Tag Archives: creative maths

Creative Maths

Does creative mathematics have more of an impact?

I have been thinking a great deal about this question…

Does maths have to be boring? Does the stereotypes have to continue? How can I improve maths attainment in my teaching? Well, I have researched thoroughly and have put my thoughts and research down and now I am sharing it here.

Okay so what is creative maths?

Before we begin to explore this we should ask ourselves, what is creative mathematics? Creative Mathematics, according to Wall (2012), “is not a compendium of mathematical facts and inventions to be read over as a connoisseur of art looks over paintings.” This in fact suggests that creative mathematics allows children to delve into their imagination and explore the wonders of numbers, numeracy, shape and measure etc.

Why would we use creative mathematics? How does this impact?

Creativity in maths allows growth of the mind of individuals. However, this is an area of mathematics which is neglected in primary schools. According to Sriraman (2004) believes that without creativity within mathematics children can’t achieve their full potential within their mathematical journey. This suggests that using the mind in a more creative way whilst learning mathematic skills will help children grasp the basics and adapt their minds more fully to different concepts and their overall understanding of maths. This therefore would suggest that exploring different concepts in mathematics has a greater impact for understanding maths. This statement really made me think, if children cannot explore mathematics how do we improve problem solving skills? How do we raise attainment if we cannot engage their minds fully in the lesson? Children could just be sitting bored and not listening, how do we solve this?


I found that Tucker (2014) also would agree with this. It can be seen through Tuckers extensive research that creative mathematics connects  the psychological and the physical mathematical learning development within children. Essentially, this means that learning mathematics through creative methods in a primary school can promote educational development but also provide links with other areas of development for example, core motor skills. So in the early years this should be something we should all consider, right? I want you to reflect upon this, if maths wasn’t made creative or interactive would you like to learn it? What is timetables was just copying out continuously the tables on a white board with no fun activity to try and help remember.   So really, in order for children to feel confident in their mathematic development they must be able to make choices and explore their finding of mathematics AND HAVE FUN! Also, this, from an early stage, can help children decide what is the best learning style for them but also encourage excitement and enthusiasm towards the subject within school and out with school.

So, a win win right?

Something that is clear educational development theories of making maths creative has not changed over the years. In fact, I would go as far to say that creative learning supplies learners with the basic knowledge to explore the different experiences on a more personal level and make maths more relevant to them. However, creativity in the maths classroom is not just about what pupils do what also what we do as teachers. Boaler (2015) supports this as she believes that we need to think about creatively about the mathematical experiences we offer our pupils, by doing so we can open up opportunities for them to be creative.

Olkin and Schoenfeld (1994) states that:

“The joy of confronting a novel situation and trying to make sense of it – the joy of banging your head off a mathematical wall, and then discovering that there may be ways of either going around or over that wall”

This suggests that children are aware of their boundaries, and by given clear indication about what knowledge to apply to the specific problem, can explore and be creative about mathematical problems which can leave so much room for children to interpret and value their individual ideas and thoughts. This therefore suggests that mathematical creativity has a greater impact in the classroom than that of traditional mathematics.

So can we make creative maths through play?

Is it possible to say that mathematics and play could intertwine in the classroom and at home? Could a child possibly improve their maths skills and knowledge by playing with toys and their friends?

According to Curricular Guidance for Preschool Education (2018)

“play is an effective vehicle for fostering Mathematical concepts and developing positive attitudes to mathematics.”

Creative mathematics is essential to developing children’s growth mindset and outlook on life. This is such an important thing to focus on in the early years mathematics classroom, bringing fun into mathematics has the ability to change perspectives of mathematics from a fairly young age. I cannot stress this enough after my research findings, we must include this in the early years.

From another lecture, we was discussing and learning about  learning and development for children, this is something I found really interesting.  So I have decided to  to speak about this. Something to realise is, maths is all around us, even if we least expect it. Lev Vvgotsky began a theory that children’s learning and development improve during the ‘zone of proximal development.’ The zone of proximal development is the difference between what a learner can do without help, and what a learner can do with the help of a more able other, for an example a teacher or teaching assistant.

