Active Learners in Numeracy

This term Reception children in 4 schools across the BLC have been participating in the new Active Learners in Numeracy project, exploring movement-oriented approaches towards learning in maths.

Active Learners in Numeracy is a project funded by SHINE, a charity which promotes innovation in education. A grant was awarded to a group of teachers involved in the Brixton Learning Collaborative to integrate numeracy and physical activity. Four schools took part: St John’s Angell Town, Archbishop Sumner, St John’s Divine and Loughborough Primary School.

Active Learners in Numeracy aims to promote physical development by incorporating occupational therapy exercises within stories, songs and movement. The exercises help children develop balance, core-strength, posture and coordination which all help with academic learning. Parents and carers might recognise songs such as “Tiny Tim” and “The little green frog” as some parents have told us that the children have been singing them at home!

The children also learn maths in active ways through outdoor obstacle courses. First the whole class is introduced to a mathematical problem through a story about two birds- Crackity Jack and Cheep Cheep. Crackity Jack and Cheep Cheep always need some help- for example they need towers of 10 to build a new school, or need the children to halve the amounts of fruit they have so they each get the same. Children work in pairs to make their way through an imaginary jungle in order to get to the ‘communication station’ at the end where they complete this challenge for their feathered friends.

Along the way they meet various mathematical challenges and physical challenges, requiring the children to use a range of big and small movements to practice their number skills. For instance they have been rolling giant dice and counting out corresponding treasure with tweezers. This helps children to practice their throwing, recognizing an amount on a dice, counting to match a given number and developing fine motor control. The core learning tool of a ten square is drawn on the playground in chalk and becomes an imaginary broken bridge which the children have to cross. Children have to make sure there are 10 bean bags altogether to plug all of the holes in the broken bridge. This helps children to develop their understanding of number bonds to 10 as well as hand-eye coordination, spacial awareness and visual processing.

Active Learners in Numeracy have been studying the research on early childhood mathematical development which suggests that young children learn best using real physical objects. It also highlights the importance of children being able to visualise amounts, known as ‘subitizing’, for example, dots on a dice. Another important aspect of early numeracy is understanding the relationship between numbers. For example knowing that 8 and 2 makes 10 and 7 and 3 also makes 10.

The children have done brilliantly and have really enjoyed doing their maths outside. Over the course of the term we have seen the children develop their mathematical thinking. Most of the children can know instantly recognize the spots on the dice and have become more confident in their numeracy. They have also done really well in their partner work, making sure they take turns and wait for their partner.

Well done to all the Reception children for trying their best and joining in. Thank you to all the teachers for their wonderful ideas and collaborating with us on this project and Jenny Smith from the BLC for supporting us. Thank you to all the parents who came along to the open mornings. We really value your participation and your feedback. Finally, thank you to SHINE Trust for funding and supporting the project.