Category Archives: Mathematics

Check Out Bloomsbury Education’s YouTube!

The Bloomsbury Education YouTube channel has TONS of brilliant videos to get stuck into; from five top tips for surviving in teaching to dramatic readings of poetry, animated trailers for up-and-coming fiction to suggestions on how to incorporate more kindness in the classroom.

Here’s a quick run-through of all the exciting videos on offer:

Bloomsbury Young Readers

Meet the characters, authors and illustrators behind the Bloomsbury Young Reader series, our book-banded stories for children aged 5-7. There will be pirate ships, there will be canine birthday parties, but most importantly, there will be some children flying into space!

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Happiness and Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom

Adrian Bethune, the author behind Wellbeing in the Primary Classroom, brings you a series of videos on how to create happiness, stillness and positivity in the hive of chaos that is a primary classroom! From tips for teaching kindness to writing your ‘what went wells’ at the end of each week, Adrian is awash with ideas on how to foster happy and healthy children!

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Meet Daniel Sobel

Who’s Daniel Sobel, you may wonder. Well, wonder no more. The inspiring author behind Narrowing the Attainment Gap and Leading on Pastoral Care describes his wonderful work on inclusion and how you can apply his ideas to your school.

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Andrew Brodie Apps

We have a have a terrific range of apps for primary learners, written and designed by the legend himself, Andrew Brodie (full range here). These confidence-boosting apps for home and school cover telling the time, spelling, times tables and mental maths, and are a brilliant way of prepping students for SATS. Want to know more? Here’s a video to show you…

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Teacher Toolkit

Want to hear from the UK’s leading education blogger? We’ve got you covered. Ross Morrison McGill, aka Teacher Toolkit, shares tips, tricks and techniques from his bestselling book, Mark. Plan. Teach.!

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Poetry from Joshua Seigal

He’s hilarious, he’s insightful, he’s brilliant…

Joshua Seigal is the mastermind poet behind Little Lemur Laughing, I Don’t Like Poetry and I Bet I Can Make You Laugh, and here he is reading a variety of poems. From Addicted to Chicken to Love Letter to a Lychee, there’s nothing quite like them!

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Make Your School an Excellent One

Rob Carpenter, author of A Manifesto for Excellence, has created a series of videos on how to make your school bloomin’ excellent. From creating an aspirational school environment to the importance of mindfulness and wellbeing, there are a plethora of great takeaways to enhance your teaching and inspire your pupils.

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Philosophy: 40 Lessons to Get Children Thinking

Fancy a whole lesson at your fingertips, FOR FREE?! Esteemed founder and CEO of The Philosophy Foundation and author of 40 Lessons to Get Children Thinking and The If Machine, Peter Worley presents a 44-minute video where he undertakes a sentence activity with a primary class, encouraging the children to think about meaning, structure and relationships.

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How to Survive in Teaching

How does one survive in teaching amidst the long hours, endless paperwork, demoralising colleagues, stress and anxiety? Ask Dr Emma Kell, author of How to Survive in Teaching and general unwavering optimist, who will teach you how to survive, nay, THRIVE, in this brilliant profession.

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Let’s Perform!

Loosen those limbs and begin those warm-up exercises, it’s time to get dramatic! Watch Cath Howe’s collection of original monologues, duologues and poetry in action, performed by the shining stars of Fern Hill Primary School!

Let's Perform

Head over to our YouTube channel to browse!

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Leaf Angles and Soggy Wellies: How to Take Lessons Outside

Imagine the scene—your Head comes in, looking harassed. The Government has ordered that all pupils should spend a minimum of 10% of their curriculum time outdoors, and PE is not to be included in this calculation.

What would be your first thought? That you don’t have enough space? What could you do with them? What would happen to the learning? What about rain?

As the Curriculum Enrichment Leader of a small Primary Academy Trust in west London, this is a long term aim of ours. All three schools are in built-up areas, and we have worked hard to begin developing our outdoor spaces to make them more curriculum-friendly.

All the evidence points to children spending less and less time outside, with 74% of children spending less than an hour playing outside each day. This contrasts with UN guidelines that prisoners have the right to one hour’s outdoor exercise each day as a minimum.

So why are we such advocates of outdoor learning? Being outside brings a multitude of benefits— children are able to concentrate for longer, ask more questions, and are more engaged with their learning when outdoors. We are working hard to bring more of the curriculum outside— Art, Maths, English, Science and Geography all leap comfortably into outdoor spaces, be it creating poetry under the canopy of a sycamore, to digging under the ground to test the acidity of the soil. Behaviour improves and different characters emerge. In one session recently, one child kept exclaiming “oh, I’ve never done this before” so often it became a catchphrase.

For some schools, shelter from the weather is a priority. Although the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” is generally true, children can cope with about sixty minutes of wet weather before starting to struggle. Children should, at the very least, be armed with coats to stave off wet or windy weather, and teachers can ask for a Welly Collection from parents— paired with beefy bulldog clips for hanging soggy gear.

