Category: Blockplay

Arty Maths – Maths Week Scotland – 28 September


It’s Maths Week Scotland next week.

Excited much?????

I’ve always thought about maths and art being connected. Why? Because both disciplines are about noticing and appreciating the world around us.


As human beings we are drawn to things. Sometimes we don’t know why. It’s intuitive or natural. We like something because it has an appeal. In our mind’s eye it is beautiful. Often the reason for our appreciation lies in its order, symmetry, colour, shape even its movement. All of which are basic, natural, mathematical concepts.




Babies, toddlers and young children haven’t yet learned about the properties of shapes or the names of colours, maybe. However, they do naturally distinguish for characteristics in the way they sort or collect things around them.

Matching, sorting and grouping are essential foundational mathematical skills. It is important that we are not tempted to ‘schoolify’ this behaviour too early but rather that we provide children the opportunity to be challenged by objects and watch how they use them.

Back to art. The visual arts (drawing, painting, collage, modelling) are offered everyday in every ELC in the land. But, have you considered the contribution to children’s mathematical thinking that such experiences offer?

I think it is important to think about the visual elements of Art when thinking about the sorts of experiences children should have. When you see the elements, you will quickly recognise the connection with Mathematics.

The visual elements of art are:

  • Line
  • Colour
  • Texture
  • Shape
  • Pattern
  • Form
  • Tone


  • Thinking of your Creation Stations, have you organised the materials in a certain way to help children make choices on the basis of lines or shapes or colours?
  • In this example, materials are organised in colours but also there is thought to strips of papers, so that children can think about lines.


  • Have you thought about giving children different shape of paper to paint or collage on? Think about what children would learn about a triangle if they had to make decisions about what tiny marks they needed to make in the angles?
  • What about different sizes of paper and different painting tools for that size. The mathematical language that will develop will impress and astound you.

3D Modelling

So, 3D modelling is basically a mathematical/STEM experience as well as an arty one!

  • How are the materials organised in your playroom or in the outdoors? Are they all jumbled around? You might want to think about categories to help children make decisions on the basis of shape or colour or function. For example:
    • A box for objects that roll
    • A box for objects that ‘don’t roll’
    • A box for ‘see through’ or transparent objects
    • A box for ‘very small’ objects
    • A box for ‘flat’ objects
    • And on and on and on…….

Clay, Blocks and Wood

Form and pattern are visual elements of art but they are also mathematical concepts that are explored and discovered by children as they design with  clay and blocks and wood. I don’t need to say anymore about this here. Go to our wonderful Froebel in Falkirk menu in the blog for all you need to know.

You will have so many more ideas but hopefully Maths Week Scotland will give the opportunity to notice the maths in the art, to observe closely how children are thinking and behaving mathematically.

I am so excited about #ArtyMaths week in Falkirk. I know that, as always, ELC is going to embrace this opportunity to support children’s progress and to help families understand how their young child’s mathematical brain is developing.

Please do as you always do…..share and tweet. Please tag-in @FCEYTeam @NumHubChamp @FCLisaMcCabe using #ELCArtyMathsWeek #MathsWeekScot
Well done and thank you!


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Block Play Guidance for Practitioners using Building the Ambition

Experiences which:

  • Encourage the child to wait their turn with their friends, for example, having the patience to wait for a turn whilst sharing the blocks and accessories at the blockplay.
  • Develop physical skills by building with blocks, strengthening muscles by moving in and around objects inside and outside.
  • Provide interesting objects to touch which encourage questions and language.
  • Help the child to see how things work, how objects can be moved and transported around; how similar blocks can be grouped together; how things balance.
  • Give the child time and space to be involved in their own schematic play and adults who support this.
  • Highlight a growing awareness of the need for some rules and why this is important and being able to respond to basic structures e.g. we wear our shoes in the blockplay area.
  • Allow children to use their imagination with role play, making models, constructing and designing.
  • Help children remember how they have solved a problem in the past and how this learning links to a current challenge.
  • Give time for children to find out similarities and differences in simple problem solving activities.

Adults who:

  • Understand the child’s own needs and preferences; for example, when the child is in a bigger group and how they may react, or when there are too many people around or it is too noisy.
  • Encourage children to initiate conversations and who extend these by asking well thought out questions.
  • Explain and model new words with the correct level of challenge to extend the child’s grasp of language.
  • Observe sensitively and intervene when necessary to extend the child’s thinking without over-direction and who do not interrupt moments of intense concentration.
  • Use techniques such as wondering aloud, explaining what is happening but all the time allowing the child to find out for them self what will happen next.
  • Encourage the young child to think, helping them to solve problems and giving the child time to come to a satisfying conclusion from the child’s view and then taking time to discuss this together.
  • Recognise differences in starting points of the individual child and encourage them at the appropriate level.
  • Encourage children to see another’s point of view through joint projects and cooperation in play.
  • Praise the child’s growing physical capabilities and challenge them to take the next step.
  • Pose questions which encourage inquiry such as, I wonder if, why do you think that, to extend the young child’s ability to verbalise their thoughts and actions.
  • Ask children I wonder what happens if… to help children make sense of what happens when you try things out.
  • Provide a range of resources to talk about which encourages children to be creative.
  • Help model techniques and strategies with children and encourage this new learning in the child’s new challenges or suggest a new context.

An environment which is:

  • Aware of providing materials and resources for children to use to find out how they move or what they are used for.
  • Provides resources which are interesting and stimulate questions and encourage children to communicate with each other.
  • Gives space to build, construct and take things apart and time to practise these skills over and over again.
  • Is organised to promote physical development, movement and spacial awareness inside and outside
  • Encourages inquiry and invites discussion and exploration with interesting objects to talk about and explore, stimulating curiosity.
  • Is supportive of giving time for the young child to persevere with their thinking and inquiries, to test their own theories out over several days or re-examine the same experience again over time in a variety of ways. For example, how to build a bridge across an area of the playroom using different materials without being constrained by overly formal routines of the day.