A Number Rich Learning Environment

At a conference I attended earlier this, Professor Stephen Heppell spoke of the importance of the environment which we teach and learn in. I wrote about the changes I made to my class as a result, in my previous post, ‘Improving our Learning Space‘.  One thing that he mentioned which I hadn’t done much about up to this point was the importance of creating a number rich learning environment. The vast majority of display boards in school have writing on, some display art work, but very few include numbers or maths in general.

So I have begun a mission to make the environment in my classroom and across the school more number rich (or should that be increasingly number rich?) The premise is fairly simple, the more present and visible numbers and mathematics are, the more relevant and familiar they will be to all of us.

A quick search of Pinterest will show you steps and stairs (what’s the difference?) from all over the world with numbers on them. So I did that. We’ve only got 8 stairs in the school though, which is not a lot, but alongside the numbers I added the Numicon image, a dice and the number written in Italian. We learn Italian in our school, so that’s not as random as it may otherwise seem. Also on Pinterest you’ll see loads of images of angles drawn on the floor beneath doors in the style of a protractor. I like it. I’ve not done it yet, so you’ll not see a picture of it below.

Drawing a scale up the side of a wall was a very simple thing to do, but has proved to be the one change that has caused the most engagement from the children. Several times a day I walk down the corridor and see children discussing and comparing heights. Thinking and talking about numbers. Real, relevant numbers.

I’ve put up a few chalkboards around the school in the last few months. Putting weekly number problems on them has been an effective way of encouraging numbers being discussed away from the classroom. It’s quite fun as well and a great way to get children to explain their reasoning and persevere.

Professor Heppell is a great advocate of writing on windows with chalk pens (specifically the Edding 4090 limo colour pens). I took this idea and added a hundred square (with different coloured odd and even numbers) and a multiplication grid (with different coloured square numbers). Then Professor Heppell came into my class and explained, it should be the children who are writing on the window. So we got on with that as well.

While in the class, Professor Heppell suggested an easy way of increasing the number of numbers would be to put numbers on the backs of the chairs. So I did that. The next day I began intergrating them into my practice: ‘Stand up if your chair is an odd number’; ‘go to lunch if your chair is a prime number’; ‘Sit down if your chair is a multiple of 7’…and so on. It’s been fun so far and ensures everyone is thinking and engaged.

I’ve put up a few sign posts around school as well. They have the distance to landmarks, near and far, in miles and kilometres. You could use these to order and compare, or calculate conversions, or double, or divide, or apply to whatever maths problems you want really.

Next up…I’m mulling over putting a large Venn diagram somewhere, I’d like to do a grid somewhere for life size coordinates, a massive bar model or two and I must put a floor protractor down somewhere.

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