Adding Adder and Subtraction Snake

Adding Adder and Subtraction Snake live together in our box of maths games.

It’s always great when your headteacher says there is some money to spend … so we enjoyed choosing more games and resources for the Big Room. Mrs Baker found these boxes of fun maths games which have proved to be very popular with the children and teachers.

One day a group of P1 and P2 children, plus me, were busy playing Adding Adder  – a great game to practise number bonds to 10. When they had finished beating me, one child asked if we could play another game. “I want to play this one”, he said, lifting out Subtraction Snake. “Well that game is about some maths that you and your partner have not learned about yet”, I replied, “but we could give it a go if you like.” Straight away there was a chorus of, “We can help”. “We can show him how to play”. ” We can explain about take aways”.  So …  once we had sorted out the ‘who’s having which colour counter, who’s going first’  issues, (board games are great for developing social skills!), off we went. I rapidly took a back seat and by the end of the game I was just about ready to proffer  my resignation and hand over the teaching business to the children – they are SUCH good teachers. Our new subtraction learners were shown how to take away numbers using cubes or fingers – ‘put out 10 cubes or fingers, and now take away the number on the spinner, and now count to see how many are left and that’s the number of spaces you can move along the snake’. They were shown how you could take away by counting back, ‘ put 10 in your head, look at the spinner and count back that number and then when you get to the last number move that number of spaces’. They were shown how to use a number line to take away, ‘ start at 10 and count back, what number have you got to? Move that number on the snake’. They were shown how to take away by counting on, ‘ put the spinner number in your head and count on to 10. How many fingers have you put up? Move that number of fingers.’  And they were shown how to use number bonds to help too, ‘ Well you know that 6 and 4 make 10 so 10 take away 4 must be 6 – it’s a linking fact  – you can write it on a triangle like this…’ PHEW! Incredibly helpful or information overload? It was interesting to see how each child had their preferred method of calculating and which one our new learners settled on. One needed the concrete visual support of the cubes. The other liked to count back using fingers. But we all agreed that the game went fastest for the children who could quickly recall their number bond linking facts – the ones who just knew that 10 – 3 = 7 – just like that! It was a great way of helping the children to see what they should be aiming for, (fast mental recall), but that there were different ways of working out and explaining what was going on in these calculations.

I must remember to plan  ‘You be the Teacher’ more often!

We love the blocks!

They’re wooden, smooth, tactile, come in all sorts of 3-dimensional shapes, fitting them NEATLY back into their box is the ultimate Krypton Factor challenge, (bet loads of you are too young to remember that!), and they have to be one of the most popular resources in the Big Room… they are The Blocks! We all love building with them, (although I just love fitting them back in their box – a very satisfying bit of 3-D tidying up!), and children are often reaching for the class camera to record their amazing constructions. But… is it just children playing with wooden blocks? The answer, of course is no – they are not ‘just’ playing, they are creating, learning, cooperating and so much more. Even though I have spent the last year immersing myself in the principles and practice of active learning in the classroom I can still lapse into the ‘just playing with blocks’ frame of mind.  But each time I’m shown the latest technical design for the new CalMac ferry, the next ancient stone circle, the seat that actually fits and supports a real child, the symmetrically balanced sculpture, the castle with the secret door, the  set for another Comic Life film making project  I am constantly reminded and amazed at the learning potential which arises when you mix children with wooden shapes.

Can you make a symmetrical building? ... Almost ... what needs to change?
Yes we can!

I’ve seen that Blocks + Children + A little bit of adult interaction = relevant, creative, motivated learning. I had specific Curriculum for Excellence outcomes in mind when we resources the construction area, (the home of The Blocks), in the Big Room, but as I was downloading the latest pictures from the camera – and there they were again – I wondered just how much of the curriculum could be addressed through the blocks. When our headteacher Mrs Johnston and I visited Luing and Easdale Primaries in march, they had blocks too, (bigger than ours … mmm), and their joint head, Stephen said he reckoned you could teach the whole curriculum with the blocks. I’m not exactly quoting you on that Stephen – but it is blocks for thought….

Developing a sense of pride and achievement, and balancing!
Can you make a clock face? Not what I expected!
OK Mrs Harper - we can put numbers on too - and by the way it's three o'clock.
Cooperating and working together. Can you make a rocket? How tall can you make it?