Whilst on placement, in an early years setting, I observed a group of children learning the mathematical skills of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing; through a series of interactive activities. The first method I observed was an activity (that covered adding, subtracting and multiplication) that used different coloured counters. Upon being given fifteen red counters, the children were asked to count them. After this, the teacher then asked the children to work out what was the highest and lowest value that they could make by adding the counters together; the answer being 15 and 2. After the children figured out the answers to this simple puzzle, they were given ten blue counters and were asked to again find the highest and lowest value, but this time by multiplying the total number of the blue counters (ten) to the red counters (in any quantity). This left the children with fifteen multiplication questions to write down and answer in their workbooks.
Vygotsky’s theory of scaffolding (which was developed further by Bruner) could be linked in to this activity as the children as a whole were given support with the first multiplication task, with the teacher answering the first question for them; leaving them to find the highest value (Gredler, 2012). Further scaffolding was evident as the pupils are placed on their tables according to what level they’re currently learning at. For example, the table with the pupils who are most challenged by mathematics were given a worksheet with all of the questions written down for them: leaving them with the task of answering the questions. However, it could be argued that more support could have been useful, as the difficult part about the maths activity was having to answer the questions, not having to write them down. What could have worked better was leaving one digit in each multiplication blank, for example instead of “2 x 10 = __?”, “_ x 10 = 20” would have been better for progress in mathematic skills.
Before starting the activity, the teacher helped the class by answering the first question for them; thus demonstrating how to solve the questions. This, undoubtedly, made the task easier as it showed the children how the activity should be approached and understood. As a result of initially making the task easier, the children’s self-identity and self-esteem heightened. This links with Dowling’s (2013) views as she believes “that a child with a sound self-esteem is well placed to think and learn.” However, she did acknowledge that positive self-esteem was not enough and that children also need “self-knowledge” which is knowing what they are successful at and what they struggle with. By outlining how to figure out the questions, the teacher (arguably) helped the children with their self-knowledge, as the children would be able to find out straight away whether they understand the task or not.
By providing bright coloured counters to provide the children with a new physical method of adding,...