For children, the main purpose of keeping a maths journal is to be able to communicate their mathematical thinking. This gives them the opportunity to crystalise their ideas and deepen their understanding. We also want children to develop their identities as learners, knowing how they learn and how they can help themselves to learn. The only way children can develop this sense of identity is to be given opportunities to consider and practice this; the journal is an ideal space to let this happen.
Clearly, young children won’t yet have the skills to write extensively in their journals, but they can still communicate ideas in a way that makes sense to them.
A good example of this was a child in Reception who was journaling the calculation ‘five subtract five,’ in the context of a story about a fox who had eaten five chicks.
As well as drawing five chicks and then crossing them out one by one, the child also recorded this event in symbols by writing the number 5 followed by five subtraction signs, then a zero.
She understood that if you start with five and take one away five times, you’ll have nothing left.
Children in Foundation Stage are unlikely to have been introduced to mathematical conventions so will not be constrained by them. They are also less likely to worry about making mistakes or getting an answer wrong.
The very act of committing something to paper often leads to greater depth of thinking and can be a channel for creativity and originality.
An example of some playful creativity came from a Reception child who had been exploring the effect of adding zero to a number. He understood that adding zero didn’t change the original amount. His journal entry was:
1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 1
He was clearly playing with the numbers, and he thought coming up with a calculation that took up the whole page was very amusing, but it showed a very good understanding of the effect of adding zero.
Foundations — Your Reception Solution
This Early Years mastery programme encourages learning through play and sets children on a path to a deep understanding of maths.