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A place on the board

Number games can liven up maths lessons and soothe the pain of SATs. Chris Drage picks eight of the best

Number games are an excellent way of helping children recognise numerical patterns and relationships. They are also a way of providing relief, for instance, between particularly demanding new topics or after SATs.

They can also be used to support a particular aspect of your teaching, for example, at the end of a number topic. You may, however, want to use a game for practice of core skills, rather than to reinforce a particular point. You can use games for periodic practice of these skills or as a follow-up linked to specific objectives.

Some games lend themselves to being used as a whole-class mental maths warm-up. Here, each group will play one or two rounds and the solutions will then be discussed by the class.

Once children are familiar with a game, making it something that can be drawn from with minimal preparation, you can use it more flexibly, for example, to trigger thinking and discussion. At this stage, it is not necessary to play a complete game.

Perhaps one of the best times to use number games is after your whole-class introduction, either with one group or all the groups in the class.

Without doubt, suitable games will help your class practise and develop many of the key skills at the heart of their maths.

So how do you set about making a choice? Here are some of the points to consider.

Design

Will pupils find the game attractive? If not, there's a problem from the start. Are the colours and presentation inviting? If the game looks and feels cheap, pupils may value it less. It should look interesting and motivating. Is there too much distracting text or illustration in the game? Is the board layout well thought out? Will it accommodate the number of players comfortably?

Suitability

How far does the game support the pupil (and teacher) at the stated level? In particular, is it suitable for the target age group? Is the game too hard or too easy? Does it support differentiation? Does it support a multicultural ethic or is it culturally dominant?

Coverage

What aspect of the numeracy framework does the game cover? Is it limited or broad in its scope? Which year groups would find the game a useful additional resource? How easy is it for teachers to build the game into their planning and lessons?

Instructions

Are the instructions written for the pupil or teacher or both? Are they clear and concise? How much reference to the instructions is necessary during the game and what is their quality and durability?

Chris Drage is primary ICT support adviser for Central Brent EAZ, London

TITLE

Nubble Age group: KS23 Price: pound;15 From: Happy Puzzle Company Tel: 0800 376 3727 www.happypuzzle.co.uk

DESIGN

A board game for up to four players with numbers set out from 1-100. The task is deceptively simple: you just have to create numbers less than 100 by multiplication, division, addition, or subtraction. but its subtlety and value lie in the fact that, as with Scrabble, you can employ strategies.

SUITABILITY

Upper KS2 pupils will enjoy the subtleties of the game. It could be used by a mixed ability group, because a "cheat chart" of all multiplication tables is available for the less able.

COVERAGE

The game is a novel way of practising combinations of number operations.

INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions are well illustrated and offer tips and other ways of playing, for instance, in teams. There's no suggestion as to how the game can fit into the teacher's planning, or any mapping to the numeracy framework.

VERDICT

A very sound activity as it enables children to practise those all-important numeric operations. Thoroughly recommended.

TITLE

NUMBER TRACK GAMES Age group: FoundationKS1 Price: pound;19.50 + VAT From: BEAM Education Tel: 020 7684 3323 www.beam.co.uk

DESIGN

Five colourful number track games. The numbered track on the reverse of each of the laminated A2 boards offers further learning opportunities. The accompanying booklet suggests 60 games and many teaching ideas. Includes photocopiable tracks so children can make miniature versions to play independently or take home.

SUITABILITY

All the games have identified learning intentions and use the foundation curriculum "stepping stones" as a reference point. In general, the easier games reflect the yellow and blue levels of the early years curriculum and the more difficult games the green levels and early learning goals.

COVERAGE

Easy-peasy level: use number names and number language; count with numbers in the right order. Not-so- easy level: recognise groups with one, two or three objects; count up to five objects. Pretty tough: count up to 10.

INSTRUCTIONS

Comprehensive instructions for teachers are included.

VERDICT

Will definitely help young children's mathematical knowledge, skills and understanding.

TITLE

extreme Age group: KS2 Price: pound;19.95 + VAT From: LDA Tel: 01223 357788 www.LDAlearning.com

DESIGN

Designed to develop children's mental maths skills and problem-solving strategies. The challenge is to collect cards, race around the track and be the first to reach the chequered flag. Well suited to group activity during a numeracy hour. For 1-6 players. SUITABILITY

Includes 120 game cards, 60 of which contain graded questions. Each card contains five levels of questions on the same mathematical theme, so children can be questioned at an appropriate level. The object is to collect an agreed number of extended problem cards and get to the finish. The number of cards to be collected can be varied depending on the number and ability of the players.

COVERAGE

Covers all aspects of number and shape at KS2. Should also prove invaluable for extending maths vocabulary.