If you have no outside shelters (either manmade or natural), buy a gazebo sail and find the funds to have three posts put up— these work perfectly. You could even look on websites like Freegle for actual windsails (we got four this way).

The first approach to taking more lessons outside starts with a good look at the timetable for the week. Look at the lessons which absolutely have to be taught indoors, and cross them off. Next, consider the lessons which would be enhanced by using outdoor spaces, although often just a change of scene can reinvigorate a class, make your outdooring more than simply this. Finding isosceles triangles in nature is ridiculously more interesting than a worksheet and greater depth can easily occur with protractors. Collecting and measuring leaf angles will position the memory far more successfully than the lesson you would carry out inside a classroom.

Try it, just for a week. Find two lessons which would zing by happening outside, then make the leap. You won’t look back.

 

Stephen Lockyer is the Curriculum Enrichment Leader of the Lumen Learning Trust in outer west London, where new staff are issued with fleeces as part of their welcome package.

He has written three books for Bloomsbury, which are available here, and his other books can be found here. His latest title, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Interventions, is out now.

   100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Outstanding Teaching   100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Interventions

 

Managing Homework For You and Your Pupils: The Checklist

Many teachers struggle to manage homework. Many teachers would like to see it banned altogether, in fact, so would many parents! Homework has always been a subject of debate. Does it have any significant impact on children’s learning, or it an expected ‘hassle’ that increases teacher workload and tensions among families? As a teacher and parent, I don’t mind the extra work of arranging homework or supporting my children at home, when I can see its value. When homework builds upon the learning in the classroom, or helps to prepare for upcoming lessons, it can be of real value but it worth remembering these points:

  • Work WITH parents

Communication is key, as is a well-established routine. Right from the word go, share with your parents how much homework will be set, when it will be set, and when it is due. Many schools have a homework policy- as a class teacher, make sure you are familiar with this and are following the guidelines to ensure consistency across the school.

  • ..kids will be kids!

Every week, without fail, there will be someone who will lose their sheet! If your pupils have a homework book, it is worth any sheets being stuck in. Even better, update your class page with a copy of the week’s homework task. This allows parents/older pupils to easily access their homework, meaning you are not bothered when the child/parent is panicking at the last minute!

  • Provide a WAGOLL (What a good one looks like)

Things regularly change in education and often, the strategies used nowadays will baffle the parents. Recently, a friend of mine with a Year 1 child had no idea what it meant to ‘dot/underline the sound buttons’ of alien words. Providing an example of what the homework should look like, with an explanation can save families hours of time and avoid tensions when it is clear that the child was correct, after all! This particularly applies to many maths strategies.

  • Consider the workload (for you and your pupils)

Planning ahead is important here. Weeks vary in the teacher calendar. If you can see you have double parents’ evenings or an assessment week coming up, be careful not to set homework that will require marking- this is the last thing you need. Children also have busy lives, and similarly, when they have evening concerts or school trips, they will be tired. Homework activities that focus on pupils’ wellbeing are particularly useful during busy times. Chapter 1 of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework focuses on pupil wellbeing activities.

  • Use homework to prepare for upcoming lessons

Share with your pupils and parents information about upcoming lessons and how they can prepare. This might involve finding out some information, asking questions or planning an idea. Once back in the classroom, the children can discuss these, meaning even those who forgot get the chance to hear from others before the lesson starts.

  • Prepare a bank of useful activities

Keep hold of homework tasks you set, as chances are they will come in useful the following year. It is also worth sharing with the parents a list of activities they can easily undertake on a regular basis. Idea 23 ‘Recall’ (100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework) provides a list of quick-fire recall games that parents can play with their children to support mental maths. These ideas can again be shared on the class webpage, or sent home as a booklet, for parents to refer to. If these games are also played regularly in school, the children are familiar with them, making it easier to play at home.

  • What is the point?

All too often, teachers rush around at the last minute, photocopying some worksheet for the children’s homework. But it worth considering the purpose of your homework tasks. How does it support/reinforce what is happening in your classroom? Is it an appropriate level for the children? Will it add hugely to your workload?

 

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Jenna Lucas has been a primary school teacher for 12 years, originally in Bristol and now in Bournemouth. In her teaching career she has taught Early Years through to year 6 and led English as well as teaching and learning in the curriculum in her own school and in others in a coaching and mentoring role.

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework is Jenna’s first book for Bloomsbury Education and is available now.

You can follow her on Twitter @JennaLucas81

 

Visit our 100 Ideas page to see the full range of titles in the series for Early Years, Primary and Secondary Teachers

It’s time to… Discover Maths!

By Trudi Fitzhenry and Karen Murphy, authors of the award-winning Time to… Featherstone Early Years series

Creating a positive maths mindset in young children is part of the reason for writing this book.  As early educators we model many of the attitudes and beliefs that young children absorb.  In our experience of supporting early years staff in a range of settings,  many of the adults we work with have a deep reluctance to engage with maths based on their own unhappy experiences of the subject in the past.  If we can offer ideas for making maths fun and remove some of the potential misconceptions held by maths-anxious adults then our youngest learners will benefit!