Surely, the teaching of maths can be influenced by relating the subject to the child’s own knowledge and experience. So really, I think this helps us to understand why is creativity such an important aspect of learning maths, as it allows the child to personalise it and be able to relate it back to themselves in a more real life experience.

I found this really interesting, Saracho (1986, cited in Saracho and Spodek, 2003, p.77) suggests that when children play, they are able to involve themselves in social situations, and help them achieve skills such as sharing, helping and empathy. Therefore, play is extremely important to children’s learning, for the following reasons:

  • allows children to experiment
  • provides meaningful contexts
  • promotes social learning
  • encourages perservance

(Early Years Matter, undated)

Through playing, children can move in and out of reality, and express their feelings. they can choose any setting or time and create a different life and in that use different types of creative mathematics to make their dreams come to life, for example counting how much unicorns or how much time there is until the next dual, even using maths to create a fort in their living rooms simple problem solving in a creative way can improve children’s mathematical skills and abilities. As a child this is something I clung to, who knew maths was involved in this?

Nutbrown (1994) said ‘mathematics is never far away from explaining a child’s actions,’ this again tells us all the different ideas or exploration children display from their minds always links back to mathematics in some way or another. Children using creativity in their everyday school life will help their fundamental understanding of the mathematics they are learning and why they are learning it, and vice versa they might use their skills they acquire in school to make their play more meaningful and give it more an educational purpose.

So how does play help? Is there evidence? Yes there is… According Dr Karyn Purvis (2016) “scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain of children – unless it is done through play, in which case, it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions.” More on this can be seen through the following video:

The quality of children’s play is greatly influenced by the opportunities around them. As teachers we can provide materials and encouragement and open the door to new activities and learning.

Right so I’ve rambled on about why we should use creative maths, but does creative mathematics have a better impact to children?

So, does creative mathematics have a better impact for teaching and learning mathematics? I would say yes. Why?

Children retain more information the more it is related to real life situations and experiences. When maths is more creative children will make connections to situations in life where they have experienced this, for example, when learning money and change, the problem may be “Ben was at the shop and spent £1 on chocolate and £1.50 on crisps how much did he spend in total?” this allows children to build a relationship within the mathematics classroom. So yes I believe making maths more creative whether through play, problem solving or other cross curricular subjects will make children more engaged and happy with their learning.


  • Wall, H. (2012) Creative Mathematics Washington D.C.: Mathematical Association of America
  • Sriraman, B. (2004) ‘The Characteristics of Mathematical Creativity’ The Mathematics Educator 14(1) pp. 19-34
  • Tucker, K. (2014)Mathematics through play in the early years Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications
  • Olkin, I. and A. Schoenfeld, H. (1994) A discussion of Bruce Reznick’s Chapter (Some thoughts on writing for the Putnam) Mathematical thinking and problem solving. Schoenfeld, A.H. Hillside NJ, Lawerence Erlbraum: 39-51
  • Boaler, J. (2015) Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative TeachingNew Jersey, USA: John Wiley & Sons
  • Karyn Purvis Institute of child development. Children from hard places and the brain: chapter 1. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak6z3pqNqFU (Accessed on: 5 October 2018)
  • Department of Education (2018) Curricular Guidance for Preschool Education London: Education Scotland
  • Department of Education (2013) Creativity across learning 3-18 London: Education Scotland
  • Department of Education (2018) Maths through play London: Education Scotland
  • Saracho, O. and Spodek, B. (2003) Contemporary Perspectives on Play in Early Childhood EducationCharlotte, U.S: Information Age Publishing
  • Nutbrown, C. (1994) Threads of Thinking: Young Children Learning and the Role of Early Education London: Paul Chapman Publishing
  • Early Years Matters (Undated) Play and Learning Available at: http://www.earlyyearsmatters.co.uk/eyfs/a-unique-child/play-learning/ (Accessed on 23/10/18)