The construction area of your setting provides a wealth of opportunities for children to practice maths whilst using imaginative exploration. Large empty boxes can become buses or boats, blocks can be built up into towers, small ramps can be adjusted for toy cars to speed down – the possibilities are endless! The construction area is also the perfect place for children to weigh, sort and compare containers and blocks of different sizes.
Very often, you can find resources for your construction area for free. Boxes, crates, bins and even plastic u-bends will build a rich source of play materials for the children to use. Resources can be grouped together for storage if they share a similar purpose, making tidying up both quick and meaningful for the children.
Children will explore the construction area in their own time and without much intervention, especially if there are plenty of resources to hand.
Boxes lend themselves well to becoming vehicles such as buses, cars, boats or even planes. This gives practitioners the opportunity to ask questions such as “How many seats are there?”; “How many people can fit?” or “Can we add more seats?”
Practitioners may also witness problem-solving situations where they can provide some ‘thinking out loud’ narrative.
Giving children card and mark-making materials will allow them to make tickets for their bus, boat or plane. By putting numbers on the tickets which correspond to the seats, children can be encouraged to read and match sets of numbers.
Exploring the theme of transport can also give rise to the use of currency. Questions such as “How much will the tickets cost?” can be introduced whilst letting children use small denominations of real money.
Experimenting with construction
A construction area is a flexible space which can fit into a small indoor environment or an outdoor area. You may find children adding more boxes to make their ‘bus’ bigger, seeing how high they can balance boxes or experimenting with the height of a ramp.
By selecting boxes of different sizes, you can challenge the children to arrange them in size order. There are also plenty of role-playing opportunities to be had by introducing props related to the building industry such as hard hats, goggles, high vis jackets and clipboards.
You could also consider adding measuring devices such as rulers, tape measures, spirit levels and weighing hooks (like the kind you get for weighing luggage) to enhance the children’s learning opportunities.
By having an organised method of storing the different containers, tidy-up time can be made to be quicker and you can ask children “Please could you help me collect all the u-bends?” so that they can understand the process of sorting through the containers according to their shape or use.
Having a well-resourced construction area can pay dividends for children’s understanding of maths. Children will be able to test their own ideas, explore balance and toppling, begin to understand size dimensions, engage in imaginative exploration and much more besides. This makes a construction area an ideal platform for children to take risks and also reaffirm their maths skills in an exciting and ever-changing environment.
Here is a link to help you with some ideas of resources to help children with maths:
Each of these resources can be sorted into different sizes. Children can count each item and also learn what is smaller and larger. It’s also important to have natural resources rather than just “plastic” as these cover all of the children’s senses – visual, smell, touch and taste.