Thursday, 30 May 2013

Maths games - the way granny used to play

Maths games – my top four resource picks

Maths games, try putting this into Google and the chances are that you will get a list of computer-based activities. Worthy though they are how about the other type of game where the children play with and interact each other? Finding these has proved a difficult task for me over the years but I have collected a stock of them, the best of which are in the books below. I have used them all and can highly recommend them.

The advantages of these games are:
- The children work collaboratively, rather than against a machine, learning from each other.
- They enjoy the challenge of games, which is why computer gaming is such big business
- They are learning, consolidating, revising knowledge in a fun way.
- It gives variety and interest to the teaching and learning experience.
- It encourages positive attitudes to Mathematics

During a conversation with a girl in my class, at the end of a long school day, I was shocked to discover this was the first lesson that she was not sitting in front of a computer.  Although the lesson was a traditional ‘chalk and talk’ before they attempted an exercise she was pleased that she didn’t have to stare at a screen again. So Maths games does not necessarily mean log on to the computer

1. Games, ideas and activities for the primary classroom by John Darbell

This gives ideas for all areas of Maths that can be used for individuals, groups and classes. It is clearly broken down into small clear sections. The activities can be easily adapted to suit different classes or topics. There are over 150 games and activities, a real resource bank and time saver for any teacher.

One reader said 'I wish I'd bought this book last year while I was an NQT, but at least I have it in my cupboard for this year.'

'Designed with busy teachers in mind, the Classroom Gems series draws together an extensive selection of practical, tried-and-tested, off-the-shelf ideas, games and activities, guaranteed to transform any lesson or classroom in an instant.

Easily navigable, allowing you to choose the right activity quickly and easily, these invaluable resources are guaranteed to save you time and are a must-have tool to plan, prepare and deliver first-rate lessons.'

12 reviewers on Amazon gave it 4.1 stars out of 5


2. 25 super cool Math board games by Lorrine Hopping Egan

The games are reproducible fun and are linked to concepts that we teach very year. They are applicable to any classroom organisation even home schooling. The rules are not complicated, how often do games look good but when you try to play them with  group they've lost interest and enthusiasm because they don't understand what they have go to do. Not so here.
'How does a hungry raccoon clean up behind a human picnic? If it's "Remainder Raccoon," simple division and practice with remainders will do the trick. Each game in this book presents math concepts (computation, fractions, decimals, geometry, logical thinking) in a fun, imaginative context. You'll find both competitive and cooperative games; individual, small group, and large group games to accommodate home schoolers to entire classrooms; multi-level play so that kids can achieve success and then advance to a more challenging level; and complete reproducibles with spinners, boards, pieces, markers, and more.'
4 reviewers gave this 4 stars out of 5 on Amazon

3. Key stage 2/3 Numeracy games by John Taylor

This covers pupils from ages 5 to 14. Slightly differnt from my other recommendations as it has puzzles quizzes, investigations, games and ICT activities. One reviewer particulaly liked the preponderance of kinesthetic games, what a pleasure to find some.Plenty of ideas to pep up your teaching, or leaning.
'This book is fantastic! Just what I needed to make me want to teach maths again. After being given many boring recommendations for maths teaching, it has reminded me that creativity in maths makes it fun. Lots of kinaesthetic games, and plenty of cool tricks using the interactive whiteboard for me to show off with next time I am observed teaching maths.' - customer review, amazon

11 reviewers gave this 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon

4. Mathematical team games by Vivian Lucas

I could have chosen any Vivian Lucas book to include here. Most re geared to an older age group but as always any competent teacher can use a good ide to their advantage. Once you've used this you'll use it again and again and again. I bought my own copies because prising them out of others hands was always difficult.

Mathematical Team Games: Enjoyable Activities to Enhance the Curriculum

'Team Games are special mathematical puzzles and problems which produce real cooperation between the members of a team. The mathematical content is that of the normal curriculum. Each player only gets some of the information and so all must play a part in arriving at a solution. Sixteen tried and tested team games are provided in photocopiable form.'
5 out of 5 stars from 5 reviewers on Amazon

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Breakfast Maths or the cereal that never ends

A cereal lesson 

Here is an idea that will get you plaudits from those that like to see Maths in a context or ‘real life’ Maths. It will give a different pace to your lessons and engage those who prefer a kinesthetic learning style or experience. Yet again what you do depends upon your imagination and perhaps appetite.


Eat lots of cereal. Ban toast for breakfast and force, if you have to, your family to eat packets and packets of cereal. Keep the boxes. No recycling. You have to supervise the opening of the boxes as you want them to be in as good a condition as possible.

The Lesson

Organise the class into groups around tables, 4 to a table seems to work. As the proud owner of numerous cereal packets distribute one or more to each group. Ask the class what they could find out about the boxes, give them a minute or two to jot down some ideas then collect one from each table and record them on the board. It is now up you how you progress. Sometimes I have collected the ideas from the class, recorded them on the board, and then discussed what we have to find. Alternatively I have collected the ideas but also handed out a worksheet to some classes listing what needs to be found or what tasks they have to do. Here are some suggestions of what they have to do and record as a group.

