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Let's visit Numberland

The story behind our project: When one fortunate thing leads to another...

Driven by true passion, not by over the top ambition









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We are driven by the respect for children's capabilities and needs and by the joy of contributing to a happy childhood and the development of every child.

This summary is meant for those who would like to learn about how 'Let's visit Numberland' came into being and what we are up to.


2002: Gerhard's scientific work

Gerhard: "For my PhD thesis, I looked into learning theories in combination with brain resesarch. Since I am also a math teacher, it seemed natural to apply the implications to teaching early math - the idea of 'Let's visit Numberland' was born.

Lutz, my youngest son out of four, was at kindergarten that time (In Germany, over 93% of the children attend kindergarten from age 3 until 6) and the kindergarten agreed on testing Numberland. The childrens' response was very strong and also the staff was enthused. To refine the concept and to evaluate what was really in it, I applied for a research project which was then funded by the Land of Baden-Wurttemberg. Horst Munz, a school psychologist, and I carried out the project between 2003 and 2005 with stunning results: Within only ten weeks, the children gained at least the knowledge/competences of one year. This underlined the positive feedback we received from children, parents, and educators alike. The educators were happy how well Numberland fit into their daily routine and how it addressed other important areas as well (language, emotionality, motor skill, social competence...).

We felt comfortable about the results because project children and control children were particularly well comparable, because we had enough children at hand to pick from and we managed to find exactly matching pairs.
And we were especially delighted because the results proved true two times, the second time with children from underprivileged background and many of them with severe language problems. A later study on how the children performed in first grade, showed that the advantage of the project children was still significant.

The Herder Verlag offered to publish a book and together with my creative friend and professional musician Viola, we wrote a book on the concept, including tales, songs, and suggestions for each number 1 to 10. The Wehrfritz company, a school supplier, approached us to develop materials on Numberland which are now available throughout Europe."

2004: Barbara's children
 
Barbara: "Early 2004, I was enjoying maternity leave with my two children Tom (close to 5 years) and Tina (turning 3). They were both typical happy little children who loved playing, action and quiet moments, singing, tales, being creative the way they liked - and had the typical vivid curiosity, imagination and magic thinking as every child that age.

By chance, I read an article about Dr. Gerhard Friedrich and the research project he and Horst Munz had been carrying out on an educational approach to early math, consequently taking a child's perspective on the world. I was thrilled because everything I read sounded completely natural and appealing and I could immediately picture my children doing this. I contacted Gerhard who was about to publish the first version of his book (as already mentioned above). Gerhard was very supporting so soon after, my children, three more friends and I went on our exciting trip to Numberland to find out what was waiting to be discovered... 

What can I say: Over the next couple of weeks, the children virtually lived in Numberland! They were absolutey enthused, made deep experiences, discussed a lot, had a vast number of ideas, had most fun, beamed with emotion, and had their eyes opened for all the math around them. Just two examples:

Tom had already had a good understanding of numbers/quantities before, but it was the emotional aspect that appealed to him. Had he been reluctant to drawing before, he was now voluntarily coloring Numberland related pictures and thus training his fine motor skills - just because it had to do with his beloved numbers... He also enjoyed helping the smaller ones.

One day a beaming Tina - completely out of context - shouted out at the table : 'We are sitting in a triangle! And if Daddy was here, it would be a square!' You can imagine the feelings of a stunned mother...

I told our kindergarten about it who was very interested, and together we realized the project for the fifteen children who were about to leave for school. Split into two groups, we went on weekly trips to Numberland. And again, all children were completely absorbed by that magic place! Each day, the educator and I were overwhelmed with the question whether we would travel to Numberland that day...  It was wonderful to see how the children wanted to play Numberland, how much they enjoyed what they were doing, the ideas they brought in, their development and how some flourished."

Institute for Preschool Learning (ifvl) founded

Barbara: "I was intrigued by what a simple idea could trigger in children and how easily Numberland would fit into the daily routine. The idea to close the gap between children before entering school and to provide all (no matter their background) with a good basis caught me and I wanted to contribute to making 'Let's visit Numberland' broadly known and part of educators' portfolios."

Summer 2004, I founded the Institute for Preschool Learning, with Gerhard as my scientific advisor and developed a concept for the training of educators. My objective was to encourage them to deal with math, bring in their professional competences, and to provide them with anything they would need to incorporate 'Numberland' into their routine. In the beginning, I did all the trainings myself but as interest increased steadily, I started to carefully pick a small team of Numberland enthusiasts from the field who would be capable of passing on their experience."

'Let's visit Numberland' establishes in Germany

Coverage in educational journals and other media, the book, our trainings and word of mouth contributed to making 'Let's visit Numberland' known across Germany. Most important was the positive feedback from the field - educators, children, parents and teachers alike. It was welcomed that our Numberland was not an ambitious math training or prescriptive program but a playing surrounding designed for children and enriched by carefully designed math approaches.

From 2005 to 2009, we were part of a major project in the industrial city of Ludwigshafen/Rhein, with scientific supervision of the University of Heidelberg and close to 100 kindergartens involved. Because of the many social problems in Ludwigshafen, we were particularly happy about the most positive effects on the children which were also reported from school teachers: math, language, self-esteem, motivation to learn, concentration, emotionality, social competence.

Today, 'Let's visit Numberland' is a standard approach in Germany and applied for both math and language (mother tongue, second language).  Many German schools worldwide also use Numberland that way.

Over the years, several other concepts came into being: 'Let's visit Letterland', 'Let's visit Colorland', 'Milly's little zoo of numbers' (children as of 2 years), 'Let's do technics'.   www.ifvl.de

'2009: Let's visit Numberland' becomes international


Math is a universal language, and children worldwide enjoy discovering math in their natural play. Various coincidences, some by chance, others deliberately, paved first international paths for 'Let's visit Numberland'.

Numberland started to find its way beyond German speaking countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia, and others. Also German schools worldwide increasingly started to apply the concept because of the double effect on both math and language. Ever since, the book has found publishers in Poland, the Netherlands, and (soon, following request from the field) in Estonia.

In 2010, the three of us (Gerhard, Viola, Barbara) wrote an English version in preparation of an invitation of Viola to the annual Oxford Round Table, UK. We were supported from Carola Berry, a kindergarten teacher in Texas who was willing to test Numberland with her Per-K class and became very happy with it (Numberland is now being widely applied in her school).

Since 2011, former primary school teacher Susan in Florida/USA supports us in America. During a trip through Europe, she and Barbara luckily met on a train and during the trip she became intrigued by what she heard about the concept - that much that she embarked on the ifvl-team.

Outlook

We hope to make Numberland known internationally and to find educators worldwide who are interested in applying the concept according to their individual needs.
 
Your interest, support, and suggestions for improvement are highly appreciated. Maybe we can even find more publishers.




9 March 2012
Copyright: Barbara Schindelhauer (barbara@numberland.net)