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19th May 2000 at 01:00
Marjorie Gorman sees video combined with discussion and activity in a Year 2 class

Carolyn Gilrain, deputy head of Crofton infant school, wants her Year 2 maths class to revisit previous work on numbers to 100. She supports the lesson with the Channel 4 The Number Crew video programme on two-digit numbers.

In the first part of the lesson the children count forwards and backwards in different steps and from different starting points, focusing on counting in tens. For the main part of the lesson Ms Gilrain introduces the characters of The Number Crew and says she hopes the class will be able to help Fiz, Flo and Bradley solve some of their problems.

In this episode members of The Number Crew are decorating. They have 100 tiles but they cannot work out how to put them in the right order. Ms Gilrain stops the video and asks the children to think about the problem. After some discussion they suggest writing numbers on the backs of the tiles. The video continues, and the number Crew have the same idea, but cannot write the numbers to 100. Matthew, the presenter, dressed as an American sleuth, with a Manhattan skyline in the background, starts a "rap" about writing two-digit numbers and the dangers to look out for: "To write 41 you put a four and then you put a one. It's like it's all in order and you can't go wrong. But if you want the number that is called 14, you're dealing with a number that's a little bit mean ... Remember, remember, those teens are mean! The one comes first when you write a teen!" The children love the rap and start to join in. The next problem involves a snake who is hanging upside down over the design. He is cofused by 18 and 81. "Why is the snake confused?" asks Ms Gilrain. "Because he's looking at the number upside-down," comes the reply. Just to confirm this, one boy stands up, and, looking between his legs at the 100-square on the wall says: "That's right - 18 looks like 81 and 81 looks like 18 from here." The teacher shows a large number card of 18 and turns it upside down to convince any other doubters. She asks if they can think of any similar two-digit numbers. No one can, but some children think it would be an interesting question to take up later. After talking through the programme the children work in pairs to count the contents of different baskets by grouping into tens. They work individually on number lines or write a spiral of number words.

For 20 minutes or so the class works assiduously. Ms Gilrain, calling the class together, chooses several children to describe how they have organised their coins or cubes and whether they are surprised by their final count. One pair has counted 2p coins, 128 of them, a number they know they have to double to find how much money they have.

Carolyn Gilrain says that the spiral writing, which the children have found very appealing, makes a good assessment activity. Although number words are mentioned in the numeracy strategy, she thinks they take up a disproportionate amount of time at this stage. She is very enthusiastic about the "mean teens" rap which, she hopes, will give the children a useful "mantra" for their end of key stage tests next term.

Marjorie Gorman acted as maths consultant for Open Mind, which produces 'The Number Crew' for Channel 4See Resources, page 22

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