What does it mean to be good at Maths?
In our Mathematics workshop, we ask our participants “When you think of mathematics, what comes to your mind?”
Roughly estimated, 50% of participants have negative associations with this STEM subject and are, as a result, convinced that they are not capable of engaging children in mathematics. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard ‘I am hopeless/horrible/useless, don’t even bother trying to teach me.’
I reckon we all agree that the goal of early education is to instill a passion for live-long learning into the little ones in our care. How are we supposed to kindle joy of mathematics if we break out in cold sweats thinking about equations and formulas?
The first step to reprogramming our way of thinking about mathematics is to understand what it means to be good at it. We seem to think that being good or bad at maths is determined by our ability to comprehend and reproduce equations. I tell you something: Until a few years ago I had no idea that maths is so much more! It blew my mind to find out that the ability to integrate geometrical shapes into a drawing is a mathematical ability and that we need mathematical skills to read a map, to measure the amount of flour we need to bake a cake and to sort our clothes by colour.
The mathematics workshop and the accompanying resources are bursting with prompts for early maths experiences that inspire children to explore these concepts further. One of my personal favorites is a variation of ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’. One child is positioned in the centre of the room and blindfolded with a piece of cloth. A few other children surround the ‘blind man’ in a circle so they can just reach the child in the centre. Now the child rotates slowly around their own axis with arms stretched out and tries to estimate by sense of touch how many children are standing in the circle. Meanwhile the other children try to be very quiet. How can the child find out if every child has only been counted once? Repeat the game a few times and encourage the children in the circle to form either smaller or larger gaps in the circle. How can the others make it easier or harder for the ‘blind man’?
Can you detect mathematics in this game? It is amazing how quickly this seemingly locked door to the world of mathematics opens if we give it a little touch. Maths is literally everywhere!
One of my all-time favorites from my professional life is seeing participants’ eyes light up at the end of the workshop because of a simple realisation: We know more than enough to instill love of mathematics into our children. One person even exclaimed with excitement: ‘Who would have thought that I am secretly a maths genius?
Can you think of other games that inadvertently develop maths learning?
Let us know in the comments section below.
Article author: Heike Hendershot
National Training Manager
With an extensive background in education and a fearless passion for collaborative learning environments, Heike manages the development and implementation of workshop content and supports the team of training facilitators at Little Scientists.