Maths - Tricks and treats

9th March 2012 at 00:00
Card playing enhances many skills, not just maths ability

If you think bridge is the exclusive preserve of elderly ladies, you might be surprised to learn that it is thriving at the other end of the age spectrum. More than 200 primary schools - 90 per cent from the state sector - have taken part in a Minibridge initiative pioneered by the English Bridge Union (EBU) since 2008.

Early research suggests that Minibridge - a simplified form of the game that aims to lead young people to the full version - teaches and improves skills in areas from numeracy and problem-solving to speaking, listening and team building.

"Minibridge makes maths fun," said Charlie, one of 20 children aged 8-10 who I met at an event to showcase Minibridge at the Young Chelsea Bridge Club in January. Emily from Pembury School in Kent added: "It's made my counting better and I've gone up a set in maths."

The Pembury pupils are old hands at this type of event. A year ago, they went to the House of Lords to demonstrate their skills to the All-Party Parliamentary Bridge Group. Group chairwoman Lady Ruth Henig is all in favour of it.

"Over the past few years I've witnessed so many primary school children playing Minibridge and they absolutely love it," she says. "It develops their number skills as well as their social skills in a way that they find both pleasurable and exciting."

For teachers there are two distinct formats: they can either set up a Minibridge club out of school hours, but on the premises and held on a voluntary basis, or they can devote an entire maths lesson to the game each week for Years 4 or 5.

The EBU helps by providing imaginatively designed materials and also offers appropriately vetted volunteers from the ranks of local, affiliated clubs as classroom assistants.

Education secretary Michael Gove has said that he is concerned about the UK's position in international numeracy tables. Perhaps Minibridge could be part of the solution.

Sally Bugden, the chairman of EBU, certainly thinks so. "EBU, through its Youth and Education Trust, has been demonstrating how Minibridge can help young people learn maths and other skills."

Peter Sherry is chairman of the Oxford Bridge Club and a member of the English Bridge Union. For further details about Minibridge, contact Matt Betts at

What else?

For some Easter-themed maths fun, try bevevans' egg collection activity.

Go digital in your gaming by uniting Mario and maths with a lesson plan from Jan Webb.

If games aren't your thing but you still want to get active in the classroom, try rach6ye's "maths hats".

In the forums

Maths teachers are questioning Michael Gove's aim for every student to leave school with C grades in maths and English. Is this really achievable? Join the debate.

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