Problem solving

Open-ended investigative tasks provide a fun, stimulating context in which children can begin to develop their ability to connect previous knowledge with new situations, to develop flexibility and creativity, and to reason mathematically and think creatively.

These tasks are discussion prompts that can be used in a variety of contexts. Print them out and stick them up in your outdoor play areas to help prompt mathematical problem solving and use of language. Nick's advice provides guidance for getting the most out of these activities, and the Topics link highlights further opportunities for mathematical exploration.

Supporting documents for set
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Hoist

Question prompts for use when playing with a bucket on a hoist. Children know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9. Children use everyday language to talk about size, capacity, position, distance, time to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems.

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Holes

Question prompts for use when digging holes. Children know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9. Children use everyday language to talk about size, capacity, position, distance, time to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems.

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Leaves

Question prompts for use when playing with leaves. Children know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9. In practical activities and discussion, begin to use the vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting. Begin to relate addition to combining two groups of objects and subtraction to ‘taking away’.

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Logs

Question prompts for use when putting logs onto a trolley. Children know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9. In practical activities and discussion, begin to use the vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting. Begin to relate addition to combining two groups of objects and subtraction to ‘taking away’. Show curiosity and observation by talking about shapes. Begin to use mathematical names for shapes.

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More Logs

Question prompts for when playing with logs. Children know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9. In practical activities and discussion, begin to use the vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting. Begin to relate addition to combining two groups of objects and subtraction to ‘taking away’.

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Moving house...

Question prompts when moving blocks on trolleys.  Know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9. In practical activities and discussion, begin to use the vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting. Begin to relate addition to combining two groups of objects and subtraction to ‘taking away’.

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The Mud Kitchen

Question prompts when playing with mud.  Counting. Same and different. Shape, space and measure.

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Obstacle course

Question prompts when running an obstacle course. Children use everyday language to talk about position, distance, time to compare quantities and objects and to solve problems.

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Planting & Gardening

Question prompts when working in a school garden. Children know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9

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Sand to Sandpit

Question prompts when filling a sandpit. Know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9. In practical activities and discussion, begin to use the vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting. Begin to relate addition to combining two groups of objects and subtraction to ‘taking away’.

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Scooters, Bikes, Trikes

Question prompts riding a scooter, bike or trike. Same and different. Position and spatial properties. Counting.

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Shape Hunt

Question prompts about finding shapes. Children show an awareness of similarities of shapes in the environment. Match some shapes by recognising similarities and orientation. Show curiosity and observation by talking about shapes. Begin to use mathematical names for shapes. Use language such as ‘circle’… to describe the shape…. of solids and flat shapes.

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More shapes

Question prompts about the shapes formed by windows. Children show an awareness of similarities of shapes in the environment. Match some shapes by recognising similarities and orientation. Show curiosity and observation by talking about shapes. Begin to use mathematical names for shapes. Use language such as ‘circle’… to describe the shape… of solids and flat shapes

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Tin Can Alley

Question prompts when playing with tin cans. Know that numbers identify how many objects there are in a set. Say and use number names in order in familiar contexts. Count reliably up to 10 everyday objects. Recognise numerals 1-9. In practical activities and discussion, begin to use the vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting. Begin to relate addition to combining two groups of objects and subtraction to ‘taking away’.

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Sorting

Question prompts when playing with twigs, stones, leaves etc. Children show an interest in shape and space by playing with shapes or making arrangements with objects. Show curiosity and observation by talking about shapes, how they are the same or why some are different. Sort objects, making choices and justifying decisions. Sort familiar objects to identify their similarities and differences. Use developing mathematical ideas and methods to solve practical problems. Show an awareness of similarities of shapes in the environment. Match some shapes by recognising similarities and orientation. Show curiosity and observation by talking about shapes. Begin to use mathematical names for shapes. Use language such as ‘circle’… to describe the shape… of solids and flat shapes.

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Take it outside

Remember… just about anything you do indoors in maths can be done outside. Some children ‘come alive’ once out of the classroom and may just surprise you with the observations they make or the learning behaviours they show.

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Wellies

Question prompts for when putting wellies away. Children use everyday language to talk about position.