So – here’s what our first week of maths playtime looked like.
Day 1 – Discovering the Fibonacci Sequence
We read Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, a gorgeous picture book about the twelfth century mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci.
We learned how Fibonacci brought Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe, which had until then been using Roman numerals. Here we paused to talk about place value and how much harder it must have been for kids to do written arithmetic without a zero!
Next we puzzled over Fibonacci’s famous rabbit problem. (In short, if a pair of rabbits has two babies every month, how many rabbits do you have at the end of the year?)
J(8) got overwhelmed and ran off to the trampoline at this point. But I was delighted that C(9) – who also has “if I can’t do it perfectly straight away, I’m outta here” tendencies – stayed with the puzzle long enough to spot the pattern which gives us the Fibonacci Series. (J(8) will be ready for this level of engagement and reasoning in his own time!)
Day 2 – Fibonacci Numbers in Nature
We’d read in Blockhead how the Fibonacci Series is found throughout nature, so on our walks for the rest of the week we looked for examples.
Most daisies, for example, have thirty-four petals (a Fibonacci number).
(Top tip: don’t split the petals, thinking they’re two. The first time I counted fifty-nine. Next daisy, I carefully kept each petal intact and I got thirty-four exactly.)
Daisies have 13 (easier to count) sepals (another Fibonacci number).
Fibonacci numbers are found in so many places besides plants – they crop up everywhere, from fine art, to galaxies, to pineapples. What a lot we still have to explore!
Day 3 – KenKen Puzzles: Arithmetic and Logic Practice
KenKen – Japanese for “cleverness” – is an arithmetic logic puzzle invented by a Japanese maths teacher. It’s a similar to Sudoku but the digits in each mini-grid combine together to make a given number, using prescribed operation signs. Hard to explain but once you’ve done one or two you get it!
We downloaded the free KenKen iPad/iPhone app, which allows you to start with very easy puzzles using just addition and the numbers 1-3. I can see this providing hours of maths fact practice!
Day 4 – Pattern Blocks: Exploring Symmetry and Tessellations
Let’s Play Math suggests investing in manipulatives that are, among other things, strew-able. Pattern blocks have definitely passed that test this week.
Pattern blocks give kids the chance to explore pattern building, geometric shapes, tessellation, symmetry and all that other mathematical stuff in an open-ended way. I’m looking forward to looking at these concepts in greater depth over the course of our maths playtimes.
Day 5 – Story Problems
This was the simplest day in terms of set-up, and perhaps the most fun, which came as a welcome surprise to me. All we needed was a portable whiteboard and our imaginations (and a bit of patience waiting for J(8) to finish each of his long complicated stories!).
We took turns, and I think the children learned at least as much from setting me problems (and watching me work through them out loud and on the whiteboard) as they did solving them.
Here are some of the problems we came up with:
Story problem I started with
“If our puppy Harvey can skateboard at 5 metres per second, and the playground of our home ed centre is 20 metres long, how long would it take Harvey to skate from one end to the other?”
Story Problem by C(9)
(Who has recently been caring for her first flowering pot plant.) “If you water a plant every day, it grows one new flower every three hours. But you only water it every other day, so it grows half the number of flowers. How many flowers does it grow in a fortnight?”
Story Problem by J(8)
[Brace yourself.] “A man digs a hole 5 metres deep in 24 hours. If he sleeps 12 hours a night and has two 11 minute tea-breaks a day, how deep is the hole after 10 years?”
[I gave you the condensed version. The digging man (an escaping convict?!) ended up doing so many other things, we lost track. Once we’d negotiated relevant facts, I gamely worked out how far into the Earth’s core the man had burrowed.]
Verdict on Week One
We enjoyed each of our maths playtime sessions SO MUCH.
There was also a lot of spontaneous maths play – and not just by the children!
So where are we going with this?
My goals for this term are for C(9) and J(8) to play with maths concepts, have fun with numbers and discover a bit of maths history.
My role will be to strew interesting materials, make suggestions, read aloud and – most importantly – observe. I love quietly playing detective, noticing what each child is drawn to, what comes naturally, and what might benefit from more
By the end of term in July I’ll have a lot more information about how the maths playtime approach is going. Then we’ll talk over our experiences and take it from there.
I’ll post more about our maths playtimes soon.
Want to find out more?