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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Problem Solving in Numeracy on the iPad

The app store is inundated with thousands of different apps for Numeracy. Some are fantastic, some not so but generally a lot follow a game like structure to help with quick calculations of the four operations. These are a great way of engaging children and giving them instant feedback so they can rectify any misconceptions straight away without having to wait for the teacher to mark their work. However I sometimes find it harder to download great apps to use for more complex maths lessons, problem solving for example.

I have found some apps that are great for problem solving which have provided some really engaging and stimulating lessons where the children have been able to develop key thinking skills to help them with their Numeracy.

Working from the National Strategies guidance the three areas of problem solving are identified as:

Here are some apps that can be used for activities linking to these three strands.

Numbers Logic Puzzle - This is a great app to use as a way of putting a problem solving activity into context. You have to add numbers next to each other reach a target number, you may make 2, 3, 4 or even 5 number combinations. So start with an activity to find all the different possibilities. The free version allows you to play the level where you add to make ten. Therefore in class you can try and find all the possibilities of making ten by using two numbers, 3 then 4 then 5. Once the children have found all the possibilities they can then apply this knowledge into the game. To read more about this lesson please click here.

The Mathelona Games - A fantastic logic problem solving app made by the wonderful This app asks children to complete a grid of number sentences by adding the digits 0-9, the only rule is that you can only use each digit twice. With different levels of ability and a time limit introduced it can be used right across Key Stage 2. What I like about it is that the children learn they have to persevere and that they may not get the answer straight away, instead need to try and try again. TO READ MORE ABOUT THE LESSON USING THIS APP CLICK HERE.

Talk Maths -  This app which is available for Year 4,5 and 6 is a superb way to encourage rich maths discussion while solving different mathematical challenges. The app has four different challenges all of which are then differentiated to use more tricky numbers. Having used this app in class, I cannot recommend it enough for the way it purposely encourages children to discuss, share ideas and work together. TO READ ABOUT THE LESSON CLICK HERE.

mzm.cyrmbvpx.175x175 75 Introducing word problems to Year 1Banana Maths - Is a great app for introducing word problems to KS1children. The app uses pictures to substitute words so that children can focus more on the specific vocabulary that helps them work out the calculation needed to solve the problem. CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW WE USED THIS IN CLASS. Another app similar to this is Problem Solving: Choosing the correct operation. This app would be aimed more older and again helps children decode a question to work out the number sentence needed to solve a problem.

2013-02-01 11.14.11

There are some other apps which may come handy when doing problem solving activities. These are not solely focused on problem solving however can accompany activities to help children solve or demonstrate their learning:
Doodle Buddy - This is a fantastic app in general but can open some fantastic opportunities in numeracy. In the logic problems document linked at the top of this page, one of the activities involves trying to work out all the different ways to complete a maze. Children can import the worksheet as a background and then solve the problem using the app without wasting paper or endless rubbings out. 

Explain Everything - Couldn't finish without mentioning this amazing app. A presentation app that allows you to record your voice as you draw, write or look at pictures or videos. It would be an amazing way for a teacher to keep and evidence the children's though process when solving a problem. What system do they use? How do they solve it? What operations and why? It gives the children the opportunity to explain how they solve a problem which they cannot always do on paper. Although I haven't used this app for a problem solving activity, I did ask the children to show me their understanding of the column addition method - YOU CAN READ ABOUT IT HERE.

Please if you know of any other apps which can help with these sorts of activities, please comment and share. If I come across any more I will share them on this list. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Sport Adverts to Encourage Writing - Engage those reluctant boys!

I am always looking for different ways to engage and motivate children to write and try to provide an engaging hook for the reluctant boy writers, sport is always a great way of engaging some, not all, and can motivate boys to write as it is something they are interested in.

I was asked recently to write an article for the wonderful Springboard Stories. This newly published magazine has a wealth of fantastic cross curricular ideas linked to one central theme. The next issue focusing on sport should be another amazing resource for the Primary Classroom. The article I wrote, uses a famous inspiring video and discusses the possible uses in class, most of which have been tried out to great effect with my class. After writing this article I started looking at other sporting videos which can be used as a stimulus in class. What I enjoy about using these videos is that they are not necessarily just focusing on the sport but rather examples of characteristics sport encourages children to develop. These traits such as motivation, building character, overcoming adversity, dealing with failure are just a few life skills sports instill in children. The following videos are great examples of the ways sport can engage children but also inspire them to work and try harder.

