Messy Maths: A Playful, Outdoor Approach for Early Years

Product Details
$29.95  $27.85
Independent Thinking
Publish Date
7.1 X 8.7 X 0.7 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author
Juliet Robertson is an education consultant who specialises in outdoor learning. Before becoming a consultant Juliet was a head teacher at three schools, making her more than qualified to help others improve their practice. She also writes a popular education blog - 'I'm a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!' - where she illustrates her ideas and enthusiasm for learning outdoors. @CreativeSTAR

Messy Maths by Juliet Robertson This is an invaluable resource for early years settings and primary schools. It is packed full of innovative ideas that allow children to explore maths in the outdoors. The book inspires practitioners to make maths fun but also meaningful. The activities encourage links between maths and the real world, allowing children to partake in deep-level learning that offers breadth, depth and challenge. We have several copies around our school and teachers find it a very accessible resource to dip into and help them to plan their maths outdoors. There are countless ideas in the beautifully illustrated book that are very easy to put into use but also act as springboards for the teachers and practitioners to put their own stamp onto. Fantastic value for money and we look forward to Juliet Robertson's next publication!

Jenny Watson, Head Teacher, Middleton Park School

Even if only a fraction of the ideas contained in Messy Maths are put into practice, they will still make a huge difference to children's knowledge and understanding of maths. What really struck me whilst reading this book was a recognition of the problems we create for ourselves with older children because we don't spend enough time developing their conceptual understanding a leading to situations in which 10- and 11-year-olds have no real concept of what a metre actually looks like, or what a kilogramme feels like. Through her practical, easy-to-apply and a in most cases a zero-cost strategies, Juliet Robertson offers the perfect solution. Rooted in exceptional early years practice, Messy Maths is an indispensable guide to getting maths right a not just with our youngest learners, but with all children.

Jonathan Lear, teacher, speaker and author of Guerrilla Teaching

We learn with our hearts and our hands before our heads. That holds true for every aspect of the curriculum and indeed for life a but doubly, trebly so for learning the foundations of mathematics at an early age. Except for a chosen few, I don't believe there is such a thing as a natural mathematician. As with language, music and science, our skills develop organically over time and are grounded in our childhood experiences. Children today have less time outdoors than ever before, with fewer opportunities to try out experiments and play with maths on their own. So it's more important than ever that schools take learning outdoors, allowing children to build their foundation of concepts and language naturally and confidently. This is a great follow-up to Dirty Teaching. It stands alone in its own right, however, giving teachers, child-minders and all educators (including parents) the confidence to see the mathematics all around us and to help children draw out the concepts they are exploring in their play. I highly recommend Messy Maths to teachers working at all stages and in all manner of early years settings. You'll come away inspired a ready to get outdoors and help the children you work with feel super confident in their mathematical language and practical application of mathematical reasoning. I bet you'll get better at estimating weights and lengths too!

Cath Prisk, Global Campaign Director, Outdoor Classroom Day

These deceptively simple data-handling activities will add a creative element to wildlife surveys and pond-dipping, much more exciting than simply recording on a worksheet. Looking forward to the start of term and testing them out!

Laura Curtis-Moss, Outdoor Educator

I have always been a big fan of Juliet Robertson. Her Creative Star Learning website is a fountain of ideas for teaching outside. This book was as good as I hoped. It is a vital resource for teachers to get maths outside of the classroom. Real Maths is Real Messy.Click here to read the full review.

Lisa Lillywhite, The Smart Happy Project

Wow, what a fabulous book! Incredibly comprehensive and full of exciting possibilities, it should convince anyone of the huge potential of the outdoors.Messy Maths will motivate the reader to harness the outdoors' special nature for embedded, meaningful mathematical thinking and satisfying, deep-level learning a I particularly love the mathematical garden. Why would you stay indoors?

Jan White, mudologist and consultant for outdoor provision in the early years

This is great - it combines hundreds of ideas for amathsa experiences with an approach that is indeed based on play and mess and outdoors and open-ended resources and inspiring possibilities. It's one to read front to back, but also one to pick up and dip into if you are stuck form ideas for experiences based on symmetry, pattern, time, measurement, number or money.The last chapter is my favourite - entitled The Mathematical Garden, it it full of ideas for the outdoor environment from a Froebelian perspective, a childrens' garden which is both inspiring and meaningful.