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Having the confidence to play with maths concepts in an open way, without the fear of being ‘wrong’, is crucial.  A fun way of introducing a maths problem is to allow the children to become the experts and you, as the adult, let their enquiries lead the learning.  So if you are looking at the number 5, you might ask ‘What do you know about the number 5?  Can anyone show me what 5 looks like?’  The children may place 5 objects together or may write the digit 5.  They may draw 5 spots on a whiteboard or show you 5 fingers.  All of the responses are welcomed and valued.  Encourage further sharing of ideas by asking ‘What else can we do to show 5?  Does anyone have another idea?’  Collect all of the children’s ideas and examples and create a book of 5, including songs and rhymes and simple calculations should these begin to appear.

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Taking maths learning outside is a powerful way of engaging children both in the natural world around them and in the natural patterns that exist.  Looking at flowers that grow around your setting allows children to compare petal shapes and quantities.  They can ask their friends which colours they prefer and create a simple tally or chart.  Collecting twigs, cones or leaves to use in a repeating pattern or as tools for counting or measuring engages the children in a worthwhile pursuit.  Looking for the tallest sunflower or widest branch, or seeing who can make the longest daisy chain adds a sense of competition that young children love!

Our message is simple.  If the children see us as adults engaging in exciting maths activities and hear us asking questions and following a simple line of enquiry, they will learn that curiosity is a good thing.  If we share our misconceptions and how we have figured out a solution to a problem, they will learn that this is okay, too.  With this kind of encouragement we can grow a new generation of maths-confident children and lose the all too common fear of maths that many adults share.

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Number skills in the primary curriculum. Andrew Brodie

Andrew Brodie author photoThe new National Curriculum, together with the tests that are planned to accompany it from next year, places a much greater emphasis on pure number skills than has been seen for many years. The tests for Key Stages 1 and 2 will both include a test paper on the subject of ‘arithmetic’, a term that is not used in the National Curriculum itself and that hasn’t been much in evidence since the nineteen sixties. I keep having to remind myself that it is concerned purely with non-contextual number calculations.

For the last fifty years we have been urged to help children to learn number facts and number skills within the context of realistic mathematical problems – problems that can be related to the pupils’ everyday lives; problems that mean something to the children; problems that can be solved because there’s a desire to solve them.

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Image credit: John Crane Ltd

There is no doubt that contextually based learning is an educational utopia. But concerns have been growing – what if the problems we set don’t encourage the children to learn all the number facts they may ever need? What if the problems are actually too difficult for the pupils simply because the number facts they have practised are not easily retrievable from the depths of their minds?

Surely then, an ideal recipe for mathematical success has to be the solid acquisition of number skills coupled with the application of these skills in context-based, interesting and challenging problems. Is that what the new curriculum is designed to achieve? Will it achieve it?

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Image credit: Hypnosis Power

I have been fortunate enough to be able to produce a wide range of educational books over the past twenty years, including many on problem solving. But the opportunities and demands of the new curriculum and the tests that derive from it have encouraged me to return to looking at pure number skills, an area that is of great interest to me.

When not writing, I spend a considerable amount of term working with students aged between four and twenty-two. Many of the pupils with whom I work are of above average intelligence yet still experience some difficulties with mathematics.

The difficulties encountered by some of the secondary school pupils and university students can be traced back to an inadequate grasp of fundamental skills, which could have been gained at the primary level. It is interesting to observe that these students lack confidence in their own abilities and are likely to make comments such as ‘I hate fractions’ or ‘I can’t do algebra’. When discussed closely, however, the reason why the student can’t find, say, the value of x when 3x = 24 is simply because he/she can’t remember how to divide 24 by 3 and can’t find a strategy for doing so!

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In my view, the vast majority of children need to learn a wealth of number facts with some contextual clues to start them off. They need to recognize that 3 + 2 = 5 is a representation of a reality, such as three pencils together with two more make a total of five pencils, or that 3 x 2 = 6 could be a representation of three sets of two pencils making a total of six. But once shown the reality there is no reason why they shouldn’t learn all the facts that follow the same pattern. Once learnt these can be applied to a countless number of realistic problems and, ultimately, the fairly abstract concepts represented by algebra. If not learnt, however, the whole of maths is likely to become a mystery.

Let's Do Times Tables coverAndrew Brodie was a head teacher for twelve years after many successful years in the classroom. He began writing his best-selling educational workbooks in 1992 and since then has established himself as an author that parents and teachers have come to trust. Follow him on Twitter @AbrodieWriter

The most recent titles in his Andrew Brodie Basics series are Let’s Do Times Tables, covering ages 5-11. They are designed to improve children’s confidence with 100s of questions and reward stickers and also match the requirements of the National Curriculum.