VAK up your Maths. NEC 2013

The session is entitled VAK up your Maths – and will look at how we can ensure that Maths lessons incorporate visual, auditory and kinesthetic elements – with the aim of engaging all learners and making Maths fun, exciting and relevant to Primary learners. Be prepared to actively engage in the session – it will make it much more fun! Together we will sing, dance , be active, explore pictures books… and generally have fun – all with in a Maths learning context! We may even indulge in some Mathematical sharing of treats! Within the the workshop we are not going to discuss the theory behind the term VAK – Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic – should you wish to read more on the theory, follow these links. The Highland Council – provides a bullet pointed, concise explanation of the key elements of Alistair Smith’s Accelerated Learning  and VAK.

‘A statement of the obvious, that children learn through their senses, that environment and motivation are important, and that the human brain is pretty well adapted to processing the information from everything that they see, hear and do.’  Sharp et al. Vol.1(1) August 2008 The trouble with VAK.

It is my personal belief that the importance of VAK in Maths lessons, is that by planning to include visual, auditory and kinesthetic elements into our lessons, children are more likely to be engaged and excited by their learning. When a maths skill proves difficult for a child to understand – repeating it the same way, is unlikely to help, but shifting the learning style gives the learner a chance to see it in a different way. Some Maths, such as  tables and number bonds, requires practice to reach a competent level on fast mental recall – planning a range of activities to do this helps to keep the learning lively and interesting. Lessons work best when they have an element of all 3 learning styles incorporated in them.

Much of my Maths Blog focuses on the impact that Mathletics has had on our pupils achievements in Maths, with SATs results, at the school I previously taught at, rising from 42% at L4 in 2009 to 76%+ in 2012. Mathletics provides an excellent visual and kinesthetic resource, which they can personalise and then use both at school and at home. There are also Times tables songs on the site.

Combining the use of Mathletics with quality first teaching has been my focus – and below are some of the ways I have incorporated VAK into daily Maths lessons.

It is vital as Primary School teacher that we do every thing we can to give children a positive experience in their Maths lessons.

This recent article in The Guardian – Bad Attitudes to Maths makes children switch off details the shocking fact that 17million adults have such poor numeracy skills, (compared to 5 million with poor Literacy skills) that they can’t understand deductions on wage slips, read bus timetables or pay household bills. Negative attitudes to maths set in early in the UK – some would say between the ages of seven and nine, when many children’s interest and attainment dip, in most cases never to return. They switch off and decide maths is something to be borne until the moment they can give it up – for ever. England, Wales and Northern Ireland have the lowest rate of young people continuing with maths beyond 16.

At Primary School level we need to do all we can to motivate and enthuse children about Maths. We need to ensure they achieve a L4 – unfortunately children who fail to achieve a L4 at KS2 are unlikely to achieve a ‘c’ at GCSE in Maths and this then greatly reduces their options for further education and employment.

National Numeracy for everyone, for life. What the research says. 

Article on Maths Phobia /anxiety.


Images on your Interactive White Board – Children focus well on the IWB and so using images to illustrate Maths concepts work well. ITP’s (Interactive Teaching programs) can be saved as swf. files and then inserted into Smartnote books and many give very clear visual models of key maths concepts.

Gordans ITP’s also work well downloaded into Smart Notebooks.

Children need to be able to refer to Maths images to support their learning regularly and so it is important to have resources up in the classroom environment  – 100 squares and number-lines are essential. Excellent resources can be downloaded from the Numicon website, and a wide range of display websites – my favourites being Communication4all, Instant Display, Twinkl, and Sweetcounter.

In addition to specially produced Maths display resources – it’s great to build up a collection of display items such as the fronts of different cereal boxes – showing their mass and possibly price. Also other packaging showing capacity or mass, and price labels, along with menus,timetables, tickets and maps. Build up a collection of photographs of numbers in the environment. Children will enjoy a local area walk –  with cameras and recording pictures for a display themselves.  Some of my Maths photo collections is in the Maths Action section of Super-school .

In Flickr, you can search for a photograph featuring a specific number. This is one of my favourite photographs from Maths at Hovingham on www.super-school.

Maths through Art – the afternoons in my Year 2 class are full or creative sessions – but these can often be combined with Maths. Artists such as Escher, Kandinsky and Mondrain give the opportunity to explore Shape and space objectives in a memorable way.

When covering Chinese New Year the children explored shape with work on Tangrams.

Maths Readers– Is a Reading series by Scholastic. Each book incorporates some maths and so gives the opportunity to discuss Maths within the Guided reading session. My class love these books – the only downside is that they only go as far as Year 2! Older classes also use the Murderous Maths books in Guided reading sessions.

Living Maths –  is a series of 8 Photocopiable books by Learning Materials, also available as a CD on pdf files – so ideal for using on the IWB. They have a black and white, illustration of Maths in a real life context, and then 2 pages of questions related to the picture. (The first page is simpler than the 2nd) They are recommended for KS2 – although I think the they could be adapted for use for yr2.

