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What time is it? It's activity o'clock

Maths is not a spectator sport, says John Dabell. Get pupils breaking into more than just a mental sweat and their numeracy will come on in leaps and bounds.Ages 5-7

When most people are asked to think of an active subject in school, PE is likely to spring to mind while maths takes a back seat.

But the latter is not a spectator sport. It's a subject oozing with countless opportunities to shake, rattle and roll.

Making sense of mathematical concepts is best done through active learning, via hands-on activities that challenge pupils. With younger children, there are some great opportunities to use large floor resources.

The huge Time Activity Mat shows an analogue clock with colour-coded hour and minute hands on which children can practise reading, displaying and calculating elapsed time. The clock is so big that children can use their own arms to show different times and actually be part of the mechanism.

Another floor resource that is more feet-on than hands-on is the American import Math Mat. Children listen to number identification or adding and subtraction games and then step on the correct answer in an arcade dance-style mat. There are two levels of activity - and games move faster as scores get higher. Getting legs and brain to work together is no easy task for very young learners, so using the mat can help improve co-ordination.

Less active, but a resource that helps young learners literally get to grips with their addition and subtraction is Flexitable. This is a plastic number grid with vertical and horizontal rows and columns that allow children to calculate sums by folding. It's low-tech, practical and great value for money.

Plus, there's a range of assessment strategies you can use to evaluate learning. For example, children can explore a true-false statement, design a puzzle poster, discuss odd-one-out problems, play matching games or cards.

In each case, the overriding intention is to provoke thought, get children talking and make maths a social activity with inquiry at its heart.

John Dabell teaches at the Lawn Primary School in Derby.

Where to buy

Time Activity Mat, pound;30.49, and Math Mat, pound;35.19, both from

- Flexitable, pound;2.20 each from


Key stage 1

Book: I Can Do Maths by Andrew Dunn (Schofield and Sims, pound;14.95 is an exciting and inspiring teachers' guide that explains how to implement a new teaching method across the school using mental arithmetic. Suitable for KS1 and 2.

CD Mathematics Homework CD Year 1 by Steve Reeder and Liam Dodd (pound;19.95 plus VAT provides customisable homework activities for every week of the year. Based on the Renewed Primary Framework for Mathematics.

Website: contains a wealth of interactive activities for school or home across the entire maths curriculum, from reception to Year 6.

Key stage 2

Book: The Dyscalculia Toolkit by Ronit Bird (pound;29.99 www.paulchapman This book and CD contains a fine assortment of 200 teaching activities and 40 practical games for teaching the basics of numeracy.

CD Mult-e-Maths New Framework Edition CD-Rom Y6 (pound;250, excluding VAT is organised into the seven new strands of the renewed framework. Contains excellent lesson builder options for personalising resources and lessons. Visual, interactive and ideal for whiteboards.

John Dabell.

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