Focus on Dimension 5 – Play and Learning Experiences

Noah's Ark Pre-School

Noah’s Ark Preschool serves children and families in Westbury Park and the surrounding area.   Their inclusive preschool provides a well-resourced and nurturing learning environment for children aged 2-5years. This is enhanced by a team of highly qualified and experienced staff who work together to deliver a well-planned curriculum which allows children to explore, learn and develop from the starting point of their individual interests and experiences.

This case study shows how the setting developed mathematical experiences and included parents to maximise the impact for children. The targets set in their Bristol Standard were:

  • To encourage all staff to maximise opportunities to model mathematical language and concepts by developing a range of resources to support children’s understanding of the mathematical concept of ‘subitization’ (the ability to see a small number of objects and know how many there are without counting)
  • Plan and deliver a Maths workshop for parents

The manager, Jane Smith explains how the team worked on this target:

“We began with a twilight training session for all the staff where we focused on the importance of the mathematical concept of subitization, led by our Maths lead, Jackie. We discussed how our children would benefit by becoming confident in recognising small numbers of objects without needing to count them and how we might be able to help them develop a strong sense of the conservation of number. We were very keen to make sure that any activities we planned would be play based and that as well as planning some adult led times we would also need to consider how we might enhance our provision to encourage child initiated mathematical exploration.

Jackie prepared a handout for the whole team and we watched some YouTube video clips together and agreed on one that we thought our parents might find useful. We decided to run two daytime workshops with the aim of communicating to parents how all of these important counting skills will form the building blocks for mathematical ideas that they will use for the rest of their lives.

We planned together in our room teams to set up the indoor and outside environment with a mathematical focus using the stories of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears and The 3 Billy Goats Gruff. We wanted to provide a rich and stimulating environment where there would be mathematical opportunities through role play, small world, sensory play, construction, mark making and art.

We held two daytime sessions for parents and it was great to have parents stay on afterwards to join their children in Pre-school for the rest of the session.

Loose parts resources

We made sure that all our children have plenty of opportunity to explore and use loose parts throughout the indoor and outside environments. Outside we have focused on collecting larger loose parts which lend themselves to sorting, ordering and arranging helping children to investigate shape, space and measure. We have stored them in a way to make them easily accessible for the children .Staff are able to scaffold learning and introduce mathematical language into the play as children compare size and shape or experiment with building and balancing.

Indoors we have made lots of collections of smaller loose parts; some are waste materials from the Children’s ScrapStore, some are natural objects such as conkers, shells and pine cones and some are real things which form part of our ‘Black mat’ resource collection. These Black mat resources include old fashioned balance scales for weighing, collections of watches, keys, nuts and bolts, all of which can be compared and sorted in different ways. These collections are ongoing and always changing and developing to keep the children interested and engaged.

As a team we have now agreed that each term we will plan for one week when our adult led times will have a mathematical focus to ensure that children have opportunities to explore all the different EYFS mathematical themes with a strong emphasis on encouraging children to problem solve and think creatively and critically which will help them become confident mathematicians. These planned adult led times give key people opportunities to observe their children and assess their understanding and knowledge so that they can plan appropriate next steps in maths and enhance our provision to provide resources that will enable each child to consolidate their learning.

Benefits for children:

  • We all agreed that one of the main ways that our children have benefited from our Maths workshop sessions has been that parents now have ideas about how to bring mathematical learning into everyday situations at home with their children. We know that working in partnership with families helps children thrive emotionally and intellectually as learning that is happening in Pre-school is being re-enforced and embedded at home and vice versa.
  • The children have benefited from these open ended resources being readily available as part of our continuous provision as it has enabled them to explore and consolidate learning and ideas that have been introduced to them during adult led times as part of their free play and sometimes making mathematical marks.
  • As practitioners, we have got better at noticing and celebrating all the maths that is happening during free play times the children have benefited because they know that maths is important and valued and so they feel confident and encouraged to pursue their own mathematical investigations. It is wonderful to see children see the everyday purpose and application behind their mathematical learning as they apply it to their play and exploration.
  • The children have also benefited by seeing different ways of recording their maths and are beginning to understand that mathematical mark making is important.