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Bonding games

Q Have you any ideas for teaching number bonds in a fun way with pupils in the reception class?

A Pupils of this age love movement and dancing, so a kinaesthetic approach to number bonds would be helpful. First, think of number bonds of five. Organise the pupils in groups of five, sitting on the floor. Ask each group to make a pattern of five, trying to make it different from the patterns made by other groups. Record each group's pattern on the board. (Digital photography is brilliant for this as the image can be transferred to an interactive whiteboard and abstract blobs used to represent the pattern when the image is removed.) Discuss the arrangements with the class and ask if they notice anything. You are looking for "their combinations" of numbers that make five.

Then they can play "make five". I have based this activity on the assumption that there are 30 pupils in the class. Play this in the school hall or in the playground. If you are in the classroom make sure there are no desks or chairs that they might trip over. Ask for six volunteers. (The maths is based on a number bond of 1+4=5. For all the pupils in a class of 30 to be able to make up a group of five, the class is divided in the ratio 6:24. Other numbers would be split in a similar manner - sometimes if there are not exact numbers it really challenges their number bonding skills.) Ask the volunteers to stand in a space on their own. When you shout "make five", the remaining pupils have to go and stand with one of the volunteers to make five. Any group that doesn't get it right is out, as is the last group to complete the five. Repeat this with 12 volunteers standing in pairs (2+3=5). Vary the calls. You might decide to not make the last to complete out. Make up your own rules and use other numbers. This game can be used as an example in a question-and-answer session afterwards to check their number bond recall.

The reverse game is "Take a number". Pupils would be in groups of five and the number to subtract would sit down. Thus the teacher might say "five take away three" and three pupils would sit down.

Another follow-up could be to use coins. Get pupils into pairs and give each a plastic coin bag with a 5p coin and a selection of 2p and 1p coins.

Ask them to make as many different arrangements of 5 as they can. The packs have to be checked back in carefully, as they should use real money to make the exercise more meaningful.

Q At parents evening for the Year 7 intake a parent told me her son has just been assessed as being dyslexic and that this had, over the years, had an impact on his learning of maths and his overall confidence in lessons. At half term we set all Year 7 in maths by ability.

If his previously undiagnosed dyslexia has affected his attainment in maths, this may mean that, with his needs addressed, he could be very able.

Would you suggest we put him in a lower set, where the groups are smaller and he has more individual help, so that he can improve his skills and raise his confidence, rather than in a larger higher-ability group where he will receive limited teacher attention?

A Interview the pupil to appraise his ability. Ask how he feels about maths, what problems he has had with the subject, and what he perceives to be his strengths and weaknesses. His primary report will show what strengths and weaknesses have already been identified.

A good measure of his potential ability is to take a concept from the strength area and teach him interactively an extension of this concept to see how quickly he extends that knowledge when taught in a one-to-one situation. Also take an area of weakness and see if you can lead him to an understanding.

Only once you have properly assessed his potential can you decide which set would best suit him. Pupils who are able but with a learning disability should not be placed in lower sets, as there is a requirement that their learning needs are met. Part of that need is interaction with pupils of a similar ability in the subject.

I have seen pupils with severe dyslexia working and achieving well in top sets in maths. What is important for students such as you describe is that they have access to the notes from the lesson, as multi-tasking can be a difficult. If you have an interactive whiteboard, the lesson can be saved and printed out easily. Providing notes for support staff prior to the lesson can help them assist with follow-up exercises.

Wendy Fortescue-Hubbard is a teacher and game inventor. She has been awarded a three-year fellowship by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) to spread maths to the masses. Email your questions to Mathagony Aunt at Or write to TES Teacher, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX

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