 This first example - is the Nike Advert from the 2010 World Cup and carries an inspiring theme of "Write the Future!" This video will have the boys hooked as it starts some of the biggest names in the footballing world - Rooney, Ronaldo and Drogba to name a few and I love the "Sliding Doors" effect it portrays. The film ponders the question of how specific decisions can alter the direction of our lives.

The "what if" aspect to the advert could inspire some fantastic contrasting writing. Take the Rooney section, where you see the moment his pass is cut out and he has flashes of what would happen to his life - becoming a villain, losing his fans etc. He makes the decision to tackle and this is completely contrasted with the hero status he recieves. This could be a powerful stimulus for a writing activity. Children could write from the advert or even come up with their own examples.

The advert also provides plenty of opportunities to create some wonderful suspenseful writing. The last 30 seconds where Ronaldo is fouled and lines up the free kick would be great to write as a build up to the climax. Children can also describe the atmosphere of the packed stadium, what could they see? hear? smell? touch?

Another of Nike's adverts which can inspire some great writing is the "Take it to the next level," advert. Another inspiring example which shows the journey of a non-league footballer rise to the top of the footballing world. There are however snippets that I would consider inappropriate for children (what do you expect with Guy Ritchie as director) - at 54 seconds the footballer signs his autograph onto a girls chest and at 1.23 mins he plays a prank on a team mate where he pulls his pants down. Despite this, there are excellent opportunities for children to be inspired by this message of following your dreams, working hard and being reward for that. The last 30 seconds would be great for some descriptive writing again leading up to building suspense similar to the previous video.

Moving away from football this clip from the Movie, Friday Night Light's, shows the dying seconds of the State Championship game. The way the scene is shot can be great for again encouraging the children to build suspense. They can use similes and metaphors to describe the tackles and movements of the players. It is also a great way for children to show their empathy for characters by writing recounts of those final moments and the agony of defeat as the game finishes.

Now moving onto some Poetry! I love the New Zealand Rugby Team's Haka, I think it is one of the most intimidating and intense rituals of any sport. This advert shows it in its purest form and could inspire some great poetry where children maybe write the message they think the Haka is trying to portray or use it to make descriptions using similes and metaphors or what you need to be a New Zealand play. Children could also research the history of the Haka and write a non-chronological report about it. They could learn the dance and write instructions or even make up their own dance.

The next two examples are from Sky Sports and are great for asking the children to write using the show not tell writing technique. The show not tell technique encourages the children to describe through actions or speech how a character feels or what is happening in the story. Alan Peat explains it here. My challenge would be how could they tell me about the action from the pitch without writing about anything happening on the pitch? They would have to describe the reactions of the crowd, managers, officials, the opportunity for describing the senses would lead to some very effective writing. Or another poem? The ingredients for the perfect football match maybe?

I am in no way encouraging you to use all these videos however to use something different to maybe engage and inspire children especially those reluctant boys to put pen to paper and write, they may work for you. If sport is not the thing for your class please look at how using popular video games can inspire writing. CLICK HERE

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Doodle Buddy Maths!

From day one of using iPads in the class, Doodle Buddy has been one of my favourites, especially for children Key Stage 1.
The app is a free drawing tool, that allows you to use your fingers to draw with a brush, chalk, glitter and smudge tool. The app allows you to also stamp lots of lovely pictures which all have their own sounds which keeps younger children amused for hours! You can also add shapes and text. There are numerous backgrounds to choose from as well as adding your own pictures.

To begin with, I used it as a way for the children to get used to using the iPads getting used to using the touchscreen and also importing pictures that they had taken using the camera to make some funny and unusual self portraits - See lesson here.
Photo 11 09 2012 21 08 56 Some unique self portraits!

It was only after seeing how confident and competent the younger children were did I realise the potential to use this as an app in Numeracy. It started when I was asked whether there were any apps to help the children with data handling in Numeracy. I searched and searched and to little avail, but soon realised the best app (Doodle Buddy,) was right in front of me.


The Year 1 class were looking at pictograms and blog diagrams as a way of recording and displaying results. I had made a blank pictogram template and printed this for the children. The children then took at picture of this template and used it as the background, the children then simply added their results using either the paint brush or the stamp button - so simple, yet so effective. - Read more of the lesson here.

