Barbara Schindelhauer is co-author of Let’s visit Numberland and founded the ifvl to promote the concept among teachers. She has been accompanying projects and studies in different settings and training teachers since 2004 in Germany and internationally. Barbara was keynote speaker and session leader at various conferences with maths or literacy focus in Germany, the UK, Poland, Chile.
Let’s visit Numberland: How feeding young children’s natural interest in the language of maths contributes to their literacy skills
‘Let’s visit Numberland’ is one example of how building on young children’s (3+) natural interest in learning the language of maths contributes to literacy skills. The principles of this established holistic, co-constructive, and story-based concept are simple but powerful. Early years teachers learn how they can use Numberland to close gaps and provide equal chances, independent from socio-economic backgrounds.
Both literacy skills and early numeracy predicate a learner’s overall future academic performance. Young children’s inborn desire to learn the ‘language of maths’ provides a huge chance for their literacy skills.
Children are natural learners – provided something is relevant to them and they can approach it in their way of learning: (role) play, interaction, communication, stories etc. Language, communication, problem solving, cognition, concentration, motor skills, social skills, creativity, and emotionality prepare the grounds on which numeracy and literacy can grow into a thorough understanding and joy.
Usually at around the age of four, children get particularly interested in and talk about numbers. They want to learn that language of maths we developed to describe our world, using abstract symbols (‘letters’) and representatives for concrete matters and coherences. Language skills are required to learn that language, and considerable general knowledge relates to numbers (four seasons, six-legged insects), providing topics to talk about and to be creative with.
One example of combining numeracy and literacy is Let‚Äôs Visit Numberland, a story-based holistic, co-constructive approach. In imaginary Numberland, children meet numbers as living characters through stories, songs, tangible experiences, active play and creative work ‚Äì using a great deal of communication and interaction. The approach is an emotional and open frame, yet structured, inviting children to explore mathematical coherences with body, mind and heart.
The initiating research project revealed significant positive effects on both math-relevant thinking and language skills. The results were independent of the socioeconomic background of the children (4 to 6 years). The concept is widely used in Germany and has been adapted for use in several other countries – not only for numeracy, but also first and second language.”