Building on solid foundations
In maths all learning is built on what has gone before. So, for example:
- Number bonds to 20 build on an understanding of number bonds to 10
- Place value (hundreds, tens and units) builds on an understanding of numbers 0-20
- A child's understanding of the foundations of maths has to be 100% secure before a child does more advanced maths
Games are an easy and enjoyable way of reinforcing maths skills without the added burden of writing down pages of sums. Children learn by doing. In the early years of education, writing down their maths is not as important as their understanding of basic concepts. This is where the emphasis should be. Games are a way of providing the necessary repetition without the children getting bored.
My criteria for the maths games are that they should:
- Be fun
- Be quick
- Be inexpensive
- Be simple to play
- Not look like maths (there are no +, —, x, ÷ or = signs in any of the games)
- Provide practice in basic maths skills
- Provide opportunities to talk about maths
Many of the games have variations so that they can be played at different levels of difficulty.
How Jane's Games
The games came about because of my work teaching teachers in Tanzania.
I teach teachers who work with children in the first four years of
Jane Firth teaching 5 year olds in Tanzania
Teachers in Tanzania commonly use blackboards to convey information to
children, and are unused to methods involving more direct interaction.
However, when children are copying sums from the board, they may be
quiet, but they are not necessarily learning.
School children in Tanzania
An additional difficulty for the
teachers is the lack of classroom resources that we take for
granted in the developed world. The programme I devised for them
has been a combination of Montessori methods adapted for large
classes and minimal resources. Playing maths games is an
important part of this. The only resources available to me for
making games were bottle tops (used as counters) dice and
I have written teachers’ manuals for the teaching of mathematics in the first four years of primary school which are beginning to go into primary schools. I have also begun speaking at the national conferences organised by the Maths Association of Tanzania on laying solid foundations in mathematics.
Jane's teachers' manuals for Tanzanian
primary school teachers
For more details of this project, go to www.educationeastafrica.org
Children learn by doing
I also work with parents in the UK, so they try out my games. Many then asked me for copies of them which led to the decision to publish them.
Though there are plenty of electronic games available to buy or download from the internet, when children play games against a computer they are not spending quality time with another person, and it is less easy to see which areas need to be worked on. Children’s learning is reinforced by talking about it: playing games with children provides natural opportunities to do this.