Nicky Hudson, It's all about stories

One of the greatest joys of teaching in the early years is the expectation and freedom to take your young students outdoors, getting them learning through play, and an unwritten rule allowing them to get all messy! Well, it's what young children do, so by providing them with rich, meaningful playful learning experiences should be part of every experiences for them. Giving young children an early and relevant understanding of basic mathematical concepts is critically important. In her book, Messy Maths: A playful, outdoor approach for early years, Juliet Robertson offers early years practitioners a valuable collection of resources and ideas that can support embedding early mathematical skills in a most practical and relevant approach possible. Portioned into 13 chapters, Juliet offers ideas to support teachers in thinking about how to place mathematics into everyday experiences, along with explorations of functions, fractions, time, measurement, patterns, shape and symmetry. Within each chapter Juliet offers tips, ideas and crucial vocabulary that should be used with young learners, accompanied by a collection of images that demonstrate the joy and curiosity experience by children. Mathematics should be accessible to all of our students. Providing them with rich and meaningful experiences should follow them throughout their schooling. Providing a messy, relevant and fun experience at a young age should provide them with the tools to go forward confidently. This is a great book for all early years practitioners (activities suited for pupils aged 3-6), offering a wide and comprehensive range of practical activities that will help children with a sound base of mathematical confidence.Click here to read the review on UKEdChat.


I am already a fierce advocate of children having ample access to self-directed learning opportunities outside. The opening pages of aMessy Maths' equally inspire me. The introduction so eloquently illustrates how our outdoor environment enables young children to make sense of their world. It is a clear and concise argument for the place of outdoor play and experimentation in early year's education. The author recognises the importance of play in early years, and provides practical illustrations as to how we can use these opportunities to introduce the language of, and conceptual understanding of, mathematics. The books best use is not as a lesson plan resource, but more a reference to dip into, providing inspiration and ideas to expand upon. Ideas are brief, succinct, and written in a way that poses questions of practitioners and educators. This is a clever skill of the author, making the book come alive, challenging the best educators to expand learning opportunities within their environment. The book plants a seed and then encourages you to grow it using effective and thought provoking questioning. Pictures illustrate not only the activities described, but also how a range of different outdoor environments enhances children's learning. What I really like about the book, is that whether I read it as a mother, or as a professional responsible for supporting development within early years, I can see the possibilities to further enhance the experiences of children. I would urge you to use this book as your go-to guide for fostering natural mathematicians out of our naturally inquisitive young nature explorers.Click here to read the review on the Forest School Association website.

Leanne Brown, Forest School practitioner

This is not just a book about maths, it is an inspiring look at how we can encourage exploration of the natural world and how to take the time to view it a little differently. Messy Maths is packed full of great ideas, I particularly loved the chapters about looking for patterns and symmetry in nature and then using this to inspire children to create their own examples. There are so many quick and easy activities such as: picture sticks, nature kebabs, spirals, find five and Elmer's colours. As a Creative Learning and Engagement Officer on the team creating an aEnchanted Land of Children's Stories' at Moat Brae, I have been looking for different ways to link books, stories, nature and learning. This book has inspired me to think about how to explore our Neverland Discovery Garden in new and exciting ways. Thank you!

Wendy Jones, Creative Learning and Engagement Officer

If you are fortunate enough to attend one of Juliet''s training courses you are in for a magical moment filled with oo and ah''s. Golden nugget moments begin formulating, which remains a constant throughout the entire session and beyond, as the sharing of educational knowledge and experience is abundant from Juliet, and is shared in the most unselfish way, that I have only really encountered a hand full of times in my life. The possibilities of your new knowledge become endless, and the concern of what next? in the bid to offer Children better, and more fascinating educational experiences, almost melts away, with each golden nugget that is shared by this wonderfully pioneering individual (Juliet Robertson). The challenge to formulate and develop your thinking is offered in the most supportive and nurturing way, you really feel that the session has been individually tailored to you alone, then you look around the group and see that everyone is feeling the same way, as the smiles and nods of approval to ones own understanding are common place amongst the group. What supplements this session (for me), so well is the amazing piece of work that Juliet has clearly taken the time and upmost care to produce, I refer to Juliet''s book Messy Maths: An outdoor, playful approach. Either one (book or training session), will offer the attendee (or reader), a bounty of great experiences, in which they are then able to share with their Children, Staff and Families. There really is no boundary, or, limitations found with this resource, as it empowers any would be mathematician, to fully indulge with this educational masterpiece. Feedback from my team of teachers and practitioners in early years was that they found themselves coming away with an experience where they felt instantly more accomplished than they did prior to their engagement with Juliet. A paradigm shift had been experienced, which is an incredibly powerful moment to witness. It has been a number of months now since our training session with Juliet and we have witnessed the language of Maths flowing in and around our setting, on a daily basis. No boundaries or planning to implement Maths has occurred, as we have been given the tool to observe that Maths surrounds us everyday, everywhere and in everything. Mathematics can often be met with disdain by many of us, through dull, and uneventful learning experiences that we encounter in our younger years of learning. This resource shares with us all what Maths truly is, and that is Maths is a language. We have forgotten this, with the dulling and tailored approach to the subject area, and this resource is a breath of fresh air and a reminder that Maths is fun!

