Nursery Rhymes and Maths

During our first maths input, I was reminded of the importance of nursery rhymes and songs in children’s development. Not only do these songs include language skills such as rhyme or alliteration, but they also include many mathematical elements.

An example of this is the nursery rhyme: 5 currant buns.

5 currant buns in a baker’s shop,

Round and fat with a cherry on the top,

along came <insert name> with a penny one day,

They bought a currant bun and they took it right away,

Yum yum! Yum yum!

As you can see (excuse the rather awkward video…) – the actions help the cement the meaning and add understanding to some of the mathematical words as well (such as ’round’ and ‘on the top’).

This song involves the various skills of counting back (5, 4, 3, 2, 1),

 I have explored numbers, understanding that they represent quantities, and I can use them to count, create sequences and describe order. MNU 0-02a

This can be extended to also include simple subtraction (we had 5 currant buns, one has been taken away. How many are left?)

 I use practical materials and can ‘count on and back’ to help me to understand addition and subtraction, recording my ideas and solutions in different ways. MNU 0-03a

In describing the buns, the language of shape is used (round)

 I enjoy investigating objects and shapes and can sort, describe and be creative with them. MTH 0-16a

as well as positional language (on the top).

 In movement, games, and using technology I can use simple directions and describe positions. MTH 0-17a

I have heard variations on the song, with the words “big and round” in place of “round and fat”. The explanation of this was because “fat” is an offensive word, which I find ludicrous (a topic for a later blog perhaps), however the new lyrics would include a further mathematical word (big).

Finally, there is the introduction of money and how it is exchanged for goods.

 I am developing my awareness of how money is used and can recognise and use a range of coins. MNU 0-09a

It’s clear that this song, as with many nursery rhymes, is packed full of maths. As a teacher, I hope to be able to use songs and rhymes to not only introduce concepts in a non-frightening way, but also to practice and engage with some of the more tricky outcomes.

I have already experimented with doing this while working in nurseries. While covering a wide topic area of ‘toys’, I changed the lyrics of this song to be about toys in a toy shop. Rather than each toy costing a penny, as in the traditional song, we gave each person a price tag (5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1). When a child was chosen to select the toy which they would like to buy, they were also required to choose the correct coin from the pot. I differentiated by having some price tags with a picture of the coin on them so that the child could match the shape and look of the coin, and some price tags simply having the price written e.g. 20p.