Tag-Archive for ◊ maths ◊

Times Tables Rock
Saturday, June 04th, 2016 | Author:

As many teachers will know, it is now a Year 4 expectation that children will know all of their times tables. This is obviously useful throughout the maths curriculum but I am not going to debate whether children should or shouldn’t learn them all. This post is to share a fantastic resource that Jo Payne (www.mrspteach.com) pointed me towards earlier this year.

Times Table Rockstars (www.ttrockstars.com) is an online tool that tests children on times tables. That’s it. It isn’t fancy and it doesn’t wrap them up in racing/football/skiing games or whatever like some tools might do, it just shows a multiplication/division question and the children answer it. Quickly.

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Let’s start from the beginning. You get a four-week free trial (good) and you can upload your whole school using a csv file (great). I created accounts for my whole school in minutes. Every ICT leader must surely have a csv file with all pupils on as this is the default way of creating logins for so many tools these days. If not, get one from your MIS system (ask the lovely people in the office). You can then put children into classes or bands and you’re away. We decided not to set them up in classes but to call our classes 2x, 3x, 2/5/10x etc after the different times table groupings. The children still have weekly tests in class and if they pass, they move to a different band. You can assign times tables to a particular band too. So the 2/5/10x band are only given 2/5/10x table questions. Makes sense, right?

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Once logged in, the children are given a rock star and can choose from some bizarre rock star names. If they don’t like them, they pick again and again and again… They can also choose hair, eyes and other avatar essentials. Then the fun starts…

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They can either go into one of the training modes or they can go into the rock festivals. These arenas (named after different venues such as Glastonbury or Wembley) are where the children can battle against each other. Often, I will have a whole class of children trying to get into the same arena so they can all play against each other. As they answer questions correctly, they earn coins. These coins can be used to adapt their avatar and also show in the leaderboards (turn these off if you want to). Each game only lasts 60 seconds.

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There is also a new feature where children can challenge a friend. So one will play a game and send the time to their friend, when they log in, they will see the challenge and be able to see a “ghost” of their friend’s achievements and try and beat it. Friendly competition is a good thing.

So, how have we used it? I would say we have 2/3 times a week where the children will have 10 minutes on Rockstars. We use chromebooks which load in seconds so we can be up and running, playing a game in under a minute. The children will then play at least 5 rounds, answering 50+ questions in minutes.

For each child, it shows a times table grid. As they get the answers right, the squares go green so I know which children need targeting in which areas. I still teach times tables and I still practise in the normal ways, but this gives the children an additional resource to use too. They even choose to go on this when given free time.

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The children in my class have made massive progress in their times table knowledge and this is the culmination of lots of different approaches but TTRockstars has definitely helped. It also has a range of paper-based times table tests too.

How much does it cost? £50 per year for the whole school. An absolute bargain.

Share and Share Alike
Wednesday, June 05th, 2013 | Author:

I currently teach a fairly able Maths group, it’s mainly Year 4 with four Year 3 children in it too. We’ve worked very hard this year and made great progress but I wanted to explore with a few different challenges and projects as the year draws to a close. Recently we ran our own businesses and I wanted to try something new. I had a few ideas, but I took to Twitter to see what others had in mind.

One that I hadn’t thought of was mentioned by Ben Barton from Zondle and then again by @thisisliamm – buying and selling shares. Now, I have to admit that I am not an expert in this area but it seemed like something we could do without too much hard work.

The idea is that each group has £1000 to invest in a range of companies. I limited this to 6, but most stuck to 3-4 companies. We used the real-time website: http://shareprices.com/ftse100 for the prices and I set about explaining the concept.

The children decided how many shares to buy and then they added it to the Google Spreadsheet that I had setup. I had already created the formula the children would need (number of shares x cost per share) so that on day one, they could focus on the buying. Actual maths work would come in day 2. We were also limited by time with each lesson being around 50 minutes long.

They were also encouraged to buy in multiples of 10, except for when they were spending the last of their money and might have to buy a different amount.

On Day 2, I prepared a table on paper with various columns for them to work out the profit/loss per share. They then had to multiply this by the number of shares.

