Maths teaching ideas and articles

Free teaching ideas and activities for your classroom.

Paul includes articles on primary maths teaching and learning, new developments and other maths topics for primary teachers.

07/03/2017
Multiplication - exploring Gelosia and Russian methods
As a follow up to the article on Napier’s Bones, I thought it would be useful to look at other historical (and interesting) methods for multiplication. There were two in particular that I used in my own teaching - the Gelosia and Russian Peasant methods. They were both great for exploring different ways of handling numbers when calculating and practising key skills, but I wouldn’t necessarily use either as a chosen standard method.

07/03/2017
Maths around a Roman theme
The Ancient Romans as a theme offers such a rich context for mathematical starting points. The 2014 NC programmes of study includes reading and using Roman numerals which would obviously fit in, but here are a few more quick maths ideas to add to your topic on the Romans.

06/03/2017
Pi day March 14th - take a look at circles
Pi day can be a whole school event, with KS1 children finding circles and KS2 children discovering a simple Pi pattern through measuring, using multiplication and division facts for x3 and rounding to the nearest whole number. Other Pi based activities include rounding decimals, looking at the format that dates are written around the world and, of course, it could include eating pies!

07/02/2017
Logical reasoning in the primary maths classroom
On a visit to a school in Switzerland I was pleased to see a whole range of logic games and activities being actively used by a group of 8 year olds. The teacher explained that sorting by different attributes, reasoning and logical thinking were all key to the children having mathematical success so these games were used daily.

07/02/2017
Planning Assessment for Learning (AfL) questions and activities is an important part of good teachingHowever, AfL type questions need not be complex - a focus on learning and depth of understanding is the focus. A basic question structure that can be used for any maths topic can be very helpful and 'Give me a pair...' is a versatile start for questions to ask.

23/01/2017
Multiplying with Napier's Bones - new maths collection at the Science Museum
The Science Museum has a new maths collection and one of the artefacts is a wooden set of Napier’s ‘Bones’, you can visit the new maths collection online. Set your class the challenge of discovering how to multiply large numbers using Napier's numbers on a grid. A great problem solving activity that holds children's interest while reinforcing quick recall of mulitplication facts.

03/01/2017
Reflect on your maths teaching and take a look at the bigger picture
Once the term has started it is likely that you focus on your teaching for each day or week with little chance to reflect and look at your teaching in a wider context. If possible, take some time to reflect on what education is all about for you and then look at the best way you can make this happen in action.

03/01/2017
Interactive maths kits - add a geoboard for 'show me' activities
'Show me' activities are great for whole class starters and each child having their own maths kit helps your classroom management as well as making maths motivating for children. On a training course recently, where I give out maths kits with counters, number cards,100-squares and other manipulatives, a teacher suggested adding a geoboard to help with shape 'starter' activites.

03/01/2017
Calculate the day of the week for any date in 2017 - inspire your class
The 'doomsday rule' is a way to mentally calculate the day of the week for any date - without the use of a calendar. Looking at the patterns and rules and then using them to predict the day of any date gives children a reason to learn the order of months, the positional and ordinal number for each month, as well as developing a desire to play with numbers. A great maths motivator for the new year.

25/11/2016
Maths observations - how can you make the most of them?
Lesson observations, with the opportunity to see other teachers in action and the learning that takes place, are a great way to improve your own teaching skills. This is even more the case if you have been involved with the planning process so you can share thoughts and ideas with the teacher. I have a prompt 'bookmark' sheet of questions to guide my observations that you can give a try.

24/11/2016
Christmas maths fillers - 10 minute seasonal activities
Christmas maths fillers are useful for those spare moments during these busy weeks in school. Here are a few short, one-off simple activities that can be done with only paper and crayons. They are interesting, fun maths tasks providing an opportunity for exploration and problem solving.

23/11/2016
Calculator challenges - a valuable tool in the primary classroom
Calculators are not used in the tests for 11-year olds but they can still be a valuable part of a primary maths lesson to support children's learning. Here are some rich activities to try with your class using calculators. It is interesting that calculators are mainly considered as tools to make maths easier. However, there are many ways they can be used to explore mathematical patterns, to help solve problems and to actually add challenge and interest to maths practice.

