When I consider Mathematics as a curricular area, I automatically think of sitting in a classroom, at a desk, copying from a textbook! It was draining and unenjoyable – not to mention sore on the old wrist as I tried to speed my way through multiple equations. The idea of having a profound understanding of Maths was not important to me until I began this module. Ma (2010), suggests that basic ideas within Maths is essential to set us up for the future.
Whilst on placement I had a lot of issues trying to come up with creative maths ideas, I really struggled to steer clear of the textbook approach as this was what I knew and also the school I visited was very textbook focused. However, from the children’s reactions when a maths lesson was introduced, I could tell they already had a negative attitude towards the subject and this would potentially lead to problems later in life for them. It is suggested that people who do not have adequate numeracy skills are more likely to be unemployed (BIS research paper, 2016), and as a practising teacher this is not the setup I wish to give my pupils. Throughout placement I introduced lessons to them that offered a more hands on approach using magazines, internet searching and allowing them to create shopping lists within a budget. Which the children did begin to enjoy, although I wish I had considered the outdoor learning approach after taking part in this during an input.
Richardson (undated, p.1 ), states how outdoor learning is very beneficial for children “supporting children’s developing problem solving reasoning and numeracy skills through good use of natural and manmade materials in the outdoor environment”. She believes that not only will out door learning help progress children’s problem solving within maths abilities but also contribute to their development in communication, imagination and ultimately enjoy the experience (Richardson, undated).
Studies show that adults who were taught by the basic practises of maths teaching (jotter, textbook, pencil, rubber) feel that what they learnt in school did not set them up for successful use of maths in their future. They believe it did not prepare them for everyday life, and they were unsure how they would use the maths they were being taught later in life (National Numeracy, 2018). Further studies suggest that adults of today struggle with finances due to lack of mathematical knowledge which suggests that the issue lies with the way in which maths is taught in school (Burns, 2012). Taking this into consideration, a solution for mathematics being taught in the classroom successfully needs to be carefully assessed, could outdoor learning be the answer?
The idea of outdoor play is also stated within the Curriculum for Excellence document. It discusses how children are able to experiment which will lead to a more thorough understanding of mathematics as well as other curricular areas (CfE,2010).
Taking all of this into consideration I believe that the idea of mathematics being taught outside of the classroom will be extremely valuable to pupils and help them to progress successfully within this subject area. Children will be introduced to maths in their daily lives instead of just doing as the textbook asks of them. However, I am not disputing the fact that at times classroom-based lessons and textbook use may be crucial to develop a particular skill. Ma (2010) further suggests this as she states that outdoor learning would be a great opportunity for children to achieve a deeper understanding of the world around them.
So, the moral of the story is try to use as many different approaches whilst teaching numerous subjects not only maths. And most definitely use the world around us as one of them!
Burns, J. (2012) Poor numeracy ‘blights the economy and ruins lives’. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17224600 (Accessed: 20 November 2018).
BIS Research Paper Number 267 (2016) Impact of Poor English and Maths Skills on Employers: Literature Review. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/497550/BIS-16-48-impact-of-poor-english-and-maths-skills-on-employers-literature-review.pdf (Accessed: 20 Novermber 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: 20 November 2018).
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: 20 November 2018).
Richardson, G. R. (undated) Open Up to Outdoor Mathematics! Available at: https://www.ltl.org.uk/nsgw/documents/LTL-Maths-Early-Years-Booklet-final1432742138.pdf (Accessed: 20 November 2018).