Last year at Newburn Manor Nursery School in Newcastle, ‘Take Home Toys’ were given an innovative Mathematical twist in order to encourage parents/carers to engage in more practical Maths with children in their home. We found that this relatively minor change in our practice had profound effects on parents' attitudes to Maths and had positive implications for both the children and setting. We surveyed the parents in the autumn term to assess their confidence in talking mathematically and optimising experiences for their children. Then we designed a visit to Thornley Woods to demonstrate the wealth of mathematical opportunities in an outing with children. All of the children in our Nursery went on this visit with a parent or family member to complete the series of practical maths trails. The figures below shows how confident the parents felt before and after the trip and illustrates the positive impact it had.
|All of family confident to make the most of experiences
||Some adults confident
||A little confident
||Not at all confident
Following the success of the trip we decided to follow up and extended this concept through the use of a ‘Take Home Toy’ and notebook which would encourage parents and children to partake in practical maths in their own homes and record what they had done and share their experiences with the class. To begin the project, staff completed the first entry as an example, pointing out to parents just some of the activities they could engage in at home. The toys went home with a different child each night until they had all taken both toys home. Red class introduced, two soft toys, Biffy Bird and Bobbin Rabbit, to the children.
Dear Children, Parents and Carers,
Please look after Bobbin and show her how you count, sort and measure at home.
You can take her wherever you go, as long as you bring her back to school in the morning.
Please use this book to record what you have done together. You could draw pictures, write or take photos and stick them in.
Please bring Bobbin back to Nursery in the morning and we will share her adventures at your house with all of the children in Red Class.
We hope you enjoy your time together.
All classes reported a very positive response to the visit from both parents/carers and children. As well as enjoyment, parents/carers mentioned how useful it was to see their children’s new friends and to meet other parents and staff in a more relaxed setting, outside of school. Most parents worked well with their child, looking for and recording their finds using the sheet provided. There was a lot of number talk (“I’ve seen two squirrels and lots of birds!”), as well as talk about mathematical concepts such as size. It was apparent that parents had appreciated that the visit was a mathematical experience and enhanced this experience for their children by the nature of their talk. All parents gained insight into the way mathematics can be brought into everyday life.
The staff found it a very good opportunity to build relationships with parents early in the year. There was a general feeling that the trip being free, due to NCETM funding, had encouraged a greater number of parents to participate than would otherwise be the case. Staff also felt that as a result of being involved in the planning of the Thornley woods trip and toy and notebook project they became more reflective of their own practice and the subsequent moderation of this area of the EYFS curriculum.
The children loved the toy characters and began to associate them with ‘maths’ so the toys were also used in the daily teaching of Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy and this also helped children to link home and school life. The enjoyment factor was key in the success of the ‘Take Home Toys’.
We have continued to enhance the ‘Take Home Toy’ routine by altering the focus and developing accessibility depending on the children’s needs and interests. This term we have addressed the issue of it being very reliant on writing skills by incorporating ICT and allowing the children to take recordable post cards home with the toy and notebook as an innovative speech-based way of recording their findings and thoughts.