INSTRUCTIONS

The instruction booklet is adequate but has an additional bonus of a really useful maths fact book and maths dictionary. These are invaluable, not just to support the game but for mathematics generally.

VERDICT

Does not have instant appeal for children but once it has been thoroughly explained and a group have got into it, then its popularity should grow.

TITLE

totally Tut Age group: KS2 Price: pound;15.95 + VAT From: Learning Resources Tel: 01553 762276 www.learningresources.com

DESIGN

The aim of this colourful, Egyptian-themed board game is to reach the top of the pyramid by combining basic number operations with order of operations practice. Designed for 2-4 players at lower KS2.

SUITABILITY

The game is a novel way of practising number operations and has some degree of differentiation by providing two levels of play: level I, addition and subtraction; level 2, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

COVERAGE

Offers practice of all number bonds and basic operations at KS2.

INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions are very brief and offer neither help nor information on integrating the game in the numeracy lesson - best described as adequate.

VERDICT

One aspect of the game I did not like was the option to steal another player's pieces. It seems strange to see an educational game reinforcing essentially anti-social behaviour. However, with careful introduction and some modification this game could prove valuable for practising basic number operations.

TITLE

Numecto Age group: KS2 Price: pound;24.95 + VAT From: NES Arnold Tel: 0845 1204525 www.nesarnold.co.uk

DESIGN

The BBC's new maths game for key stage 2. Designed to help children practise some of the most important mental maths skills and manipulate numbers more confidently. It can be played at a wide range of levels throughout KS2 and by different numbers of players.

SUITABILITY

Suitable for all ages and abilities in key stage 2.

COVERAGE

Covers properties of numbers and number sequences, place value and ordering number, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, mental calculation, checking results of calculations, reasoning about numbers

INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions are the most comprehensive of any game here with details for each year group. There is also a grid to record the details of the game.

VERDICT

You can build lessons around the game easily and build it into your planning for numeracy. The notes include full guidance on which topics in the Framework are supported and when to use it. Highly recommended an only bettered by Nubble.

TITLE

Pie in the sky fraction game Age group: KS2 Price: pound;9.99 From: NES Arnold Tel: 0845 1204525 www.nesarnold.co.uk

DESIGN

Aims to reinforce the understanding of fractions and equivalences. For the children it's a matter of being first to get three fraction pies in a row. This looks deceptively easy. Each fraction family is represented as a different flavour pie on the game board's menu. Use the menu to help locate the correct flavour pie on the game board. Attractive and well presented.

SUITABILITY

Reinforces concepts of equivalence in fractions for KS2. Relies on all players checking for the correct match, not just the current player. There is no differentiation of activity as the game is very specific in the maths being practised.

COVERAGE

The game is specific to equivalent fractions.

INSTRUCTIONS

A model of brevity, just one side of A5. There's neither any suggestion as to how the game can fit into the teacher's planning nor any mapping to the numeracy framework.

VERDICT

A satisfyingly easy means of reinforcing what's already been taught.

TITLE

NUMBER DETECTIVE Age group: KS1 Price: pound;11.99 From: The Happy Puzzle Company Tel: 0800 376 3727 www.happypuzzle.co.uk

DESIGN

Designed for 1-4 players. The game is about spying and is a novel way for children to touch and discover number. Hidden in a "treasure box" are foam numerals. Children reach into the box and guess the numerals they feel inside. With 10 ways to play, Number Detective can grow with the children.

SUITABILITY

Well suited to four to six-year-olds. Children learn to differentiate between numbers by touch and sight and learn to put amounts together. The materials can be used in many ways and offer a range of activities.

COVERAGE

The game covers numeral recognition, language development, understanding shape, numeracy development, fine motor skills and sequencing. More specifically: matching numbers to card, addition, comparing numbers, double digit numbers, first calculations, discovering number patterns, ordinal numbers.

INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions for each of the 10 activities are very clear and straightforward.

VERDICT

A truly delightful game, which children enjoy and become involved in.

TITLE

Trilemma Age group: KS12 Price: pound;9.99 From: Formative Fun Tel: 01297 489880 www.formative-fun.com

DESIGN

Simple in both design and concept, Trilemma is a multi level numeracy game for 2-4 players aimed at Years 2-4. The game is played on a multi coloured, 100-square board, the colours of which correspond to bands containing questions on cards. A piece is placed on the correct answer on the board, the object being to get three-in-a-row.

SUITABILITY

The cards have three bands of questions, each increasing in difficulty, so the game can be played at any of the levels.

COVERAGE

Multiplication tables, prime numbers, factors, square numbers, odd and even numbers.

INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions are succinct in the extreme and offer the teacher no guidance on using the game in the numeracy lesson.

VERDICT

Simple but effective, Trilemma should prove a useful small group activity.

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