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5 maths must-haves

As part of a project I am working on, I recently had the opportunity to look through all of the many printed products TTS produce for mathematics. There are hundreds of excellent resources, but I was asked to pick out the top five that I would have loved to have in my classroom – no easy choice, but here they are!

times tables

Posted on Wednesday 23rd November 2016
1. Discuss It maths mats

These come in 3 sets; Key Stage 1 and upper and lower Key Stage 2. The cards will appeal to children because they are bright and colourful and are A4 size, which is ideal for groups.

As the name suggests, the idea is to get children talking about maths and use reasoning to explain what they think. Each card introduces a scenario or problem with 3 or 4 responses from ‘imaginary’ children. Together, your children decide which one or more of the written responses are correct/incorrect and also explain why. Children do not have to write anything down, unless it helps them (which will appeal to many), but will need to think carefully about, not only why answers are correct, but also why there are misconceptions. This sort of activity provides great opportunity for teachers to listen in and make a few ‘assessment for learning’ notes about children’s ability to reason or about support they might need. Each card also has extra questions and activities to extend the learning. The cards cover concepts of number, calculation, shape, space and measure and data handing.

1. Real-life data cards

A set of colourful A4 cards. Aimed at Key Stage 2. I would use some of these cards over and over again, rather than having to search for similar examples (as I often did). They give children the opportunity to look at data in real-life situations, which of course, is where it really matters and means most to children. There are examples of: menus, a speedometer, car park charges, bus timetables, food labels, petrol prices, a recipe, sale items, a calendar, a TV guide etc. On the reverse of each card are suggested activities, often involving children collecting similar data of their own. For example, on the back of the photograph of a football stadium, the suggestion is to download current football league tables and recent match results. I know very many pupils for whom this would have been their dream lesson! I would also use that particular card to get children to estimate the capacity of the football ground and investigate the sizes of other sporting venues. The cards help to give a starting point and that little bit of inspiration.

1. Real World Maths

As most of my teaching career was spent in mixed aged classes, I really appreciate resources that span year groups. These are another three sets of A4 cards, split into Years 1 and 2, Years 3 and 4 and Years 5 and 6. Each one is clearly linked to very specific objectives from the maths curriculum, which is excellent for planning purposes.

Like so many teachers, I wanted to include as much ‘real world’ maths as possible in my lessons, but I didn’t always have enough time to consider all the connections. There are 30 cards in these sets, each with three different levels of questions, including the retrieval of simple information to wider and more abstract applications. The cards enable children to notice the use of maths all around us. I would also encourage children to make up their own questions based on the cards and challenge them to find other examples of maths in the ‘real world’.

1. Rapid Multiplication Recall by Sally Northern

Knowing and understanding the nature of times tables is an essential skill in mathematics learning. Not having quick recall can impede progress in many other mathematical processes as children progress through school. This simple book is a great tool to use. What I particularly like about this resource is:

• It is incredibly clear and simple and looks friendly (with the penguin motif on each page).
• Every page includes division so that the understanding of the inverse is built in.
• Children keep their own scores and times and can challenge themselves to better them.
• It is very easily differentiated to suit different levels.
1. What if activity cards

These cards are aimed at Key Stage 2 and come in three sets – Number; Shape, Space and Measure; and Ratio, Proportion and Statistics

I chose this set because I love ‘low threshold, high ceiling’ problems. They provide opportunities for mixed ability groups to work together and to approach problem solving in different ways. On many occasions, I have seen ‘lower ability’ children’s self-confidence boosted because they have discovered a more unusual method of going about a problem, and it has worked! Many children enjoy mathematical activities when there is a practical or kinaesthetic element to it, which is too often lost as they get a bit older.

On each of the 20+ cards there is a challenge, then on the reverse, three more scenarios to extend the original problem. I could have chosen so many as an example, but one I particularly like is ‘Body Ratios’. A hat has been found at the scene of a robbery with a circumference of 57cm. Children are asked to investigate the relationship between a person’s height and head circumference in order to eliminate suspects. They may then go on to investigate other body ratios. This card alone has so much scope for practising a huge array of mathematical skills – problem solving, measurement, ratios, data collection, calculation etc.

What if cards provide lots of interesting, fun opportunities for children to demonstrate and apply their mathematical understanding in many different areas and would therefore fit perfectly into any maths mastery programme.

With thanks to Beverley Smalley for writing this blog. Beverley is an education specialist, writer and former primary school teacher.

Have you seen our other maths related blog posts?

Introducing Singapore Maths to your classroom

10 of the best 100 square activities

Maths at Home – Engaging Parents

The benefits of Number Frames

The importance of early number skills in understanding place value

Fraction Action