I sometimes get the impression, when I try to explain our natural learning approach to education, that people think this doesn’t include literacy and numeracy. That it’s all well and good to follow their interests and let them learn things in their own time, but there are some things that children just have to be taught in a certain way, at a certain time (namely reading, writing, and maths). When I try to explain what our days look like I have then been asked, ‘but I assume you do have some time where they have to sit down and do school work’. Well…no. Unless they want to that is! It really is just like I’ve explained it.
I have previously talked about how natural learning has worked for us when it comes to learning how to read and write. Maths seems to be a little harder to explain. There is not a clear progression like there is with watching a child gradually master reading and writing. Maths encompasses so many things!
What my girls have learnt so far has been through their own play, and asking questions that come up in normal daily life. We have many maths materials available for them to play with or use to represent a problem whenever they like. There is cuisenaire rods, spielgaben, scales, rulers, an abacus, a number chart, paper and pencils, etc. Just playing with these resources has helped them visualize many concepts. It is difficult to explain in words how exactly natural learning happens for maths, so I thought it best to show you…
Learning about measurement while helping Dad build.
My 5 year old learnt to skip count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s by playing with her abacus.
Sharing grapes at morning tea led to talking about odd and even numbers.
Cooking includes lots of maths! Measurement, fractions, weight, counting, time, temperature…
Exploring symmetry through art.
My 3 year old playing with our scales and some blocks.
Recording the time it takes for an apple to decompose in our compost was an opportunity to introduce tally marks.
A trip to the shop to buy some stickers prompted a discussion on money. My 5 year old sorted the coins, counted them, and found different ways to make up one dollar.
My 3 year old playing with Spielgaben and discovering that ‘I can make a circle with the same of these ones’.
Just ‘playing’ with blocks and Spielgaben, but also obviously exploring symmetry and patterns.
Playing with cuisenaire rods and number cards.
The way we approach maths in our house is simply by answering questions, encouraging further investigation, providing resources, and most importantly just letting them PLAY. Children are motivated to discover how the world works and they come up with amazing questions constantly! When they come to me with a question I ask them what they think, and then we work out the answer together. If they are particularly interested in something I might set up an activity for them so they can explore it further, which they are free to use or not. We have had some great discussions and lots of fun and have so far covered more than the Australian curriculum for prep maths. All through natural learning and play. My favourite part is seeing the enjoyment they get from learning about maths, their confidence in themselves, and their desire for knowledge!
Hopefully that gives a clearer picture of what maths might look like, natural learning style!