Find the height, width and length of the box.

Find the volume of the box.

Draw a net of the box to scale.

Make an isometric drawing of the box.

Find the surface area.

How much does the it cost per gram? per 100g?

How many boxes could fill the classroom?

What is the ratio of sugar to salt? Does it fit in with Government guidelines?

If it takes 10 days to eat a box how much salt would I consume in a year?

Further ideas

There are always new and exciting ways to tackle topics. Buy this books and you will be generating  even more ideas for yourself 100+ Ideas for Teaching Mathematics (Continuum One Hundreds) .
As one reviewer says  'I was looking for a book which would inspire me when planning sessions for teaching mathematics. I browsed a number of books but this one was definitely the best as far as I could see on-line. When it arrived it was even better than I expected. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who teaches maths! '

Extension ideas

Alternatively you could work on the suggestions gathered from the class. The outcome could be  report produced by each group or answers in their books from  prepared worksheet by you.

You could provide them with boxes of the same product but in different sizes which is the best value? I am sure you can think of other ideas. Happy eating. (By the way you have noticed a picture of porridge, I don't eat any other cereal these days, can't think why.)

Ratio - its in the bag

Ratio – its in the bag

The problem
Ratio can be a difficult concept to understand. Like fractions you can teach it year after year, think you’ve succeeded but year after year it has to be retaught. The idea has not sunk in, the long term memory has not been troubled, it seems as if you are presenting the pupils with a totally new subject. What is to be done? How can we make our teaching more efficient, reduce the frustration felt by our kids and us? This is how to teach finding the ratio of a quantity.

The solution
Using this method I have had a great success, although we as teachers nothing is ever 100%, that’s the problem with teaching humans! First I explain that the head teacher (principal for my readers in the States) has given me £120 for the class as a reward for outstanding progress in Mathematics. I tell them the money is in easy to carry bags; in fact there are 6 bags in all. At this point I draw the 6 bags on the board.


The question is now posed ‘How much is in each bag?’ Back comes the reply £20. I fill in £20 in each bag, this is a vital step.

This step is a huge reminder to the kids and really helps them to find an answer to the question posed, I am always amazed that even some very bright pupils persist with this method long after they have progressed beyond this level of Mathematics so it must have a lot of value.

I now drop the bombshell on the class, I am going to give them one bag, and I’ll keep the other five. On the drawing I put in the colon. As you can imagine this is not always greeted with total approval.

At no point have I mentioned ratio. I now introduce the word and write on the board the numbers


You have now laid the groundwork for explaining ratio. Introduce the word ratio and say when you share out any quantity the colon is used to show who gets what. I always emphasize that ratio is really sharing. I do several other examples on the board, always drawing the bags, always writing the amounts in each bag. I then give the pupils an exercise on ratio, encouraging them to do the drawing of bags putting the amount in each bag and hence finding the answer.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Geometry – what’s that shape?


Want to do something different in your classroom? I am sure I pinched this idea from a board game, but can’t remember what the game is called. I first tried this idea out with a class of 13 year olds. I thought if it went wrong it didn’t matter, who would know. As the class came in so did a young lady, she was a teaching student following the class. Before I could start another student appeared and asked if she could watch my Maths lesson, she was an English student teacher but needed to observe other subjects in action. No problem I said but was beginning to feel a little uneasy. Then to add to the rather crowded classroom in walked the Maths inspector for the local authority. Fortunately we got on well, ‘Hi Steve just passing, thought I might pop in is it OK to see a lesson, I know you always do something different?’ “Of course’ I said with that sinking feeling that everything would go wrong in front of my audience.


Draw some shapes on set of cards. One shape per card with the name of the shape on the card. For example, an equilateral triangle with name EQUILATERAL TRIANGLE on the card.  Have them laminated so the can be used by other classes and  year after year.


The pupils have to work in pairs, writing descriptions They then have to compete against another pair.

The game

Each pair is given a card. They have to describe the shape but not use the words written on the card. So they must not use the word EQUILATERAL or TRIANGLE. They then have to write five or more sentences describing the shape. Remind then they can use negative sentences saying what it is not.  Once competed they have to read one sentence at a time to another pair, the object for them to identify the other shape in as few sentences as possible, You can devise a scoring system if you wish to suit your class. Once the first round is done you can then ask the pupils to hand the cards on to another pair.


The pupils thought it was fun, different but harder than they expected. Which I interpreted as being stretching them. One student hurried off saying thanks, another said what a great idea, the inspector ‘I am going to use that idea at the next in service training, always knew I could pinch an idea or two from you see you Steve.’ 

For more on shape have a look at my post circles forever going round in loop