21/10/2016
Primary assessment inquiry - a chance to have your say, if you're quick!
The Education Select Committee have begun an inquiry into primary assessment that will look at the impact of recent reforms on teaching and learning in primary schools. So make sure you have your say, however be quick, the deadline for written submission is this week, 28th October 2016. After the results from the new national curriculum assessment (SATs) last summer and leaked test papers teachers will have a number of issues to raise.

20/10/2016
Sorting out Venn and Carroll diagrams for EYFS, KS1 and KS2
Sorting starts early in EYFS and KS1 and continues with more and more sophisticated sorting into KS2, particularly when exploring properties of shapes and numbers. Here is a quick outline of sorting in primary classrooms with a particular focus on the use of Venn and Carroll diagrams. As with all aspects of maths it is the careful progression that helps children master the maths.

14/10/2016
The purpose of my Maths Planning Menu was to provide support and expertise on teaching primary maths with planning resources that schools and teachers could pick and choose from. They can then combine this with other resources to plan their own creative maths lessons to best teach their class. I went into a school recently and they had used all the elements provided to teach a great lesson, using their own format.

05/09/2016
A special date with consecutive square numbers 4.9.16
4.9.16...  a square day! A set of consecutive square numbers appearing in a date - what a great starting point for some fun with numbers. Can this happen again? Has it happened before? What about dates that have all square numbers but not necessarily appearing in order? How many can you find? When are the next 'square number days'?

02/09/2016
Fibonacci numbers in nature - count and find the patterns
Looking at maths in nature should certainly inspire children... and teachers. Counting spirals on cones and sunflowers can reveal Fibonacci numbers. Children can discover the rules behind these special numbers and use the numbers to draw spirals that look like shells – which takes them back to nature again!

30/08/2016
Growth mindset and teaching maths
How do you feel about maths? Some teachers (like me when I first started teaching) feel they have a limited ability in maths and are anxious when teaching maths. This fixed mindset can influence your teaching but you don’t have to feel like this. A can-do attitude and a feeling that everyone can achieve in maths is part of having a growth mindset. So how can you instil this growth mindset in your class? There are a number of ways forward and I have outlined 15 ideas to start you off.

28/08/2016
Early Years Foundation Stage Profile to remain as statutory
What a year for EYFS teachers, after a year of preparing for the introduction of baseline assessment, it was dropped in April after problems with the pilot scheme and a generally negative response to it from schools. However, teachers were told that they could still use the baseline assessments if they wished. Then comes an announcement – in August! -  from the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) that the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile is to remain statutory for the academic year 2016/17.

20/06/2016
Maths activities for sports day and the Olympic Games
Having maths activities linked to sports day is a great way to inspire children and put maths into a real-life context. There are opportunities to use small numbers with EYFS/KS1, calculate with 3-digit numbers for the track events for KS2 and try problem solving with weights. There is also a free to download sporting logic mystery.

20/06/2016
How can you implement a mastery approach in primary maths?
There are a lot of schools trying to adopt a mastery approach in the teaching of mathematics. This is a positive move, but does not always involve a complete change of your pedagogy. Here is an outline of the main elements of a mastery approach and how these can be incoporated into your planning.

17/06/2016
Learning to tell the time - keep it simple
Being able to read the time quickly and accurately is one of the basic skills that we expect our children to crack when they are round about 7 or 8 years old. However, I feel we make it overly complicated and difficult to learn (and to teach). There are a few hurdles for children to overcome when reading an analogue clock, so I would suggest keeping it a simple process.

10/05/2016
Problem solving activities - new resources online
Finding appropriate activities and maths problems can be time-consuming and tricky for teachers. Good problem solving activities should match specific learning objectives, should be purposeful and should also apply the skills, concepts and procedures previously learnt. To help with this I have been working on teaching activities and problem solving questions that match to specific maths topics for each year.

04/05/2016
Do we need textbooks to teach primary maths? And if so which ones?
Some schools are looking at textbooks and teachers have asked me for advice on this. I've put together a number of things to consider for those thinking about using maths books to support their teaching.  Does your school just need Teacher's Guides or is a textbook also necessary? Is it a Practice Book you're after or do you need problem solving ideas? To help with this I've also looked at some of the features of a few of the new maths books recently published.

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