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The numeracy column

Jenny Houssart finds a use for left-over holiday change

Some people return from holidays abroad with souvenirs, others with lots of loose change. If you are in the latter group, you have acquired excellent teaching aids. Foreign coins fascinate children. The collection is a starting point for mathematical activities that could also be run with British, toy or even chocolate coins - if they last long enough.

As children start to investigate and sort the coins, they will naturally read the numbers. Italian and Spanish coins will let you include big numbers without breaking the bank. I have heard children arguing about what the zeros mean, and how to read the numbers. This is a particularly good activity for older low attainers, as establishing the coin's number seems more mature than an encounter with flash cards. After reading the numbers and putting like coins together, it's a small step to counting in fives, 10s, 20s and 100s.

Ten coins of similar denomination are useful for exploring number bonds. If you have, for example, ten 10-centime pieces, children can find ways of putting them in two piles, thus finding pairs of multiples of 10 totalling 100. The really smart thing is to find the connection between these two exercises. If that's too difficult, you can retreat a step to 10 chocolate coins divided into two piles, or shift to asking how many will remain if a specified number are eaten. Someone is sure to help you with the practical side of things.

Links to Framework for Teaching Mathematics * Reading numbers: recognise numerals (R) ... read and write numbers to at least 20 (Year 1) ... 100 (Y2) ... 1,000 (Y3) * Counting: count in 10s (R, Y1, 2, 3) ... in 100s (Y3) * Addition: add or subtract multiples of 10 (Y2, 3, 4) ... multiples of 100 (Y4, 5) * Number facts: know pairs of numbers that total 10 (Y1) ... pairs of multiples of 10 that total 100 (Y2) ... pairs of multiples of 100 that total 1,000 (Y3).

Jenny Houssart is a research fellow at the Open University Centre for Maths.

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