For older children, they could create their own templates on the pages app and then take a screenshot to import into doodle buddy. Or to save on paper, children can download a template from Dropbox - with some guidance. They could even make line graph or bar charts.

Another example is to use Doodle Buddy for children to make their own Carroll Diagrams, again using a template made as the background children could use stamps or the text option to type numbers if that was the focus. Older children can type out their own labels for each box. Again read about the lesson here.
2013-03-15 14.31.28
Other ways in which this app could be used, in the same way as mentioned earlier, by importing a template like the one below to sort numbers or objects using a Venn diagram:

Or use a template to collect data into a tally chart:

Or use a template of co-ordinates and ask them to place stamps on certain co-ordinates like this example:

Or work out a route to get from the mouse to the elephant. For older more able children, they could use more than one quadrant as any picture can be used as a background. 

Another way in which Doodle Buddy can be used which was shared to me by @SamJL27 is using one of the backgrounds as a geoboard and let the children make different shapes by following different instructions such as:

You could also use the stamp option as a way for children to count and solve word problems, a question such as "If I have 5 dogs, 4 cats and 2 mice, how many pets do I have altogether?" can be answered on the app by children using the stamps to help them count.
Teachers can create their own fraction of shapes sheet in which children can then colour to answer the question:

Children could then create their own worksheets and make their own shapes and ask their own questions about fractions. 

To help with measuring capacity, length or even mass children can use doodle buddy to import pictures of a measuring apparatus and then demonstrate their understanding of reading scales. Here is examples of a Year 1 lesson where children had to virtually fill a measuring jug to different measurements:


As a free app there are endless possibilities for using it in Numeracy, and could also be used as a way of recording results of a science investigation for example. Or as @SimonHaughton demonstrated as a way to solve a wordsearch:

Or you could create a  word cloud with an extract from a book, children can then import that picture as a background and highlight the nouns, verbs, connectives, adjectives.

 What is great is that children as young as Year 1 or even Reception could use it to record and display data and results and answer a range of different mathematical questions. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Teaching Direct Speech Punctuation using the iPhone text messaging!

Teaching direct speech is always a tricky aspect, there is so much to remember and very few useful visual pictures that clearly help children know what and how to use speech punctuation properly.

Lets look at some of the tips to remember:

  • The words that are spoken have to go within the speech marks.
  • Any punctuation needs to also go inside the speech marks.
  • A reporting clause, who and how they said it can go before, middle or end.
  • A comma follows the reporting clause at the beginning.
  • You need to start a new line when a new character speaks. 
I think that is most of them??

I have heard of endless different ways to try and get children to remember these tips - keeping the sheeps in the pen or speech mark sandwich which are a couple of examples however they do not have any visual help for tips such as starting on a new line, which is something some of my children find hardest to remember. 

I decided to use a different approach, to help cover the aspects of correctly punctuating speech through text messaging. Well, not literally text messaging but the idea of text messaging.

iphonetextgenerator,,,  - are websites that allow you to write a conversation between two people and it will generate a screenshot of the conversation as if it was a text message on an iPhone. Like this example:

I personally think this is a great visual picture that the children can use to help then punctuate speech. 
The clearly see that:  
  • The words spoken in the bubble have to go inside the speech marks including the punctuation. 
  • They also clearly see that every time a different character speaks they have to start a new line. 
  • The reporting clause can go before or after the speech bubble.
 This is also something the children are probably used to seeing. Here would be the translation in the children's books:

“What big eyes you have?” Asked Red Riding Hood.
The wolf replied, “all the better for seeing you with!” 
“What big teeth you have?” questioned Red.
“All the better to EAT YOUR WITH!!!” Screamed the Wolf.

Some real examples:

With the Year 4 class, we put together a conversation between two other teachers, the messaging screen looked like this:

The children then used this to write the conversation as direct speech, I was so impressed by their efforts and how quickly they could pick it up: 

As a lesson we looked at making some of our own fake text screens of conversations between characters from different books. 

The children then had to use the pictures to help correctly punctuate the speech in their books. It seemed to work really well and the children found punctuation their work much easier by using these visuals.

Fruit Ninja - Endless possibilities in Numeracy!

Over the past few weeks, I have been using the game Fruit Ninja as a way of engaging children in their numeracy lessons. You may have read how I have used other popular iPad games such as Temple Run and Angry Birds as a stimulus in Literacy and Numeracy - to read more about it please click here.