For example, Tesco went down by 12p per share, and I had 50 so 12p x 50 was a £6.00 loss. We then added up the profit/loss totals for an overall figure. so far the winning child has made a profit of £1.60 and all but two have made a loss! The biggest loss being around £14. I am wondering if using a real-time website, with live prices is the best idea. I have an inkling that prices fluctuate a lot during the day and settle at the close, so for Day 3, I am printing the prices instead. This will also mean that I don’t need to get netbooks out, we can go straight into our maths books. Also, rather than working out the profit/loss per share, the children were relying on the +/- figure on the website which led to LOTS of confusion!

So far, it’s quite interesting in a number of ways. For example, EasyJet’s shares are 1267p which many worked out to be £1.26 rather than £12.67. So we have had to remind about dividing by 100.

I’m not sure how long we’ll do this, my guess is another two days, then check maybe once a week to see how we’re doing. It is fun to see the children out of their comfort zone though.

Oh…after the first day I am £3.96 down…

Liam’s blog post is here.

Category: blogposts, Curriculum  | Tags: ,  | 2 Comments
Solving a problem
Saturday, March 17th, 2012 | Author:

In our maths lessons we are trying to include more problem solving opportunities. The idea is having a range of one-off stand-alone lessons that can be done with mixed ability classes on any area of maths. Ideally starting with year 3-4 (7-9 year olds). This will also help me as I float from one class to another as PPA cover.

So, if you have an idea or something that has worked with your class, feel free to share it using the form below! I’ll collate these and blog them again later.

Pictographs and Pictograms
Saturday, November 05th, 2011 | Author:

John Mclear and his team have made many fantastic websites and tools including Primary Wall, Satpin, Primary Games Arena and Primary Pad, but the new one is fantastic.

It’s the pictograph tool. This tool lets you create a simple pictograph using any subjects you choose. This is a great idea as there are some tools that let you make pictographs but the tool chooses the topic and the criteria. This means you can choose your favourite colour, but it has to be one of the selected colours.

On this tool, you can change the direction of the graph, change the selected picture and as you can see from below, embed it into a blog or website too. Oh and it’s free and you don’t even need a log-in to use it.

Simple but very effective.


Make your own pictogram with the Primary Technology Free online Pictogram creator

Manga High – A bit of an overview
Sunday, October 09th, 2011 | Author:

I wrote a few months ago about Manga High now that it was free and I thought I’d follow it up now that we have been using it for a bit. The last blog post was written just after the free launch and I have to say, prior to this I had never really looked at the site because of the cost. I remember seeing it at Bett a few times and thinking it was a lot of money to pay for online games and it didn’t look good enough for me to warrant exploring further. But now that we have dabbled a bit, I am quite impressed.

So, where to start? I probably should start with how easy it is to make classes and users, but I won’t, I’ll come back to that in a minute. We gave all of our children a log-in to the site in May of this year and we told them to go and play around. We have probably used the site for 1 lesson in two different maths groups. Many of the children are yet to see it or use it in school but have used it from home instead. This is an entirely free choice and we haven’t (yet) set it as homework. You can print out log-in cards for the children if you need to.

The main gist of the site is that the children log-in and can play a variety of maths games from KS2 (well, level 2) upwards. It is great for extending children as it includes year 7/8/9 objectives too. The children can play the maths games using a free-choice or the teacher can set challenges. The challenges can be assigned to a particular class or even one pupil. So I have just set some multiplication games for one maths group and they need to reach the silver badge to complete the challenge, but the more-able group might need to reach the gold level instead. The levels relate to points and sometimes the children can choose a harder game which is worth more points over an easier one which is worth less.

So from May-July we gave the children this free-choice and many went and explored. For each game, and for the whole school, there is a leaderboard. Now I have some doubts about this, as it could mean the less-able children never getting their name in lights, but I haven’t noticed that yet, all I have noticed is children playing more and more until they get on that board too. One of my favourite pastimes is to spend 10 minutes playing a game and setting a high score for the children to beat. They love the idea of beating the teacher! You also get challenges with other schools from time-to-time and the winner is the school with the most points over a few days. Not critical but it is a bit of fun.

Setting challenges is easy and you simply search by level or year group and you assign them to a class. It would be nice to choose from more games and not all of them seem to appear in the search options, but maybe that’s just me.

So for like-ability from the children, Manga High scores highly from the children. From the ICT coordinator in me it scores even higher.  Firstly it provides a school-based URL so that my children visit that URL and not just www.mangahigh.com, this helps because then it knows Bob Smith is MY Bob Smith and it doesn’t need a bunch of numbers after the log-in because there are 200 other Bob Smiths. Simple, but again not many providers give you this choice!

