Algebraic Equations

6 January 2013 · 4 comments

in Maths Outdoors, Nature Play & Learning, Urban

The idea of objects representing numbers is not new and works well for reinforcing basic numeracy skills. In this activity children gather some natural objects from whatever is to hand and then create sums. Here’s what a Y5 (Primary 6) class devised when working in small groups which shows the range of thinking around one common task.

Firstly with this example, each object could have several values. There are no additional clues to help us identify what the green leaf, brown leaf and plant stalk are worth. I like that they have not used any numbers as clues on the left hand side of the equation either.

This example provides a little more information. I reckon the twigs may be worth 40 but then again, when you really stop and think, they could be any number between 1 and 45…

In the photo below, the group have given more examples. What has worked well here is that the reader can deduce the value of each object. The children have kept the values constant throughout their work. In other words, the small pebbles always have a value of 10. The twigs have a value of 6 and the leaves have a value of 8.

The next group have approached the task differently again. Each object has been assigned a value but has been multiplied by a number within the equation.

Often teachers worry about differentiating tasks in maths outside. I think this is a good example of how the children have demonstrated that they sort themselves out by the work they do. The opportunities for shared discussions around the results adds value to such tasks too.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Fagley Gardening Team and Forest School January 8, 2013 at 17:25

A great example of how outdoor resources help children to learn math skills. We had a group of Year 6 children last year who were struggling with division. Armed with a bucket of chalk we headed off outside. The children were sent off to find as many sticks as they could find. The sticks were grouped into bundles and used to represent the division ‘chunks’ on the number line. For the children who had been ‘stuck’ this visual and interactive method worked brilliantly. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing a child say “oh yeah, I get it now, it’s easy!”


Juliet Robertson January 8, 2013 at 18:23

Thanks for this comment – I do believe sticks are such a valuable resource. I think, afterwards, the teacher and myself probably could have developed the thinking further – I took the photos but it was only when writing the blog post that I saw things I had missed earlier on. Hmm…


Ben Mayoh January 30, 2013 at 10:55

Hi Juliet,
as a trainee teacher you have definitely inspired me to make use of the outside environment. It is something I have been really interested in implementing into my lesson, however I was not quite sure how to carry this out. I will certainly keep checking out your blog for more ideas.

Thank you

Ben 🙂


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