This post is written by Niki Willows, a freelance outdoor learning and play consultant based in Cornwall. She was reading a chapter of my new draft outdoor maths book and responded with this lovely story which is too good not to share. Thanks Niki for permission to publish and use your photos!
This was a maths game that a group of lads I worked with invented. They all have autism. We’d started with simple stick throwing in the woods and one of them always won with distance hands down. Another lad was fed up with this so we talked about how we could make it fairer.
There were some great discussions about weight and length of sticks and if a heavy one would go further because it was heavy, or less far because more effort was involved. They decided the fairest game was to go for accuracy over distance and we made circles of ribbons on the ground. We scored the centre circle 10, the next 8 and so on.
The distance throwing lad also proved to be best at accuracy too! This was almost too much for the fed up lad. But he had a think and decided he’d be the scorer. He liked addition so decided that would be his role. The game quickly progressed from a score of 10 in the middle to higher numbers and then numbers with a half too. The mental addition was amazing! The scorer also had to decide if a stick landed on the ribbon how much of it was in each circle and what score it could have. It was a great game and the only time with that group that all four were totally engrossed for the whole hour and a half. We continued it the following week.
I really liked the play-based approach taken by Niki that followed the young people’s lead and resulted in a magical mathematical moment! Niki works in the south-west and has a lovely Facebook page so please do pop by.