Should schools promote Scottish tradition and culture?

Having been in different primary schools, I believe that although Scottish history is taught in primary school often Scottish tradition is not thoroughly explored. Scottish Culture lies at the centre of life in Scotland (Scottish Government, p.3). Scottish culture is very well known about and respected in other countries and is why Scotland is an extremely popular tourist destination (Scottish Government, p.3).

Whilst I was in Canada, I volunteered for a week in a local elementary school. I observed the strong sense of national pride. Every morning, the national anthem was played and the children were made to stand whilst it was played. The school also had the Canadian Flag flying prominently in its grounds. The children took great pride in their country and spoke very openly about being Canadian, even though Canada is a relatively new country and many of its occupants migrated just a few generations ago.

Many families in Scotland have lived here for generations and this in turn means that many children’s ancestors have been involved in historic battles. However, often this is not portrayed to children and they are unable to see how events of the past shape their lives today.

I believe that although children are often taught “O Flower of Scotland”, Scotland’s unofficial national anthem, they are not taught the meaning of the song. The songs explores the strength of Scots in the Wars of Independence (BBC News, 2015). Therefore, often children are unable to make a connection between the importance of the wars of independence and how different their lives would be now had the outcome been different. Instead they can recite the song off by heart but have no true understanding of the words that they sing.

It is important when teaching social studies that you start in the present and relate all learning to the lives of the individual child making it relevant to them. It is important to teach local geography and history and relate learning to culture and tradition which is still in place today.

There are examples of attempts to reintroduce the importance of Scottish culture and tradition to children today. Scottish Opera have announced that they are currently touring with the play “The Tale o’ Tam o’ Shanter” which is based on ‘Tam O’Shanter’, a traditional Scottish poem by Robert Burns.  They aim to re-introduce the works of the famous poet to children in Scotland in a fun and productive way (Scottish Opera, 2016, p.1). They hope this will allow children to explore the Scottish culture, identity and language (Scottish Opera, 2016, p.1).

The Burns’ Supper is also often celebrated in schools to introduce Scottish traditions. Often children are made to memorise and recite poems with no understanding of what the poem means or what it is about. Instead online resources, such as the one created by Carol Magee (nd) expresses different ways in which teachers can teach children about Scottish culture and tradition in a way which allows children to explore and identify the changes in Scottish culture. This also allows teachers to integrate literacy within social studies as the children learn to analyse and interpret the poem.



BBC News (2015) Available at: (accessed on 15/10/17).

Magee, C (nd) A Burns supper with Liz Lochhead Scottish Book Trust. Available at: (last accessed on 14/10/17).

Scottish Opera (2016) Scottish Opera’s Primary Schools Tour Explores Robert Burns’ Classic Available at: (last accessed on 14/10/17).

Room on the Broom


During one of our Early Years Mathematics lectures, we were asked to share with an activity which included the use of a picture book that could be used in an early years classroom. The activity I have come up with would help children learn ordinal numbers. It includes the children remembering the order of which the animals got on the broom. The teacher would promote the idea of the witch being first on the broom. The cat being second and so on.

This activity could be tackled in many ways:

–          As a class – the teacher could have print outs of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th and pictures of the witch and the animals for the children to match up.

–          Individually/In pairs – the same idea except on one piece of paper and to be matched up either by drawing lines or colouring the boxes the same colour. Doing this activity in pairs would encourage the children to communicate using the words first, second, third, etc.

The activity can be made more interactive by making a broom and finger puppets (Parker, no date) but I feel that this would be difficult to control and be challenging to support each child individually. Instead a previously made broom and finger puppets would be effective for the teacher to use and explain. If possible one for each table would be beneficial as it could be used as a prop if children are struggling.

By placing the finger puppets on the broom, it would give the teachers the opportunity to assess the children’s understanding of the order. She could ask individual children which animal is 3rd on the broom. By doing it this way, the children are not simply repeating the animals in the same order and will help with recognition.



Parker, C. (no date) Room on the Broom – Learning Ordinal Numbers. Available at:

Why use Nursery Rhymes

5 currant buns in a baker’s shop

Round and fat with a cherry on the top

Along came (choose a child)

With a penny one day

Bought a currant bun and took it away

4 currant buns in a baker’s shop

And so on

There is a large amount of mathematical language used in this nursery rhyme

Five – introduced numbers and counting. The idea of subtraction is introduced when one is taken away and it becomes four currant buns.

Round – Introduces the idea of shape, the currant bun is circular.

Penny – introduces the idea of money.

Took it away – reinforces the idea that the number will get smaller as one has been removed.

