Do you remember the sheer enjoyment and fascination of mud when you were a child? Well, here at Redgate Primary we pride ourselves on our outdoor learning practice – the messier the better!

The mud kitchen is, and always will be, a fantastic tool for learning. We are forever looking for opportunities to take our learning outside; we love to show that maths is everywhere.

So when thinking of ways to extend subitising in our Reception class, the mud kitchen seemed the perfect place to start. After observing the benefits of outdoor learning, Sarah, our trainee teacher, was inspired to create her very own ‘subitising soup’. After all, who doesn’t love getting messy? 

Gather your materials

Begin by placing natural resources from around the garden into the mud kitchen (or whatever outside space you have available). We used twigs, grass cuttings, leaves, etc, and a variety of different pots for our children to explore.

By using natural resources, it encourages pupils to use their surroundings in their play and consider different uses for them. A big stick makes a brilliant stirring utensil – but a damp leaf not so much.

Measure ingredients

Now add ready-made ‘Subitise Soup’ recipes. They can be really simple – we used just three ingredients with quantities shown as numbers on a die. Model using subitising skills to add the correct number of twigs, cups of water and pinches of grass, then let the children have a go.

We found pupils were quickly adding the correct quantities to their soup and mixing away eagerly. 

Make your own

To extend their independent learning, provide blank sheets for the children to make their own Subitise Soup recipes, rolling dice to obtain quantities. Encouraging the children to write down their recipe provides an opportunity for assessment – have they correctly identified the number being represented on the dice? 

Compare recipes

Encourage the children to compare their recipes and the soup they make. We found that the children quickly made observations of quantity by subitising independently, and were able to reason: “My soup is thicker than hers because I only added two cups of water but she added five and five is more than two!”

This provides the perfect opportunity to show off their maths mastery skills, too.

Adaptation ideas

The aim of this lesson is for children to subitise, however there are endless learning opportunities. To adapt, try swapping dice for numicon pieces, or add acorns in the autumn or dandelions in the summer – just use what you have available. And most importantly, it’s every teacher’s dream… marvelously messy mud!

Sarah Wilcox is a trainee teacher with a passion for EYFS and outdoor learning, and Joanne Harbottle is a Reception Teacher and geography lead at Redgate Primary School. Follow Sarah on Twitter @_MissWilcox and keep up with Redgate Primary school at @Recepredgate