Is Your Brain a Lefty or a Righty?!

January 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

Have you ever wondered why people who enjoy maths don’t tend to enjoy English and vice versa? I often hear parents who are worried because, “Johnny’s very good at English, but he needs help with his maths.” I am, of course, very reassuring and say that it is often the case that people have a preference towards either maths or English . . . but I have never experienced it myself. So, I started wondering whether maybe I’m a bit . . . odd!

Having looked into it, you can actually get different “modes” of thinking. This apparently depends upon which side of your brain you have a preference towards. And so we get to the question of lefties and righties! What is the difference?

LEFT BRAIN – People with left-brain thinking are rational, logical and analytical
RIGHT BRAIN – People with right-brain thinking are inuitive, subjective and creative

So, basically, right-brain thinkers are more likely to favour a creative approach to problem solving and focus on art and feelings, which are conducive to a literary mind. Meanwhile, left-brain thinkers are more likely to have an analytical approach to problem solving and focus on reason and logic, obviously making it much easier to grasp mathematical concepts.

Both types of thinkers are equally intelligent, but unfortunately schools tend to favour left-brain modes of thinking, meaning more creative thinkers often get left behind. We see this in the eleven plus exams, where very often it is mathematics and reasoning skills that are tested rather than literacy skills. Perhaps it is time to bring more creative teaching into the classroom to develop a better “whole-brained” approach to learning.

As for me, I’m just one of those people who is able to use both sides competently – something I think was gained by a good mix of genes and plenty of mixed brain training! So, go on, get your left and right brain hemispheres talking!!

What Makes The Best Sledge?

December 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is a vital question in the current weather conditions. Stuff the questions about what maths work to do with the children over the holidays . . . if you can get your kids to do academic work in this weather, you are some sort of superhero! The main question is all about sledging!

There are a number of options here. I personally have a black shop-bought sledge that goes at the speed of light (or what feels like it!), especially when my husband gets in it!! But maybe you could try these recycled alternatives that everyone says are the best!:

  • IKEA bags!
  • VW Beetle bonnets (not without permission here!)
  • Tea trays
  • For Sale signs (if anyone sees my Mum’s Your Move one, please let me know!)
  • Fertiliser bags filled with snow

Although, I must say, I will never forget the sledge my dear old Dad built me out of wood when I was little!

Happy sledging everyone! And if you are really intent on doing something educational, get them to try all the methods above and work out which is fastest!

Happy Number Day!

December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

The NSPCC does some fantastic fundraising work. One of their more innovative ideas is Number Day, which has been going for 10 years now.

Number Day is all about making maths meaningful and fun and this year, they are going for a record-breaker. Thousands of schools are going for a Guiness World Record for the largest maths lesson.

Visit their Number Day page and give them your support!


Show and Tell . . . The Middle Wife!

December 2, 2010 § 3 Comments

I received a very funny story in my emails this morning!

The ‘Middle Wife’ by an Anonymous 2nd grade teacher

I’ve been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second grade classroom a few years back.

When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it in to school and talk about it, they’re welcome.

Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater.

She holds up a snapshot of an infant.. ‘This is Luke, my baby brother, and I’m going to tell you about his birthday.’

‘First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom’s stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord.’

She’s standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I’m trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement.

‘Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, ‘Oh,Oh,Oh, Oh!’ Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans.. ‘She walked around the house for, like an hour, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ (Now this kid is doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.)

‘My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn’t have a sign on the car like the Domino’s man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this.’ (Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.)

‘And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!’ (This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming water flowing away. It was too much!)

‘Then the middle wife starts saying ‘push, push,’ and ‘breathe, breathe’. They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff that they all said it was from Mom’s play-center, (placenta) so there must be a lot of toys inside there. When he got out, the middle wife spanked him for crawling up in there.’

Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat. I’m sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, when it’s show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another ‘ Middle Wife’ comes along.

What To Do With The Kids When It Snows – Build a Snowman!

December 1, 2010 § 2 Comments

Are you snowed in with snowhere to go?! Me too!