Maths through Picture Books – over the year I enjoy using a range of delightful picture books to engage the children in their Maths. I have put a list of “MUST HAVE MATHS BOOKS!” together as an Amazon Listamania, with a brief summary of each – I highly recommend the whole lot! I always like to scan the book in and share them with the class on the IWB and if possibly purchase enough to have them as a Guided Reading set too – or enough for a small group to share 1 between 2, so that children can really get the time to keep looking at the text and talking about it.

Visual / Auditory.

Polygon Song by Peter Weatherall

To add a Kinaesthetic element to the Polygon Song – give the children a small square of paper and as the song goes along we fold over corners so that they can see a pentagon is a 5 sided shape – and that it doesn’t always have to be a regular pentagon. The children continue to fold over corners until they get to an 8 sided octagon – the folding is trickier for the nonagon and decagon! We then recap, and also fold the square to make a rectangle and a triangle. What 2D shape can’t we make from the square? – A circle – because it’s not a polygon! A word of warning for the Percy Parker 10x table song – which has the lyrics – ‘just add a zero!’ – which is mathematically incorrect. I tell the children that he did want to say – put a zero in the units column, but that it didn’t fit in the music! We do try singing it with the alternative lyrics – just to make the point!

BBC Maths Clips – are an amazing resource – there are 303 maths clips in the Primary Section! These thumbnails from the index give you an idea of the range.


nfnp-poster NumberFun do a complete range of songs and resources for use from Foundation to KS2. Also an Interactive program and a wonderful nativity play, in which all the songs have some mathematical content.

Most of my Maths sessions start with a song on the IWB – and most of them have actions to go with them. This gets everyone engaged as soon as the lesson starts, and gets us going with a lively pace. I embed the songs as MP3s into a Smartnote book which often has a visual to accompany the song.

Auditory / Kinesthetic.

  • Skip counting.
  • Dance & movement.
  • x factor maths!

Set a challenge for the children to skip and count in 2s, 5s, etc. I have had some children in Year 2 who have been able to skip and count in 1s to 10, 2s to 20, 3s to 30, an

d so on, up to counting in 10s to 100 – so 100 skips in total, and alot of Maths! It takes some practise and good counting skills. We worked initially in pairs so that one child skipped while the other child counted. This works well too as part of a Maths circuit.

We learned our own version of Irish dancing to the Riverdance – and the children joined the line in pairs – holding number cards – we filmed it and watched it back – it was a really fun way of learning the 2x table! Children devised body shapes to reflect the digits 0-9 and the signs for add and equals – in pairs they devised short dances for the number bonds to 10 – again we filmed them and watched them back in class.

The whole school took part in an X factor show – with a difference! Every act had to have a mathematical context! It was lots of fun, with lots of rapping and singing of times tables and even a comedy shopping sketch!


    • Cooking

Sharing buns! on PhotoPeach

Photo peach is a free on line resource which you can use to make simple quizzes.

  • Cafe, shop.
  • Number puppets.


  • Games – click the images below for links to these two fun logic games – also listed in my Amazon list.

VAK and logical thinking and reasoning.

When I analysised the KS2 Maths paper, it was clear that the pupils knew the Maths required, but that they were getting stuck with ‘puzzle’ element to the questions. This year we have had a much bigger focus on logical thinking and reasoning – the children have really enjoyed this element of their Maths and it has given them much more confidence in tackling Maths questions that require more logical thinking and reasoning.Encourage the children to talk about the thinking process together and to share their Mathematical thinking.

Click for a pdf of my speakers notes from a previous session for STEM Primary Maths Conference 2012  Vak up your maths The initial comments below were from this conference, but the page has been updated with new material for The Education Show at the NEC. 2013.



7 Responses to “VAK up your Maths. NEC 2013”

  1.   Dominic Colley Says:

    Best workshop I attended today – very inspiring! And great to have all of the links, photos and information all in one place (here!) Thanks

  2.   janefisher Says:

    Thank you for your kind comment – I was very nervous, but hoped that the information would be useful.
    Forgot to mention that you can also follow me on Twitter -@ejf23

  3.   Sarah Coltman Says:

    Stunning workshop! Well done Jane! Everyone I spoke to felt the same way! Thank you too for sharing all your ideas so generously. I know someone who went straight home and put together an animoto!

    •   janefisher Says:

      Thank you for your kind comment. Animoto is so easy to use & the results are amazing! I’m always happy to share ideas. 🙂

  4.   Paul Freestone Says:

    This was worth going across the moors at 7.30am. Did the polygon song with my y5/y6 – they loved it. Used this to start my shape unit. All the children were engaged and I took some lovely photos of my children getting to grips with creating the different shapes. Thanks Jane. You’re such an inspiration. Have you thought about being an advisor????

  5.   janefisher Says:

    Thank you so much for your kind comment– it makes the stress of doing seem worthwhile! I’m glad you children enjoyed the polygon song- it always gets stuck in my brain and I end up humming it all day! As regards being an advisor- I love teaching children- but after my positive experience on Monday, I would push myself out of my comfort zone and share my ideas with groups of teachers again – given the opportunity!!! 🙂

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