Mathematics and problem solving are skills for life

The maths spaces at OMC are vital for children to support the development of transferable problem-solving skills later on in life. These are safe environments where the children can test and retest their abilities and skills with a variety of different resources. Activities such as using the unit blocks to look at spatial awareness, using the corks in the heuristic area to explore balancing and using the shape sorter to consider what shapes would fit into the appropriate holes are included in the area.  Children are naturally curious about the world and how they can seek out solutions with everyday objects and toys. The resources in these spaces will support them to consider solutions with everyday life and allow them to engage with mathematical solutions including measurement, counting, shape and pattern.

Maths must be embedded within all activities a child experiences including knowing if a biscuit goes missing from their plate or to go on 3 when counting to go down the slide.  Children slice toast in half, build a tower, pour a drink and know when someone has got more cars than they have.  Outside children use mathematics to decide the end point of a race, count for hide and seek, understand what size object they can hide behind and how to make a ramp high enough to make the cars roll faster.  All of these require mathematics, reasoning, problem solving and the application to daily life and this is when true mathematical learning takes place with our youngest children.

When problems are meaningful to the children and in context they can show more curiosity and motivation because it links to their own personal life and own situations. They will have the motivation to use trial and error and active learning to enage despite multiple challenges including ‘failures’ or ‘wrong answers’.  If children have these experiences earlier on in life, this can support them to learning that it is ok to not have the outcome they desired first time.  If they do not learn to accept failing as learning, they will become disengaged in mathematical learning believing that it is all about right and wrong answers.  If they dissociate mathematics from real life problem solving skills then when they are older and it becomes more challenging mathematics will not be motivating, purposeful or meaningful for them. 

To enable learning throughout the centre we provide a range of open ended resources that can be used for any problem solving and mathematical activities and the maths areas contain resources that can support this.  This includes scales, counters, shapes, tape measures, rulers, items to compare and calculators.  We ensure our mathematical resources include a wide range of construction materials, puzzles, games.  We provide containers to fill and empty, items of different shapes, sizes and weight.  We provide items that can be organised and catagorised, stacked and lined up and tested in many ways.  These resources provide scope for children to use them to create solutions and to test ideas and concepts to consolidate to then use within other areas of play.

We do not use these resources to provide adult led activities.  Our practitioners understand that children learn best when intrinsically motivated and driven my their own goals and ideas and they follow those closely.  They watch what the children are interested in focus on watching for ways that maths naturally occurs in the play to offer support to the children to apply the skills they have and how they can extend them further.  The resources used in this area can support children to process their thinking, observing what has been achieved and how they could alter their experience to bring a new and different outcome. It allows them to become creative with their thinking and consider new ways of how they can achieve what they desire.