Being able to include the children into the song will increase motivation and involvement. It will also introduce a visual element. The teacher could have money for the child to collect and give to her in return for an item. Having the other four items on the table would help children understand the concept of 5-1=4

Before this lecture, I hadn’t thought about the use of nursery rhymes in early years. I can’t remember singing nursery rhymes in Primary 1 but I remember singing them in Primary 2. My teacher made a point of having us sing, she taught us some common nursery rhymes but also some older more unusual nursery rhymes which I still remember to this day.

While doing work experience in a Canadian school over the summer, I volunteered with early years. I spend most of my time with an ASN class with children in Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten. In the morning, when the children came in they were given some tasks to do which were the same every day. One was to listen to a song, all of which were nursery rhymes. The children all sang or moved along to them and now that I think back to it, many of them included a mathematical element to them.

Nursery rhyme introduces the idea of sequences to children. They include numbers, counting and other maths words such as size and weight all of which children have to learn (KBYU Eleven, 2010). It allows children to learn to count both forwards and backwards.

I feel that it is important to sing nursery rhymes with children in the early years as it helps with their mathematical, language and cognitive development. Some children will not have parents who sing with them so it is important that they are given this opportunity to learn as well. Nursery rhymes is an easy way to get all children involved and learning without them even realising it.



KBYU Eleven (2010) Rhymes are readers: The importance of Nursery Rhymes. Available at:



Science Experiment – Reflection

We conducted a science experiment to see if the height of which an object was dropped would affect the speed of which it would fall.

The dependent variable was the height and the independent variable was the type, weight and material of the ball, the force of which it was being dropped at, and the surface it was being dropped on.

To select our dependent and independent variable, we used planning sheets which I found very effective as it ensured you that all aspects were covered to make the experiment as controlled as possible. I feel that this would be beneficial for children as it allows them to recognise the elements which need to be considered. This would help clear any confusion the children may have on the experiment which would ensure that the experiment runs as smoothly as possible.

We then predicted what would happen in the experiment. By having the children predict what will happen during the experiment will create a discussion between the children as to why they believe this will happen. This is a key time for teachers to ask open questions as to why the child believes this.

Once we completed the experiment and looked at the results, we instantly noticed a trend that the higher the ball was held the longer it took to hit the ground, this is what we predicted. We portrayed our results in a graph and a table. It is important for children to record their data so that they can begin to develop the skill of recording data and being able to interpret it. It is essential at this stage that the children have recently completed graph work in mathematics or children may not know or remember how to draw a graph. This is where the link between mathematics and science becomes most apparent.

We concluded that the higher the object is dropped at, the longer it takes to hit the surface. By making children conclude their experiment, it will show if they have been able to stay on task and see if their results match their predictions.

Maps, Maths and More Maps

We recently received a workshop from Richard which looked at the aspect of mathematics involved in reading a map. We completed the task on google maps, because sadly we were not allowed to complete the task in the middle of the Highlands due to health and safety. We were placed in an area which we were not familiar with and were told to go from a primary school to a small street. We had to memorise the route and then complete it in street view.

I found this task very straight forward. My strategy was to memorise the general direction in which I had to travel and estimate how long to travel in that direction. Then additionally to remember distinct places to aid me. I managed to complete the task rapidly and was then asked to help another group. I feel that the reason other groups struggled was because they looked too deeply into the task and ended up confusing themselves.  By using basic ideas (Ma, 2010), such as estimation and distance, I was able to get from point A to B relatively quickly. However, I am aware that my way is not the only way to do this as there is multiple perspectives (Ma, 2010) in the way in which this activity could have been approached.

I developed map reading skills from a young age as I completed a map reading badge when I was younger in Pony Club. At horse riding, I constantly used my map reading skills to work out where I was going to ride my horse, this increased when my whole riding school moved yards and we were all in a new surroundings. While exploring our new surroundings, things often didn’t go to plan and I developed the skills to remain calm and not panic. I feel that this is one of the reasons I was able to complete the task effectively and remain calm when other people were getting themselves uptight.

I feel that this activity would be very effective in the Primary School Classroom as it allows children to do Mathematics without realising it. By teaching children mathematical concepts without labelling the class as a maths class shows children that mathematics is involved in different subjects and you may not even notice it. It might also help children who feel anxious when learning about mathematics feel more confident when doing maths.



Ma, L., (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics (Anniversary Ed.). New York: Routledge.

Where has the penny gone?

This summer, I went on holiday to Canada to visit family. I stayed in Markham, Ontario which is about half an hour from the centre of Toronto (which is not the capital of Canada).

On my first full day in Canada, my cousin and I ended to Downtown Toronto to do some shopping. We went to a small tourist shop as I wanted to buy a cup (I felt that I needed a new staffroom cup and what’s better than a cup with the skyline of Toronto on it). My cousin told me this confusing piece of information.

“The cup will come to about $8.93 but you will only get $1.05 dollars change”

I looked at her confusingly.

“What about the other 2 cents?”

