Get them up and running

14th October 2005 at 01:00

I am an NQT teacher and have been teaching fractions of amounts to my pupils. They find this a really hard concept. I had lots of objects and showed them how these could be separated into equal amounts. They seemed to grasp the idea quite well. However, a few weeks later when I tried to get them to do the exercises I had created it seems they didn't understand anything. The follow-up exercise had been quite passive. Have you any suggestions that might make this more active?


A talented teacher from America has. Carol Goodrow used this activity with her first grade class (ages 6 and 7).It's called Jog, Tempo, and Sprint, and it encourages pupils to be active while practising finding fractions of amounts. I first found a description of it on her website, which is all about getting youngsters involved in running. She stresses the importance of getting her pupils to write about the exercise once they've done it - a great way to lead up to the 2012 Olympics.

Each run has an associated speed. Jog = slow; tempo = medium; sprint = very fast. The two lessons focused on finding 12, 1Z3 and 14 parts of a group.

I have extended this slightly to include larger groups.

The activity begins with the children drawing sets of two, three or four objects onto coloured card. For my extension, have the children also create pictures with larger groups of objects, all being multiples of 2, 3 or 4 - eg 4 objects, 6 objects, 16 objects. It would take a long time to create a picture of 16 objects, so it could be multiple photocopies of their drawing, or pasted pictures. Lots of creative fun.

I asked Carol if the teacher could make the materials and her comment was "No, a teacher could make the materials, but it certainly was more fun for the kids to create them. They had more invested in it." When the pictures have been created the children used arrows and circles to represent the different fractions.

One child has created a "half" by circling two out of the four flowers she has drawn in her picture. Carol says: "This part wasn't as easy as it seems. We had to follow directions and if we didn't make a clear picture that others could understand, we had to redo it."

When the pictures are completed, take some A5 pieces of coloured card (you could laminate these for future use). On one side ask pupils to write one of the fractions and on the other to write "Jog"', "Sprint" or "Tempo", as shown on the pink cards. The materials are now ready to play the game (probably in another lesson).

Pin the pictures onto about six clipboards (so they won't blow around). Put these at one end of the playground. At the other end, give each pupil a card with the fraction on one side and the running speed on the other. Each has to run as instructed on the card to the other end of the playground and find the picture that matches the fraction on their card. When they think they have the right one they must sprint, jog or tempo run back to you.

Check the card. If they have it wrong, discuss with them how they might choose a correct picture and send them off again.

Carol says the activity can be timed, so they have 10 or 15 minutes, or it can finish when all the cards are used up.

In an email to me, Carol says: "Way back, I was influenced by Nuffield maths, which is from England, I believe." We can learn so much from each other.

The reason this game worked well: "The kids love to run, they particularly love to sprint short distances, and they had invested a lot in the game by creating it, as well as by making the materials."

On her website, Carol provides a set of rules that she says also made the activity go well.

If you have a running game she would love to hear from you to share your ideas.

* Carol Goodrow is the authorillustrator of Happy Feet, Healthy Food, Your Child's First Journal of Exercise and Healthy Eating and The Treasure of Health and Happiness (April 2006) Email:

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