I discussed creating usernames and passwords before but Manga High sets the bar extremely high. Let’s start with the initial creation, it is all done simply using CSV files. It even gives you a demo one to edit. When you upload it asks you which column is the firstname, which is lastname and which is the class. **My tip? Also add a password column to provide children with a generic password, they can change this later, but it’s better than dolphin456 or whatever the site defaults to. When it comes to username creation, only 2Simple’s Purple Mash comes close for ease of use. I had 200 accounts created in seconds. However, last term we created them as year groups but this term we wanted to make them into maths sets instead. So, do I delete everyone and start again? Nope, it has it covered.

I started this term with a CSV of all the maths groups across the KS2 year groups (well I started with word docs from the staff, I had to make the CSVs myself but y’know). I had all of the children, I had the data and I used the same upload tool to create the accounts. Now, some children have left the school and others have joined but the tool manages this and shows a lovely graphical representation to show which accounts it thinks are new or not needed anymore. Better yet, it can link accounts so last year I had some Daniels e.g. Daniel Smith but this time I’d shortened it to Dan Smith and the system guessed they were linked, but then I had a Tom Smith in Y3 and a Bob Smith in last year’s y6 that it also guessed were linked, I told the tool it was wrong and the link was broken. Hard to explain, but amazing when you see it working. What it really means is that I didn’t get a new account for Dan because he had a Daniel account last year.

I’m sure it sounds baffling, but what it means is that usernames can be created or updated in seconds. When maths groups change later in the year, I’ll re-upload and it’ll shift everyone around for me and all of their achievements will have been saved. Which keeps them happy!!

My criticisms?

  • The leaderboards don’t refresh automatically, sometimes it can take a few hours (or days) before it changes. This is a shame as I’d love to be able to refresh the screen and make it a competitive maths lesson!
  • On a wireless system it can sometimes take a while to load the games due to their high quality
  • Err…the kids like the ‘shooty’ game a bit too much?
So give it a go and see if you can get on that top 10 schools leaderboard!
Manga High goes free
Wednesday, May 04th, 2011 | Author:

This is a bit of an odd post, I’ve been asked to write it but then I am still only doing it because I think it could be a good resource.

Manga High (www.mangahigh.com) is now free. I’m not sure what the catch is, but I have just registered 200 children with their own usernames and passwords in about 5 minutes.

The site provides maths games for KS2 and above. You can assign challenges to the children e.g. complete times table to a bronze level, but this would be best if you set the children up in maths groups or by ability. I have currently set children up in year groups but once we have played around, I may change it about a bit. I may also just leave it as something for children to play with rather than use in lessons.

You can also challenge other schools and win prizes/badges etc for the more games you complete. But the best bit? There isn’t another username to remember. You decide them.

So, if you have a VLE/Google Apps or whatever, simply create a CSV file (like this: http://www.undertenminutes.com/?p=221 ) and have one column for first name, last name, username, password and class. Our usernames for Manga High will be the same as they are for Google Apps. Simple. I would suggest uploading all users at once though, it got a bit confused when I tried uploading them as different year groups…

The next step is to pass it to the Digital Leaders and let them review it. I’ll share their thoughts soon.


Maths and Parents
Sunday, November 21st, 2010 | Author:

Yet again Twitter has helped out. We are holding a Maths evening for parents this week and each year team are going to be sharing ideas to support parents and encourage the use of Maths at home. Now, being a PPA teacher, I didn’t want to be left out so I suggested that I share some useful websites because I knew of a few such as Tutpup, Nrich and PrimaryGamesArena. So I set to work taking screenshots of those and adding them to a PowerPoint. While doing this, I sent a tweet asking for ideas and once again I wasn’t let down. Even on a Sunday afternoon. So to be fair, I have collected the links and these are now embedded in the PPT below.

I hope you will find it useful too.Thanks to everyone for sharing. I have left off sites like Education City and Mathletics as I wanted to keep this free.

***Note: To download it, click on the arrow at the bottom of the presentation***

And yes I know, it’s not pretty. My job was just to find useful sites 🙂

Category: blogposts, General Thoughts  | Tags: ,  | 4 Comments