?
Well first of all a brief reminder of that mathematical philosopher Pythagoras may be necessary. Pythagoras believed that the essence of being can be found in the form of numbers, and that it can be encountered through the study of mathematics. To expect a 3-5 year old to embrace the world through the eyes of Pythagoras, however, is perhaps a little stretching, so instead you can use philosophy to explore the underlying concepts of mathematics and also use some mathematical skills throughout your sessions.
Numbers Early Learning Goals
1. Children count reliably with numbers from 1 to 20.
2. They place them in order.
3. They say which number is one more or one less than a given number.
4. Using quantities and objects, they add and subtract two single-digit numbers and count on or back to find the answer.
5. They solve problems, including doubling, halving and sharing.
Areas to Explore
When you vote with hands up, pictures or by moving to one space or another, get the children to help you count the votes.
Look at what placing numbers in order means. What would happen if they were out of order? How could we work out what “8” means if it isn’t between 7 and 9?
Look at ‘sharing’ and what sharing means. Is it important to share? Do we need to share equally? What is one person doesn’t want as much as someone else? Can we share fairly but not equally?
Exploring doubling and halving in baking. If you experiment can you still make a cake? What is you double one ingredient and half another? Is the baking as much fun if there isn’t an edible cake at the end? What is more important – the process or the result?
Space, Shape and Measure Early Learning Goals
1. Children use everyday language to talk about size, weight, capacity, position, distance, time and money to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems.
2. They recognise, create and describe patterns.
3. They explore characteristics of everyday objects and shapes and use mathematical language to describe them.
Areas to Explore
Sort animals or toys by different properties to practice the skill of sorting and categorising. Get children to describe each one as they decide where to put it, practicing new language.
Look at two (non-electronic) toys – one cheap and one expensive. Without telling them the price ask the children which one is best and why. At the end of the discussion show them the price of each one written down and count out the coins and notes that each one would cost.
Talk about time. Look at days, months, weeks and years. What is a “long” time? What can be achieved in five minutes? Big things? Small things?
This is a nice one to end on and, much like metaphysics and ethics, one which sits nicely in the Early Years. Philosophy of aesthetics is all about the arts. It dances through Literacy, Expressive Arts and Design and Physical Development.
It revels in the beauty of life, both the natural world and the man made one. It is all about the creation and appreciation of beauty in all it’s forms and is multisensory. It is equally at home outdoors as you cloud watch, pick up and appreciate autumn leaves, watch a ladybird, wonder at a spider’s web or decide which your favourite flower is; as it is indoors as you listen to music from some of the greatest composers, explore which sort of beat or dance brings you the greatest happiness or most calm and squish your fingers through every texture a typical pre-school messy area has to offer.
Here are some ways to introduce the philosophy of aesthetics to your classroom.
· Look at three famous paintings. Which do you like best and why?
· Listen to different pieces of music. How do they make you feel?
· How and why does music make us feel things?
· Do you like to listen to music with your eyes closed or open?
· What is beauty? It natural beauty or man made beauty the best?
· What is the point of ephemeral art?
· Are sculptures better than paintings because you can feel them?
· Is a painting done by a famous painter more important than a painting done by someone in our class?
· Can maths be beautiful?
This branch of philosophy looks at how we can know things are logically correct based on good reasoning. It is a useful branch to tackle things such as fundamentalism or separating fake news from real news. It also helps to prepare pre-teens to navigate the pitfalls of social media.
This branch also works well with mathematics and with reading comprehension (or rather, for our age group, listening to stories, recalling them and being able to infer things from what we have heard and seen). Some questions which may be used in this area are;
· If X and Y say that they saw Z do something does that mean that Z really did that thing?
· How many different ways can you make 6? (This could mean using number bonds, using items, using fingers, using movements, making it from playdough, etc)
· What is a number?
· What happened in this book?
· From looking at the pictures what can you work out about X character? What do you think they would do if… What makes you think that?
· How do you know if someone is telling you the truth?
· Is 2 and 2 more always 4?
· Is 0 the lowest number? Can you take something away from 0? How can you have less than 0 apples?
Miss Magical Mess is a pre-school teacher and P4C Level 2B facilitator. After a shaky start as a P4C facilitator (P4C with 3 year olds... are you kidding?) Miss Magical Mess created her own approach to P4C and enquiry model and is now a big fan.