Adding to the fun factor

20th June 2003 at 01:00
Angela Youngman visits a school that has found a novel way to make maths fun

Maths can sometimes seem like a hard slog for many children, which is why "maths fundays" can revitalise both children and teachers. Arden Grove first school, Norwich, has held several such fundays and staff are convinced of their value. The latest was held this term and involved the entire school.

A key element of the day was to link the various year groups together.

Older children were paired with younger ones and activities were designed so that one could help the other as needed. For example, in the bean-bag challenge, reception children had to hit a PE marker with a bean bag while their partners counted how many times they succeeded. One of the most popular activities was "musical answers", a variation on musical chairs.

This was played by children in mixed-year pairs who had to answer question cards and sit down when someone gave the correct answer.

Other activities included a giant floor snakes amp; ladders game in which team members acted as counters; cutting half faces out of magazines and using skin tone crayons to complete the other half; and using computer software to create symmetrical pictures in ICT. Pass-the-parcel involved number problems in each layer - two sweets were awarded for answers without help, one sweet if help was needed. There was also a mathematical version of the popular game Twister.

Other maths problems included naming a symmetrical capital letter, counting back from 20, finding out half of 36, turning 180 degrees, working out the ages of the two people next to you and doubling it, as well as working out sums using the four operations. The two Year 3 classes each set up a separate orienteering course. They had to measure the field, plot a course, design markers with maths problems to solve en route and draw scale maps.

They then had to guide their Year 1 partners round the course designed by the other class. "The children really enjoyed this and it was vital they worked together," says acting head Claire Hannant.

Underlying the individual games was a challenge for the day. Each class had to learn a different maths song and find out all they could about the number 24. At the end of the day all the groups came together to present their findings.

Organising the event was not straightforward. "Autistic children can find such events very stressful. We prepare them well in advance and explain just how things are going to be different," explains Claire Hannant. There was one staff meeting to decide on the activities and to work out which classes would work together. The equipment came out of existing supplies.

Also there was the problem that many parents who would normally have helped out were still awaiting police checks, so there was only a limited number of adults available to supervise. "We designed the day so that the children could work a lot more on their own. A lot of the work on symmetry involved computer programmes and worksheets which didn't need a lot of adult supervision," says Claire Hannant. But she felt any difficulties were outweighed by the results: "We will certainly do other fundays. It shows pupils that the skills they learn have a practical use and that maths can be fun."

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