Thursday, 14 February 2019

miniMATHS - 7. Make a Star

This is my favourite.

I know - you're not meant to have favourite children.

But this one is where it all started. This was my first idea for the miniMaths series of tasks. So I think I had given it more thought and probably used it as the benchmark for what I imagined the other tasks would look like.

And this one has real maths behind it. As you build up your star, you are adding a constant value to your pattern - one rock for each arm of the pattern. It is symmetry. It is an arithmetic sequence. It is pre-algebra. It is the connection between repeated addition and multiplication. And it is fun. It makes a cool looking pattern.

This task is linked to EYLF - Outcome 4, focusing on the disposition of the learner. The task itself is open enough to allow creativity and curiosity. It can be done as a collaborative and cooperative task. It can help students develop confidence and perseverance. 

Give it a go - it is a great task.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

miniMATHS - 6. Stacking

This is fun. I know - I could spend hours doing it. In fact, I used to get kids to do it when I was on playground duty and I would challenge them to get 5 rocks stacked on top of each other.

But where is the maths?

Well, there are a couple of ideas here that need to be explored.

1. Have you ever worked with kids (probably Year 2 or Year 3) who had the idea that when constructing a "sum" (or algorithm - addition or otherwise) you had to start with the big number and then perform the subsequent operation on it? And isn't there an addition strategy for counting on that says you need to start with the big number first? Is this somehow related to stacking up rocks or other items where it is a good idea to put the big one on the bottom of the stack? Please note, I'm just asking the questions here - not providing the simple answers.

2. Or could this be a revelation of the mathematical concept of combining different values to create new one?

3. Or is it an exercise in balance, similar to an equation where one side has to equal the other?

4. Or are we playing the mathematical idea of prediction - what happens if...?

Perhaps the EYLF will give us some insight:

The EYLF certainly talks about "balance" as an important element of growth. This task provides a neat entry point for this conversation.

This task will also provide an opportunity for students to develop perseverance - to try to get that stack higher and higher. It will also encourage students to reflect on their unsuccessful strategies and modify and improve on the performance. 

So, just as in the "Shadows" task, this activity may not appear at first glance to be explicitly "mathematical", there is great capacity for students to explore deep mathematical thinking by attempting the stacking task.

If you haven't seen it yet, there is a miniMaths website:

And for people based in the Canberra region, I am running some workshops in preschools and early learning centres over the next six weeks. Details can be found on the miniMaths website.

See you there. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

miniMATHS - 5. Shadows

Sorry about the delay of a few days there - we went back to school last week and I have been a bit distracted getting the class into shape..

So here we have possibly the first major deviation in the miniMATHS resource tasks. This task, "Shadows", moves away from activities that have direct mathematical concepts as a focus, such as extending patterns or investigating area, to a place where we are investigating a natural phenomenon, such as shadows, using mathematical skills and knowledge. No longer playing directly with maths - now we are using maths as we play with something bigger.

Shadows are fascinating. There is so much that we can learn by observing them. They are a great leaping off point for exploring time; they are an explicit example of change; we all have that follows us around - and there are lots of games you can play with them.

All of the things that are suggested as activities associated with this task can be investigated using mathematical language. This is a key opportunity to develop our use and understanding of words that describe position, shape, movement and change.

This task is a great way to engage directly with the natural environment in an explicitly mathematical way. We can record changes over time using the outlines of shadows drawn on the ground. We can discuss the position of the light source relative to the object casting the shadow and the shadow itself. 

The EYLF talks about knowledge of and respect for the natural environment. This task will give students a greater understanding and appreciation of what happens in the world in which they live, helping them to be connected with it and to learn respect for it.

Is it "maths by stealth"? Sneaking a bit of maths into a fun exploration of a cool phenomenon? 

Well, I would say no - this is what real maths is: using our skills and knowledge to make sense of the world around us. And hopefully we can start this in early year education with young kids, engaging them as mathematicians to learn more about their world.