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Learning Maths Outside the Classroom - Playground Mazes

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 11 July 2008 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 21 October 2010 by ncetm_administrator

School GroundsSchool Grounds

Playground Mazes

Benefits of Mazes

Open-Ended Play
So much of a child's life, whether learning or relaxing, tends to be relatively passive and sometimes solitary - being taught in class, watching TV, being driven around in the back of a car, or responding passively to over-structured computer games on one's own, etc. Mazes invite Imaginative, Creative and Co-operative Play, by being deliberately deficient in formal rules.

Problem-Solving for all ages
When playing Mazes, age is no barrier - and often no advantage! Most problem-solving skills for Mazes exist from an early age. Parents and grandparents often take just as long to solve a maze as their children. The choice a child makes is just as valid as that made by anyone else.

High Repeat Play Value
The mazes featured here, designed by Adrian Fisher's have high repeat play value, precisely because they are deficient in formal rules. So each approach can be, and is likely to be different.

The Jumping Maze

How to play
Start at the black square with the "1" on it in the centre of the bottom row, and jump forward, sideways, or backwards, but never diagonally, the number of squares indicated by the number on the square. The objective is to find your way to the central square. (c) 1999, Adrian Fisher

 Click here for video of Jumping Mazes in action.
 Click here for video of How to Plan a Maze
 Click here for video of Designing Mazes

Archery Maze

How to play
Starting at the arrow in the black square, find your way to the central target. Move any distance in the direction indicated. Whenever you stop, change direction as indicated by the arrow on which you land.


Colour Mazes

Imaginative, Creative and Co-operative Play
Starting rules are usually provided. However, their greatest play value arises when children use the basic maze design to invent new games of their own - inventing new rules, playing them to see how they work, and modifying them in the light of experience. This requires a high degree of communication, persuasion, social skills, interaction and co-operation.

Groups of children at different times devise different rules on the same maze. This is good as it is the act of creating new ways to play, not the precise rules that matter.

"The number jumping maze has spawned a variety of different games, variations of hopscotch, for exampl) and complicated games with mental arithmetic sums and arcane rules relying on numbers which we adults can only guess at". (Edward Wallace B.Ed M.A., Headmaster. Cliff School, Wakefield)

 Click here to find out about Colour Mazes and Puzzles and Tessellations.

Ways of Playing
With all Colour Mazes, three main types of Play emerge: Problem-solving Play, Competitive Play, and Co-operative Play.
  • Problem-solving Play involves solving the maze as a puzzle, either on your own, or with the help of others. Visually, Colour Mazes are compulsive; adult spectators will often trace the maze paths intently with their eyes, even if they are reluctant to step forward and actually walk on the maze.
  • Competitive Play involves achieving something before anyone else, or avoiding it for as long as possible. For example, getting to the goal first, whilst still keeping to rules, which maybe interactive or not; or playing Tag and avoiding one particular player, whilst following the paths in different ways.
  • Co-operative Play involves achieving a mutual goal, in conjunction with one or more other people. For example, players may take turns to move, and must not repeat the path colour of the previous person; the objective might be to get all the players to reach the goal in consecutive turns.

Developing Skills of Expression
Each colour maze has a set of simple rules. Children develop their skills of expression by explaining these rules to others, in their own words. They also invent their own games, which are invariably more complicated. They then have to explain their own elaborate rules to newcomers who want to join in.

Effect of Spatial Scale on Children's Special Places
Spatial Scale has a profound and direct effect on human behaviour and children's play; too large a play space is unhelpful. These Colour Mazes are appropriately sized. Children can see each other at all times, and interact by voice, sight and movement. Enclosed surroundings with a vertical element, natural materials and living shrubs and plants will add to the experience. The effect of an intimate Courtyard setting is ideal.

The Benefits of Colour Mazes

Developing Problem-solving Skills
Colour Mazes introduce children to analysing and solving new and unexpected problems:

  • pupils have to understand the special rule of each Colour Maze
  • they begin to move around, exploring it, and trying to reach the goal
  • they discover that reaching the goal is not so easy, and that a more systematic approach is necessary
  • they develop a working theory or hypothesis that might help them solve the maze, eg. working out the last move, then the previous choice of moves, etc.
  • they realise they have cracked the essence of the puzzle
  • they demonstrate their solution to others in a forward direction, which usually works.
  • temporary failiure provides motivation for others to get involved

Developing Memory Skills
Many Colour Mazes can be solved more quickly by working out at least part of the solution backwards:

  • pupils have to realise this for themselves
  • they have to transpose the action into reverse; this is not always easy, especially with one-directional mazes such as Arrow Mazes and Number Mazes
  • they have to memorise quite a lengthy sequence, often of 8 or 10 moves, in a particular order
  • to demonstrate their solution, they have to recall the sequence in the forward direction.

Adrian Fisher Design Ltd
Portman Lodge, Durweston, Dorset, DT11 0QA
Email - adrianfishermazemaker@googlemail.com



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28 April 2013 17:22
I will be running a Maths Day for our more able maths pupils from yrs 3,4 and 5 on Friday and using the number maze idea (and possibly the colour mazes too if there is time). I'm really looking forward to it.
By Janxblu
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