Mathematics, from personal experience, is a subject I believed I would never need outside of school. Equations and formula’s were driven into my brain and were taught from a textbook. I certainly did not find it pleasurable, useful or important. Ma (2010, p. 104) wrote that basic ideas within mathematics are “simple but powerful basic concepts”. These concepts are ones like equations that are situated continuously throughout the curriculum. Until participating in this module, I myself had not valued the basic ideas within mathematics, that will in turn, prepare us for the future.
People with poor numeracy skills, (National Numeracy, 2018) are more than twice as likely to be unemployed. This figure is extremely high and leads to the question, why do so many Brits have such poor numeracy skills? Whilst on placement, I witnessed my class sigh or groan when I began to introduce a maths lesson. Of course there was a small handful who were happy (those who had a flair for the subject) but the majority were very unimpressed. They already at the young age of 10-11 associated maths with boring ‘textbook work’. Already, with a negative view on the subject, I knew this would not lead to positive results. This is something I immediately knew would be a challenge to tackle. Thus I decided to take an approach by using outdoor learning – hoping it may appeal more to the class who loved spending time outdoors.
Joyce (2012, p. 8) wrote that outdoor learning is “engaging children in meaningful first-hand experiences”. By gaining first-hand experiences, pupils are then able to take these on board and use again in the future. Supporting this, Coxhoe Primary School (2013) wrote that it is important to consider the necessary adaptions or changes that may be requires when teaching maths. This could evidently mean new methods of teaching style, such as outdoor learning are of benefit to pupils.
Vernon (2010) wrote that numeracy skills are taught better to over 18s when hands-on and not classroom based. This is significant as it highlights that adults do not find the typical teachings of mathematics beneficial. Alongside this, 1 in 4 adults in the UK (National Numeracy, 2018) say that school taught maths did not prepare them from everyday life. This is supported by Burns (2012) as millions of Brits struggle to read a bus timetable or pay a household bill. This is highly concerning and evidently shows that there is an issue with the way maths is being taught. Could outdoor learning be the answer to the problem?
The Curriculum for Excellence states that outdoor learning “encourages children and young people to make connections experientially, leading to deeper understanding within and between curriculum areas and meeting learner needs”. This links to Ma (2010) idea of connectedness as learning outdoors would highlight links to other curricular areas. Thus the idea of learning maths outdoors, could be highly beneficial as children could gain a new perspective of what they are studying, thus leading to a greater depth of knowledge.
Therefore overall, I believe that learning mathematics can be done in a huge number of ways. Of course there is benefits when teaching inside the classroom using textbooks and jotters, but there is a whole world around us, why not try and use it?
So, can we teach maths outside of a classroom? Of course we can!
Burns, J. (2012) Poor numeracy ‘blights the economy and ruins lives’. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17224600 (Accessed: 16 November 2018).
Coxhoe Primary School (2013) Sustaining excellence in mathematics. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/620742/Coxhoe_20Primary_20School_20-_20good_20practice_20example.pdf (Accessed: 16 November 2018).
Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010) Available at: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/hwb24-cfe-through-outdoor-learning.pdf (Accessed: 16 November 2018).
Joyce, R. (2012) Outdoor learning: Past and Present. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics: teachers’ understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States. New York: Routledge.
National Numeracy (2018) Why is Numeracy important? Available at: https://www.nationalnumeracy.org.uk/what-issue (Accessed: 16 November 2018).