What I have found from using these games is that the engagement and motivation from the children in the lesson is incredible. Letting them play a quick 30 second game has them completely hooked! This game is perfect for numeracy as the game generates numbers, numbers and numbers which can be used in so many different ways.

The game is simple yet very addictive - children simply swipe their fingers to chop the fruit scoring points as they do so. The game allows for single and multiplayer and here are some of the activities you could do using Fruit Ninja in Numeracy.

Using the score from a single game children could -

  • Double/Halve the score
  • +10 - 10
  • +9 +19 +99
  • x10 x100 x1000 or divide by 10, 100, 1000
  • Count in steps of any given number forwards/backwards.
  • Use the number as the answer and think of different number sentences focusing on a particular operation.
  • Partition the number
  • Multiply by any number
  • Rearrange the digits to make the smallest or biggest number.
  • Use the scores from the class for some data handling to find the most common score in the class - working on mode, median and mean.
  • Produce bar charts, line graphs, tally chart from the scores in class.
  • Problem solving - See what your score is over 30 seconds, work out how much fruit is sliced in a second and work out how much fruit would be sliced in a minute, 5 minutes, half an hour, an hour, a day.
Using the two scores from the multiplayer game children could - 

I am in no way suggesting that you use it for all these activities however if you want a lesson that will have the children completely engaged and willing to solve calculations quickly to then have another go, have a try at using this game. I am sure there are plenty of other ways this app could be used as a stimulus in Numeracy and if you have any, please comment and add them to this post.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Board games as an assessment tool in the classroom

Like most people I absolutely love a good board game. Many a Christmas has been spent playing, enjoying and reveling in entertaining games with close friends and family. They never seem to disappoint, they always bring the family together and are great for improving team work and collaboration skills.

It has made me think about how could they be integrated into the classroom???

The three board games that I am going to talk about all have fantastic potential in the classroom. Although they are aimed at adults the rules for the games can be easily adapted by teachers to fit in with most curriculum areas.

Articulate - This is my favourite board game! The aim of the game is to describe as many words as you can in 30 seconds. You have one pass and there are rules as to how you can describe


When describing you MUST NOT:
  1. Say what letter any word starts with.
  2. Say how many letter any given word has.
  3. Say the actual word
  4. Say a word which includes the word. For example if the word is "post" you may not say "postage" or "postman"; for "swim" you can not say "swimmer" etc.
  5. Use "rhymes with" or "sounds like" kind of clues.
  6. Mouth The words.
When describing YOU MAY:
  1. Choose to PASS and not play a card - BUT ONLY ONCE each turn.
  2. Make body gestures
  3. Act
  4. Mime
So how can it be used in class??? Sitting the children in groups of four and print off key vocabulary at the end of a unit of work. Let the children play the game by taking it in turns to describe as many words in 30seconds with them rewarding themselves a point for every correctly guessed answer and a point to the person who correctly guessed the word. The teacher can use it to assess how well they can describe key words that have been covered over the previous weeks. This could be used in science, history, geography even maths or English. If you want the children to focus on adjectives print some examples of and see how well the children can describe them to each other, I guarantee they will remember the adjectives in their next writing lesson.

The next game is Smart Ass! Again a thoroughly entertaining game, where taking risks can either win or lose the game! Players roll a coloured dice to decide on the category of what am I? where am I? or Who am I?
Clues are then read starting with the most obscure gradually leading to easier hints. Players can guess at any time but only have one guess. If they jump in too early they can be out of the game but wait too long and others may sneak in and win. Here are some examples of the type of cards in the game:

Again this would be great way to engage children and assess their understanding of certain topics. If you were looking at classification of animals in science or Romans in history, teachers could read clues and children could use their knowledge from lessons to make an estimated guess. It would be a great approach in numeracy again teachers could read our clues such as - it is a multiple of 2, it is a 2 digit number, it has 3 tens. For HA children there is no reason why they can't make their own cards which again would be a great way for them to show their understanding of a topic. They could then share their cards with the rest of the class and see who could guess their answers.

The last board game which has some great potential in the classroom is 5 Second Rule. The aim of the game is simple, name 3 examples of a particular subject in 5 seconds, sounds easy but is a lot harder than you think. This can be an easily adaptable game for the classroom. Name 3 adjectives to describe this picture, name three adverbs for running, name 3 multiples of 5, name 3 different countries, 3 wives of Henry VIII. Lots of different topics and subjects can be tested in this engaging and enjoyable game.