Steven White, Steven White Consultancy

There is such a wealth of activities included in the book which highlights the way that Maths can be promoted through outdoor activities. The chapters are easy to use and the activities could be easily adapted for a range of ages and preferences of children. This book is already a firm favorite in the staffroom and I have had difficulty keeping hold of it!!!

Meredith Rose, Lecturer in Childhood Studies, Nottingham Institute of Education/School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University

I warmed to this book as soon as I picked it up. It has a soft cover which you know will be ok if you take it in the garden and it gets a bit wet and muddy! The layout too is extremely user friendly with an abundance of ideas set out like recipes with photographs to inspire and motivate teachers. As an experienced teacher myself it can sometimes be rather galling in aactivity idea' books when there is a series of ideas, however good, that are as old as the hills. I know that less experienced staff need these important ideas to help them develop their own personal library of excellence, yet this book offers something quite different. Even I, a cynical old teacher, found myself thinking aWow! I want to do thata and aThe children are so going to love thisa a this was a refreshing change and I am genuinely inspired to try out some of Juliet's ideas. The book is written to encourage teachers to take children's learning outside. We often see in inspection reports recommendations that settings a(further) develop the use of the garden area to facilitate those children that prefer to take their learning outside.a Messy Maths will really support teachers to recognise and plan for the distinct Characteristics of Effective Learning that they see in their children. We are constantly reminded of the need to engage children in terms of aschool-readiness' and we must work hard to develop mathematical skills in pre-school children. This book takes us beyond the simple building of towers, measuring in hand spans and spotting shapes in the environment. With this book, mathematical teaching goes to a whole new level a who could fail to be excited about making a number line with dandelion flowers, petals, small stones and blades of grass (idea 3.26). There is a wonderful resources list at the beginning which will help staff see how they can always be prepared for a sudden maths activity. The ability to embrace spontaneity is always going to make for memorable activities. I loved this book, you should buy it!Click here to visit The Foundation Stage Forum.

Rebecca Swindells, The Foundation Stage Forum

It's a practical book aimed at those who work with children aged 3-6yrs. It covers standard maths expectations but also includes specific chapters on key issues such as aWhere's the maths in that?a which considers how to take a child-centre approach to maths outdoors. Click here to read the full review on the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom website.

Council for Learning Outside the Classroom

Messy Maths is a wonderful resource! Aesthetically beautiful with its engaging photographs, it is easy and inspiring to read and offers meaningful and practical ideas for exploring maths outside of the classroom. The most valuable aspect from my point of view is the encouragement to find maths in the everyday outdoors. It is in the recognition of these teachable moments that we, as early years educators, can bring maths to life for young children.

Mairi Ferris, Director, Stramash Outdoor Nurseries

Garnetbank Primary school in Glasgow has been on a journey of maths improvement, supporting all of our children to understand maths through concrete materials, pictorial representation and moving into the abstract. We understand the power of learning through play and sought practical ideas to bring maths to life and get children outdoors. Our aims are to enable our children to connect their learning in the classroom to the world beyond, apply skills in new situations and to see that everyone needs maths in learning, life and work. Messy Maths by Juliet Robertson offered us the perfect resource to provide staff ideas to enable children to deepen their understanding through hands on experiences. The book inspired us to develop natural resources and make more of our outdoor learning environment in the school and beyond. We found Messy Maths to be a treasure trove of practical ideas, ready to use games and open ended activities to develop and expand. It is easy to read, accessible, enjoyable and brimming with good advice. The book inspired staff to develop ideas and practice which continues to grow. Despite the main audience being for those working with children ages 3 to 6, many of our staff have easily and quickly taken ideas and tweaked to add challenge for older children. Our children are playing shape team games, learning about measure through natural materials, counting, sorting and problem solving whilst smiling, hopping, skipping and dancing as they learn! As testimony to the positive impact of this resource, our staff showcased the resources developed and some of the maths games trialled during the National launch of maths week Scotland at Garnetbank. This included the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills enjoying a wonderful learning experience outdoors with our P6s and lots of natural one metre sticks! A film of The Deputy First Minister engaged in these activities in a short clip made by Scottish Government in and also in the Education Scotland blog about maths week Scotland. Maths and outdoor learning really go hand in hand for so many reasons. Juliet Robertson''s book holds practitioners'' hands in taking maths outdoors with advice and ideas. Our journey in outdoor learning is in it''s infancy, but the small investment in several Messy Maths books is having a long reaching and sustained positive impact on our improvement journey. This book is a must!

Linda Reed, Head teacher, Garnetbank Primary School