6th National Dyscalculia & MLD Conference 2014

Maths elephant


The words in this Tagxedo are the words generated in 5 minutes when my class were asked to describe what Maths meant to them!






The 6th National Dyscalculia & MLD Conference takes place on June 26th 2014 and I am really excited to be leading a workshop at it. The conference has Jo Boaler as a keynote speaker, along with Dr. Gifford and Debbie Morgan, I am not touching on research as their sessions are sure to provide excellent information about the latest research projects and findings. Jo Boaler’s publication, ‘The elephant in the classroom’ had a profound impact on my teaching and inspired me to implement mixed ability groupings and open ended challenges into my lessons.

As a full time teacher, my session will be full of ideas I use in class, to keep Maths lessons fun, engaging and which give pupils a positive attitude towards Maths.

How do we turn Maths into the subject that is cool to enjoy?

How to we get pupils enthusiastic and genuinely enjoying  Maths?

This session is really about ‘marketing’ maths so that pupils ‘want’ it and enjoy it. So much of Maths learning requires practise, so it is essential that children find maths fun and entertaining. All of us like different things, so possibly the secret lies in presenting key maths learning in a many different ways, so it doesn’t feel repetitive.

This session is all about finding different ways to present Maths. While much has been written about using ‘Visual,’ ‘Auditory’ and ‘Kinaesthetic’ elements in lessons, I prefer to switch the order around to KAV, with the emphasis on kinaesthetic approaches, supported and enhanced with visual and auditory elements.  Children need to be ‘doing’ maths in order to ‘feel’ how it really works.

Within the hour workshop we will explore

Kinaesthetic – ‘doing’

  • LEGO maths
  • Active Maths / PE sessions
  • Arty Maths – shape mobiles, tessellation and symmetry, origami, Esher, Mondrain
  • Cardboard Arcade Maths
  • Maths games – online & off


  • Maths songs, chants, raps.


  • Stories, books, posters.

Below are the slides from the presentation with links. The slides had to be prepared in May, so there will be some additional ideas below! To respond to the children’s interest and keep Maths alive, things have to constantly evolve.

The slide order below also varies slightly from the order in the delegate hand out – again due to final tweaking!

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Slide 1 – Brief intro. Where does a passion fro Maths come from?

  • Before teaching I ran my own business with a Bead Shop for many years and then running alongside this a Bridal Accessory business, achieving the Best in British Award for Bridal Accessories for 3 years running in the 1980s! Making jewellery involves maths – lots of repeated patterns, symmetry, measuring and problem solving. Being self employed, in any capacity, requires Maths especially when dealing with money!
  • At Hovingham Primary, I was the PSHCE / SEAL / Healthy Schools coordinator and then took on Maths too. With poor attainment and progress, I looked at the issues with my PSHCE hat on; why were children telling me they just weren’t bothered?

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  • With out enjoyment and if we don’t see the importance or relevance of something, we aren’t motivated to do it. What’s in it for me?
  • What makes something enjoyable and meaningful to one person, isn’t the same as what might inspire another… be flexible, go with the flow, follow your children’s spark.

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Click the image above to link to a brilliant Youtube video exploring Maths with Donald Duck!

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If I made this slide today, I’d change Moshi Monsters for Loom Bands! If I made it next month, I’d possibly have to add something else. LEGO is a children’s classic and is more popular now than ever and a such is worth investing the time and money into developing it as a Maths resource for your class and one that parents can also use at home.

With Loom Bands being so popular we have brought them into our Maths session. Here’s a link from the class blog.

These Doodle Casts also show you how we have been making them to help us count in groups of 2 and 3.

Here’s 2 fun ways to make a loom version of the 100 bead string!

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We have also used loom bands to explore measurement, time, symmetry and money.

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LEGO as a Maths Tool.

So many children have LEGO at home and they associate LEGO with having fun. Currently LEGO do make a 1×10 brick, but 2×5 is a better visual of 10; it models the fact that we have 2 hands with 5 fingers on each and also supports the visual of the Numicon 10 plate. To create these bricks we glue other LEGO standard bricks together. (2×4 + 1×2)

The 1st bricks I made, the children wanted painting gold as they thought they were so special. The disadvantage of spraying them is that they won’t them build on to each other. I also have created Smart Notebook pages that support the use of LEGO, which I am happy to share. Link to more LEGO ideas on this blog.

LEGO also produce a wrapping paper, which is excellent for many Mathematical uses -arrays, area, fractions and we used it for our folded Tree Christmas card.

Slide 8. Slide09LEGO Tree Christmas Card instructions.click the image for instructions ebook.

Look for Maths in everything we do and see.

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  • In PE, warm up games where the children get into groups of different sizes – the children left are the remainders.
  • Dance sessions – forming body shapes for each numeral and designing a sequence of dance moves to join them together.
  • Irish dancing – children join the line, 2 at a time. Video and watch back to see the link to repeated addition and the 2x table.
  • The Ants go Marching – great song for looking at arrays, remainders, multiplication and division.
  • Baking – never miss an opportunity for an array. Baking gives endless links to maths, measuring, time etc.
  • In slide 10, ‘ Forty 4 ‘ is the name of a restaurant in Leeds. Design signs for different numbers.
  • Collect images to show as starting points and children suggest the Maths – slide 10 includes a slide from a New York office block and a Classic Car show.
  • i-spy Maths walks in the local environment, or better still to a LEGO shop! (link to class blog and our trip to the LEGO shop in Leeds.