She explained that in Canada they no longer make “pennies” which are one cent so to allow cash transactions they are now rounded to the closest 5 cents (CBC News, 2013). In 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint ceased the penny. However, the coin is still a legal tender. It wasn’t until 3rd February 2013, that the Royal Canadian Mint officially stopped distributing the penny (Royal Canadian Mint, no date)

canadian-coinsWhile in Markham, I volunteered in an elementary school. I volunteered in the class where my auntie is a support teacher. The class consists of 6 Kindergarten (Primary 1) and Grade 1 (Primary 2) children who are all very high on the autistic spectrum. When I was there, the children were learning about the names and values of all the coins which I found very interesting. They were still taught about the “Penny” though it was explained to them that they are no longer made. The children nodded to this but one of the boys clicked on very quickly.

“But Ms, what if I buy something which does not end in a 5 or a 0”

We were very impressed that he had managed to understand this concept. The teacher explained to him as simply as she could that the money was either rounded up or rounded down.

“But Ms, that’s not fair. You might get less money back than you are meant to”

This little boy was not giving up.

“But the next time you might get more money than you were meant to”

The teacher replied.

“But if you get less money both times, then you are just very unlucky”

The boy said which made us laugh.

Thinking back on this lesson, I can identify different aspects of profound understanding of Mathematics that Liping Ma identified. Having basic ideas (Ma, 2010) of mathematics is important in calculating money in Canada. Not only do you have to be able to round to the nearest 0 or 5, you also have to be able to work out and then add the tax. This then includes the aspect of interconnectedness (Ma, 2010).You have to use other knowledge which you already know to find the answer. It includes a variety of skills such as multiplication, addition and rounding. During this lesson, the teacher held longitudinal coherence (Ma, 2010) as she already knew about the system and though surprised by the child’s question she was able to answer the question effectively.

Is it fair though? I thought back to the task, when we flipped the coin. It is not a 50:50 chance. Are people better or worse off because of the abolishment of the penny? Or does it not matter because of how small a value the penny is worth?

I have thought continuously about this and can’t seem to get to a conclusion. In Canada, they just accept this but coming from a country where we have one pence and two pence. I couldn’t understand how they could just let the cent or two cent slide. Though, I do see that sometimes you would gain a cent or two but would it balance?


CBC News (2013) ‘Canada’s penny withdrawal: all you need to know’. Available at: (accessed on 16/11/16)

Ma, L., (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics (Anniversary Ed.). New York: Routledge.

Royal Canadian Mint (no date) ‘Phasing out the penny’ Available at: (accessed on 16/11/16)

Myths of Mathematics

Using tools is cheating

Fingers are there to help us! We have 10 fingers and a base system of 10. There must be some type of connection?

Still to this day, I use my fingers to keep track of which number I am on. As a dancer and choreographer, I am constantly counting to 8. Often when I am counting beats as to how many 8’s until I start dancing, I will keep a count of which set of 8 I am on by using my finger. It keeps everyone on the same track.

At work, I also use my fingers to keep track. When helping cash up the tills at night, we have to recount the money to ensure it is correct. I use my finger to keep track of how many one hundreds we have in £20.

During both primary school and secondary school, I never heard anyone say that you weren’t to use your fingers. My teachers didn’t emphasise the use of it but they didn’t stop anyone using their fingers if needed.

As a teacher, I will ensure that children are confident in using their fingers if it helps them develop their understanding of mathematics. I will show children effective ways to use their fingers to help count or keep track and then it will be their choice to continue using them or not.

The 9 times table finger rule

There is controversy about teaching this. Personally, I think it is very effective. Although, originally it doesn’t teach children the aspect of the 9 times table, it builds on their confidence especially children who struggle with mathematics. By building on their confidence and with time they will gain an understanding of the 9 times table.






Place Value

At first, I was completely confused during the workshop as to what we were doing but suddenly it all made sense. We do everything to the base value of 10, this is called the decimal system. Why is that? Some believe it is because we have 10 fingers but is this the only reason we could up in 10s.

Why do we use the base value of 10 and not 12?

12 is a highly composite number (Dvorsky, 2013). It divides neatly by more numbers than 10 does. It divides by 1,2,3,4, 6 and 12 leaving no remainders while 10 divides by 1,2,5 and 10 leaving no remainders (Bellos, 2012). Due to this, fractions appear easier as 1/3 of 10 is 0.333…. while 1/3 of 12 is 0.4 leaving a neater number making fractions appear easier.

There is already some examples of 12 base systems in the world;

  • There is 12 months in a year
  • Grocers deals are often in dozens
  • Our day is divided in two sets of 12
  • 360 degree in a circle which is 12 sets of 30

A blog by George Dvorsky (2013) states that historically, someone thought about this. Twelve is the last number before we go back to derivations of 3, 4, 5, etc. This suggests that there is some recognition of the 12-base system.