Having used these games within lessons they never fail to get the children engaged and enjoying the lesson. They work well together and it improves the children's quick thinking skills. Obviously the teacher can easily adapt these games to fit in anyway they choose and can be easily differentiated for all abilities. I am in no way suggesting that you buy these games for the classroom, however making your own versions can bring some great practical aspects to your lessons.

Learning times tables facts using iPads

Learning your times tables is one of the most important and fundamental aspects of Numeracy. It spreads right through the Numeracy curriculum and without a solid understanding and quick recall can leave children struggling in many other aspects of maths.

There have been many different methods and ways suggested for children to learn their tables but it is sometimes hard to justify to a 6/7 year old why they need to know them. However if you say that by knowing their tables they are able to save the world, it certainly gets a different reaction!

There are possibly hundreds of different apps on the market for children to practise times tables and I have probably only used a fraction of what is out there, but the reaction from the children from using these apps have been amazing! They are eager to know their times tables, they feel a need to learn them and most are using the apps at home. 

One of my favourite things to start a lesson with is a little bit of Times Tables rapping. 

After a recent inset from Numeracy consultant Anthony Reddy, he showed the teachers how music can be used to help children remember different maths facts. He recommended using Dave Godfrey's Number Fun songs! Every since we have been dancing and singing away while learning different maths facts.
I asked the children who could recite their nine times tables? 1 x 9 = 9, 2 x 9 = 18....
We then used the Autorap app. The Autorap app allows you to record a conversation of someone talking or rapping  and remix it into a catchy hip hop tune through mixing and autotune!
The children absolutely loved hearing back the songs and even could recite the facts using them! I am sure after listening a few times the facts would stick and be remembered easily!
I then repeated the exercise with the six times tables, again the rap is generated in seconds and there are loads of different free tracks to choose from, the children were bopping away to their times tables!! Listen to some examples of hip hop times tables songs here:

Another great way to start the lesson is by using the Squeebles Times Tables app. The app has different tasks including focusing on a specific times table or mixing it up to identify which times table needs working on or for the next step looking at questions where the tables have been reversed 5 x ____ = 20 for example.

This is a great way for children to identify which tables they need to focus on and can get instant feedback about whether they are right. They can test themselves over and over and are rewarded with new icons, themes and other rewards.

One of the children's most favourite apps for then using their times tables knowledge in a game context is using the app Math Evolve!  An app with plenty of accolades it truly is a fantastic and engaging way for children to practise all their number facts not just multiplication. With different levels of difficulty and plenty of different challenges, it has the children focused on numeracy without them even knowing!

There are plenty of other similar game type apps that are great for children quick recall of times tables facts. The children love using these games as they are entertained and are using their knowledge of times tables in a context which is relevant to them. The following apps are all great for providing children with the chance to practise their quick recall of multiplication facts and most are not strictly multiplication but also addition, subtraction and division:

Maths vs Zombies


Math Bingo

The next step once the children have a solid understanding of their times tables is to then look at the relationship with division and also introduce terms such as prime, multiples and factors. Again there are some really useful apps that can help children understand these ideas in interesting ways.

 Numeracy Basics  - has some fantastic tools to help within Numeracy lessons, such as a clock, number line, magnet numbers and a times tables square but also a 100 square. When looking at primes, we started by establishing some rules for knowing if a number is a multiple of others - if it is even its in the 2s, ends in a 5 or 0 is in the 5s etc. The task was then for the children to identify all the prime number from 1-100 and highlight on the grid. They could then take a screenshot and print it and marked. Once the children have established the idea of primes again you can then put it into a game context for them to pracise.

Factor Samurai - is a great app for this. Similar to fruit ninja, children have to slice the numbers, however they must only slice number which have more than 2 multiples. If they slice a prime number they lose a life. The game has three levels of difficulty and really does test the children's understanding of which numbers are prime.

Divisibility Dash Solitaire - This is another useful app to test the children's understanding of multiples and numbers in certain times tables. The children are given a number and have to make 2 digit multiples of that number, but they must work quick, more number are added after a certain time. If they get a multiple wrong it turns to stone and the game ends if the numbers reach the top. This was a great activity done with Year 5 which had them completely enthralled and testing their understanding of times tables in a different way. A way that made them really apply their number facts knowledge carefully.