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Collaboration and playing games.

  • Inspired by Caine’s Arcade, working in small groups to create an arcade game with a Maths element. Invite other classes, tweak the Maths element for your audience.
  • Outside their are endless opportunities -symmetrical playground pictures, odd and even games, bean bag throw into 1s, 10s and 100s (labelled hoops), bubble blowing using 3D straw models, measuring snowmen! Having more space to move around gives the children a boost and gets them moving more.

Online games and Apps.

  • I’m a huge fan of Mathletics. Designed by Mathematicians working with game designers. Everything that makes children enjoy games; rewards and avatars combined with good Maths content.
  • Logical thinking games, without numbers – children won’t see them as Maths, but they are great for logical thinking and developing perseverance. We love Rush Hour ; you can play it interactively on line, as an iPad App or buy as a game. We have it in all three ways!
  • With in lessons, I’m a great fan of the Interactive Gordans, for quick starters and brain warm ups. I tend to put links to specific ones on our class blog, so that children can play the ones we have used in class.

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Maths through stories and books.

My list of favourite Maths Stories and books is HERE. 

Using a book as a way into Maths, gives the learning a context.

Mr Mathletics was a book created by the class when we were doing a topic on the Mr Men.

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click the book cover to link to free download of the ebook for iPads. The book was made using an online book creating site – Blurb. You can also create ebooks with turning pages youblisher. (Free) See the Instruction book for the Christmas card above.

Link Mr Mathletics iBook on Amazon (free)



Not on the slides – but not to be forgotten –

The Power of Music.  A good lyric is unforgettable!

  • Children playing Mathletics can listen to Times Tables as they play; the Times Table songs on Mathletics open up in a separate tab.
  • Percy Parker – an old favourite, just beware of the 10x tables where the lyrics say, ‘just add a zero.’ Always provokes a good discussion about how the correct maths explanation just doesn’t fit the beat.
  • Number Fun – brilliant songs. This team also do great visits to schools. Their maths Nativity, Christmas Number 1 is a great way to use Maths across the curriculum.
  • School House Rock videos are a fun way to learn x tables. All available on Youtube. Link HERE for the 5x table.
  • The Polygon Song – a great song for learning about shape.
  • BBC Learning Clips Search by topic area. Here’s a link to a video about doubling to build a small LEGO model and a bigger on. Click the picture.

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Arty Maths!

Let your Maths out of the Numeracy Hour and embrace it across the curriculum.  Here are just a few ideas.

    • Mondrain – endless inspirations for shape pictures.
    • Tangrams – more playing with shape and logical thinking.
    • Escher – tessellation.

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Families and feeling positive.

We can not underestimate the role of parents in a child’s learning. The slide above is of some mums receiving their 1st Mathletics awards at a celebration at Hovingham Primary. The smiles on their children’s faces and the pride these ladies had in their achievement was unforgettable. It was a powerful moment, a moment in which they will have inspired their children to work hard and to know that we can all learn….

The simplified version of Maslow’s Heirarchy of needs, is a good reminder of the hurdles that some children have to get past before they can be really receptive to learning. Importantly we have to keep reminding ourselves, that there’s no such thing as can’t, but there is ‘can’t YET,’ and from ‘can’t YET, to CAN…. is a learning journey of many varied forms.



A final message.

When I first became the Maths Coordinator at Hovingham, I conducted some pupil interviews with children in Year 6. They told me they weren’t interested or bothered about Maths. I asked them if they thought it was possible to get a job at McDonalds without a Maths GCSE. When they thought about it, they agreed that they probably couldn’t and that certainly it would be easy to get a job there if you had one. I then asked them if they thought they could get a GCSE, if they didn’t achieve a L4… To conclude they told me to start in September with an assembly that would tell the whole school, that you needed Maths to get a job at Mc Donalds. I didn’t, but i do make sure that children know why Maths is important.

Sometimes we have to be explicit about why learning is necessary. Would we practise something, if we didn’t see the benefit in doing so?

Thank you to the organisers of the Dyscalculia conference for inviting me and giving me this wonderful opportunity to share my passion. I hope those that attend my session will come away with something of use. Comments, emails or twitter followers would really make my day!

2F’s thoughts on why we enjoy Maths.

  • Maths is fun because you can learn how to do things in lots of different ways and then you can choose to use the way you like to do it best
  • It’s fun learning different new things – and Maths is full of so many different things.
  • I like Maths because we can learn songs that help us know Maths.
  • Sometimes we do the same thing a few times, but in different ways, to help us practise it and this helps us get better.
  • It can be difficult but we know that we just need to keep trying and we know that mistakes are good for your brain.
  • We know that Maths helps us do all kinds of things. (like making loom bands!)
  • You can even use Maths to help you get a good night’s sleep. (saying your tables and skip counting)


In only an hour, it’s not possible to talk about all the wonderful things that add ‘spark’ to Maths. Browse the rest of this Maths blog and try some of the links.

I finish this blog post with this video, simply because it means a lot to me. ENJOY.

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