It is still possible to count in 12 using your fingers, this is shown below.

Image result for duodecimalTo use 12 as the base system two additional symbols would need to be added instead of 10 and 11 as they have two units. This was the where I confused myself the most. Once I changed the numbers to letters, I understood what we were doing and when I moved back to using numbers it became clearer. As much as I now understand the 12 base system, I do not think it is suitable to change completely from using the base value of 10 as it is what we are used to and it has been used for so long that it is what people understand




Dvorsky, G. (2013) ‘Why we should switch to a base-12 counting system’ Available at: (accessed on 17/10/16)

Bellos, A (2012) ‘Dozenalists of the world unite! Rise up against the tyranny of ten!’ Guardian. Available at: (accessed on 17/10/16)

Confidence, Competence and Understanding

When we were given the opportunity to choose our elective for second year, I instantly knew that “Discovering Mathematics” would be my first choice. I have always enjoyed maths, through both primary and secondary school and I wanted to learn more about it. As comfortable as I am in my ability to do mathematics, I was less comfortable with the thought of teaching it. During my placement, I noticed that I was teaching a lot of mathematic lessons. I introduced new topics and although I knew what to do, I struggle to engage some of the children, particularly the ones who complained that they “couldn’t do maths”.

During our workshop, we learnt that you must have these three things to develop mathematical thinking (Burton, Mason and Stacey, 2008). These areas are competence, understanding concepts and confidence.

This got me thinking about my placement class. During one of my whole class lessons, I was revising co-ordinates with them and then introducing 4th quadrants. It had been a year since the class had learnt about co-ordinates and we knew that not all the children would understand plotting points in all four quadrants due to not having a strong understanding of negative numbers. I looked up different resources and finally decided upon a “Homer Simpson” co-ordinate sheet where the children had to plot the points and then join them up. As I wanted all the children to be able to participate in this activity, I knew that I needed to come up with a way to make it inclusive to all. The children are seated in mixed ability groups so I decided to work with this. The children would complete the worksheet in pairs.

I started the lesson and tried to make it as interactive as possible having children up plotting points and telling me what quadrant it was but I still noticed some of my reluctant learners zoning out. I handed out the worksheet and they quickly got to work. At first, it took a while to get the children engaged but once they realised what was going on they changed. It was rewarding to see the more reluctant so engaged in the activity and the pride that they held when they were able to do it correctly.

Reflecting on the activity, I realised that although some of the children lacked the understanding, they gained it in confidence and with this confidence, it aided their competence and their understanding. I am glad that all the children were able to complete the same worksheet. I never really thought about the affect different worksheets have on children. They realise if they are doing different work to others and it does affect their confidence. By allowing children who struggle more the chance to work with the children who are more confident in maths, it allowed them to feel a sense of achievement.

As a teacher, I will work on ensure that all children in my class are confident in their ability to do mathematics. By allowing children to work together and share their skills and knowledge, it helped both children’s confidence and understanding which helped them as learners.


Mason, J., Burton, L. and Stacey, K. (2010) Thinking Mathematically (2nd ed.).  Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.

Can horses count?

Having been around horses most of my life, it never occurred to me that they may or may not be able to count. During a recent workshop, we were asked if animals could count and it got me thinking about my horses.

When I was younger, I had a pony who would knock his leg three times on the door of his stable if he wanted some attention when we were in the yard. Each time he did this he would get a reward as I would go over to him and give him attention. At first, I thought he was counting but now I think back to it, was it a counting or just brought on by positive reinforcement? Skinner (1953) believes that positive reinforcement encourages a behaviour to be repeated. Could he count or was three just such a well-known beat? In horse riding, I constantly count down from 3. I put my leg on three strides before a jump. I hop three times before I get on my horse. A canter stride has 3 beats to it. I feel that it was just out of habit that he did it three times and not that he could count.

However, I do believe that horses have an understanding of mathematics. Perhaps not counting, but they are able to estimate and have some type of understanding of patterns. They are able to correct their feet to ensure that they could take the correct amount of strides to make the jump. They, also, have an understanding of shape.

There has been many articles written about horses being able to count. I found an article by Nic Fleming explaining his views that horses can count based on a study. He noted that researchers have found that horses were able to detect the bucket with the most amount of apples in it which is the same skill that a baby develops at 10 months. Psychologist Claudia Uller (2008, quoted in Anonymous, 2008) who conducted the experiment believed that horses had a “rudimental ability to count, process the information and make a decision”.


Fleming, N. (2008) ‘Horses can count new study says’. Telegraph. Available at: (accessed on 08/10/2016)

Anonymous.  (2008) ‘Horses are as good as babies at counting’. Daily Mail. Available at: (accessed on 08/10/2016)

Skinner, B. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: Macmillan. Available at: (accessed on 08/10/2016)