Using the Notice, Explore, Talk Approach

The examples on this page show how one junior infant teacher used the ‘Notice, Explore, Talk about maths’ approach to supporting children’s mathematical development in play.

Examples of Mathematics in Children’s Play

As explained above, the three types of mathematical play outlined by Ginsburg (2006) are:

  • Mathematics embedded in play
    • Children make sense of things by using mathematics in their play.
  • Play centring on mathematics
    • Children play with mathematics directly. They are focused and enjoying counting, creating a pattern, or making the longest train or snake.
  • Play with the mathematics that has been taught
    • Children recreate ideas and concepts explored in previous mathematical lessons.

Below you will find some examples of how these different types of play and how the teacher worked to notice, explore and talk about children’s ideas.

How to get started in your own classroom?
  • Adopt the mantra ‘Notice, Explore and Talk about Mathematics.’ Noticing, exploring, and talking about children’s mathematical learning increases awareness of the role of mathematics in our everyday lives.
  • Observe the children’s play
  • Take time to reflect. Critical reflection is key for the teacher. I personally felt when I took time to reflect on what was going on in play, I began to see the powerful mathematical ideas that the children were playing with.
  • Use meaningful and open ended questioning and observation techniques. This helps create space to notice the mathematics the children are playing with. The more I noticed the more aware I became of how children play with mathematics in their everyday moments. (Check out Talk – Maths4All).
  • Make simple observation notes of interesting moments of children’s play using sticky labels.
  • Using the mantra; notice, explore and talk about mathematics regularly developed my self-awareness to the rich potentials that play offers to make the children’s mathematical thinking. ‘I noticed you are using the maths we are learning.’, ‘You are thinking very mathematically today’, ‘I noticed you had a problem in your play today, how did you solve it?’, ‘ Why did you choose that way?’,  ‘I wonder was there any other ways?’,  ‘That was great problem solving work, well done!’.
  • Enter the children’s play openly, be free to listen and ready to follow the child’s lead. The potential to assess and scaffold the children’s mathematical thinking is vast.
  • Some mathematical moments are more obvious than others in play. The play itself can mask the thinking that is going on. It is also important to note that not all play moments are mathematical. Taking time to being present in the children’s play to listen and observe is very powerful in discovering the mathematics children are playing with.
  • Celebrating everyday mathematical moments and making the children’s learning visible helps to build a productive disposition of mathematics. It helps both the children and the teacher to increase the value we place on the role of mathematics in our lives.
  • Explore the role of digital technology in making the children’s mathematical learning visible e.g. using it as a formative assessment tool e.g. digital portfolios, an aid to share learning with home or showcasing mathematical moments with peers as part of the children’s review of their play.
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