There is this maths site that I really like. It’s called Nrich and the main reason I like it is that it is full of puzzles.
But we’ve not really used them at home.
Well because we have preferred that maths develops alongside their normal life lived and not to teach it formally but to talk about it and learn about it as it naturally crops up. I’m pretty satisfied that this works after the girls both achieved B grades at GCSE aged 12 and 14 after just over a year of study.
Anyway I decided to follow a link to one of their activities this month and print it out to see if Jonathan fancied having a go at it. I left it lying about and waited to see if he bothered to have a look at it. This morning he did and we had a go at it.
He had a quick go at the puzzle worked out the basics but in no way was interested in working out the best way to do the puzzle so we didn’t bother.
Then I suggested that he might like to play a game – his choice was Yahtzee.
Now the real maths began!
Unbelievably he threw a second Yahtzee of sixes.
We haven’t focused on learning times tables of anything so he doesn’t know instantly what five sixes amounts to. But as you can see, from how he has arranged the dice, he knows how to work it out.
The working went something like this:
“six and six is twelve – and that’s” (the other two sixes) “twenty four, twenty-five, twenty-six twenty-seven twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty”
I’m far happier with this than if he knew five times six was thirty by rote because he has shown that he knows how the number can work together and has used the brilliant strategy of doubling, he also used the brilliant strategy of “using you fingers” they are pretty much (baring tragedy)always there and are very useful for all sorts of maths.
The learning didn’t end there. Jonathan was a bit short on his top section so he had to work out how many points he’d get for having five sixes and the bonus thirty five against taking the Yahtzee. We nearly thought it would be better to take the sixes but finally remembered that a second Yahtzee was worth 100 points so he’d do better with that!
Ruth wandered in and heard us talking about Yahtzees and was pondering the probability of getting a Yahtzee.
She looked it up on line and couldn’t quite understand the answers she was getting. But I was delighted as this was the sort of thing that had always interested Ruth before we embarked on the GCSE course (Rebekah wanted to do the GCSE to go towards getting a handful to help her get into college and Ruth thought she’d give it a go at the same time). Since doing the GCSE she has shown absolutely no interest in this sort of thing until today. I found it depressing that working on the GCSE maths (so with an externally imposed curriculum) seemed to kill Ruth’s natural enjoyment of playing about with maths. Hopefully she’ll once more be able to enjoy playing about with maths like she used to.
Now I’ll have to work out the blasted Yahtzee probabilities and help her to understand them, if she is still interested tomorrow!
So far more maths was covered playing a game of Jonathan’s choosing (I was suggesting Tree-house) than by using the specific maths activity.
Will the kids learning be patchy by using this method? Yes it undoubtedly will but hopefully they will know enough that they can pick up other specialist maths as and when they need it. I firmly believe that they will learn enough by playing games and dealing with the everyday maths that life throws at them and any bits of it they want to study.