Puppet power

4th May 2007 at 01:00
In the right hands, puppets can harness the power of talk and help children get to grips with their maths like no other resource. They can present eccentric and half-baked ideas and turn thinking upside down and inside out. They make maths more playful, open and engaging.

Puppets are specialists in presenting alternative ideas, which helps children see the maths world from more than one angle. They have fizzy and fuzzy ideas, they encourage discussion and they always ask children what they think. By throwing conversational stones into murky maths ponds, puppets can dip into children's thoughts, unpack their thinking and help them make sense of problems through talk.

You can use puppets to challenge common misconceptions, such as "division always makes a number smaller" or "you cannot divide small numbers by larger ones" or "4.575 is bigger than 6.1 because it has more digits".

Having two puppets argue about these ideas can provoke discussion because children join in the debate and try to help.

Puppets' hearts are bigger than their brains and they encourage children to see that all answers, whether right or wrong, are stepping stones towards fuller understanding. They are talking tools par excellence

John Dabell is a numeracy consultant and teacher trainer

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