‘DOING MATHEMATICS’ IN THE NURSERY SCHOOL: I’LL TELL YOU A STORY
Fairy-tales are needed by mathematics as much as mathematics is needed by fairy-tales. They are needed by poetry, by music, by Utopia, by political commitment: that is, by the whole human being, not just by the dreamer…..They are needed by the complete human being.
The National Specifications for the Italian Nursery School Curriculum (SdI) point to the need for an in-depth analysis of the contents and methods to be adopted in the classroom, in order to approach the teaching of Mathematics in a meaningful way. Fairy-tales, typical works of the imagination, are a most important linguistic, cognitive and psychological tool (Propp,1966); they are especially conducive to a mathematical education in so far as they encourage children to absorb general concepts linked to logical thinking, thus training the young minds to associate mathematics to ways of doing, thinking and acting. Fairy-tales indeed contain great potential for the construction of mathematical thought. Gianni Rodari as well as others (Caldelli,1980; D’Amore,1980; De Flora,1982) had similar intuitions, that is, each narrative encompasses temporal and mathematical processes in its sequential structure. The present work outlines the guidelines of the Action-Research project Logical-Mathematical Pathways in the Nursery School: I’ll tell you a story, carried out by the CIRD (Interdepartmental Centre for Didactic Research)of the University of Calabria during the 2010/2011 school year for teacher training purposes.
The project stemmed from the need to provide young children with a learning environment which enables them to discover and/or recognize mathematical notions in everyday, familiar contexts such as fairy-tales through a natural, imaginative and playful approach. In practice, the main objectives were:
- Design classroom activities based around the reading of a fairy-tale with the aim of stimulating mathematical learning through the identification of inter-disciplinary connections among different fields of experience;
- Promote learning pathways which connect the use of computers to multi-sensory real-life experiences
- Set up teacher training programmes which support and enhance the role of teachers.
Five nursery schools took part in the Action-Research project, with 12 teachers and 100 children involved. The project was organized in five stages:
1. Choice of the story 10+, Il Genio sei tu! by Anna Cerasoli, which emphasizes the importance of scientific knowledge;
2. Training of the teachers participating in the project, organized into three phases, spaced out over the school year 2010-2011;
3. Practical experimentation and verification of the proposed teaching practice;
4. Evaluation of the activities carried out with comparative analysis of the expected outcomes and those actually achieved, and overall assessment of the learning experience;
5. Publication of all the records into a data base with the CIRD to be used as reference for both teachers and students on the Science of Primary Education degree Course.
The project has represented a positive experience, in so far as the predetermined learning objectives have been achieved.
Approaching Mathematics through a narrative context is a creative educational strategy, which is fun and engaging because it makes visible and more relevant otherwise abstract mathematical notions.