The worst part about it is if you have children. There is only so much time they can spend splattering you with snowballs, building countless snowmen and throwing themselves off of a sledge at high speeds! (Okay, yes I enjoy all that too!) It can be all-too-tempting to plonk them in front of the telly with a stack of Disney films while you try and get on with things, but why not get them to spend some of their time on some educational games? (You don’t even have to mention the educational bit!)

Try Primary Resources for some lovely festive learning tools, cleverly disguised as drawing and colouring activities! Or if you fancy something a bit more maths-based, why not visit Maths Star’s site for all sorts of free maths worksheets.

And the best game I found today was building a snowman without having to go out in the cold!!! – Build a snowman

Have fun everyone!

What is the volume of your budgie?

November 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sometimes there are people in life who are destined to be teachers – they just have that ability to engage with students and really help them to absorb information! And it’s amazing how many weird and wonderful methods they use!

My boss has been in the teaching profession for over 40 years. His teaching style is mad to say the least! And it doesn’t work for every child. However, for the majority of children, a wacky approach has led to some excellent results from the children he teaches. So here are a few of his methods that maybe you can modify!!

– get the children to take their mum’s heart rate, then mum has to do an embarrassing two laps of the crowded office and have their heart rate taken again. This makes for a good graph!

– make sure they look up every bizarre animal they come up against on google images . . . Remember that boys like the gruesome pictures! This is a vocabulary building exercise!

– ask each student to find out the volume of their pet no matter how oddly they look at you when you ask the volume of their budgie!

– most important of all, jump up and down and shout “hooray” when they grasp a concept!

Okay, so maybe this approach isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but the principles are the same: engaging the student’s interest is the key. And maybe sometimes they need a little bit of oddity to help them remember a concept!

Brightspark Education Review 1 – Is it a Bright Idea?!

November 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Brightspark Education are a company specialising in online maths tuition. There have been mixed reviews . . . especially because of their maths tutors being in India.

However, I like to keep an open mind about these things. Although I am a traditionalist and hold very much to the idea of the ‘good old days’ of marks for spelling and punctuation and learning from textbooks, I firmly believe that we need to move with the times and provide varied teaching methods that will engage the students. And nothing engages students more these days than a computer screen!!

So, I was very excited when I was approached by Brightspark and given the opportunity to try out their tuition process. I haven’t actually had any lessons yet . . . that bit is coming soon! However, I am already very impressed by the resources that they make available for their students. With Brightspark, you don’t just get tuition lessons; you get a whole range of resources and mini tests that you can utilise! This means that the students have work they can do at home before or after their sessions to consolidate their learning.

There is an easy-to-use booking system and they provide you with a very detailed and helpful manual to make it as easy as possible for their clients. Not to mention that there are reduced rates for brothers and sisters!

Helping children with their maths is not just about doing a tuition lesson every now and then. They need to then practice what they have learnt in order to fix it firmly in their minds. So the provisions that Brightspark make are invaluable.

So far, so good! Coming soon: I will be trying out their lessons and the review will follow!

Make Learning Fun!

November 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Let’s face it, getting children to do their homework can be hard enough, let alone trying to help them learn with you at home! Often, children can find plenty of other activities to distract them at home and often it can be a frustrating experience.

The problem is that the idea of “learning” with Mum or Dad just isn’t appealing! So instead, why not make it “playing” with numbers?! There are so many games and activities available online for children of all ages. For younger children, there are magnetic numbers, chalk boards, play money, colourful clocks and lots of other learning based toys available. If your child is struggling with learning money, why not try a toy cash till so they can pretend to be the shopkeeper. Tiddlywinks is a great game for helping learn number skills . . . whilst having lots of fun! Number bingo is excellent for helping with times tables.

The fact is, learning isn’t always about homework and worksheets. While worksheets are important learning tools, try to mix in a little fun . . . It will make teaching your child so much easier!

For some great online games, try the Woodlands Junior Maths Zone then back it up with a worksheet from Maths Star!

What Do National Curriculum Levels Mean?

November 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Here in the UK, the educational system is managed by a series of national curriculum levels. Unfortunately, they can often be very confusing, with numbers and letters all over the place! However, it is important to have an understanding of them in order to judge your child’s progress. There are 8 main levels, then they are followed by the letters a, b or c. But what do the letters in national curriculum levels mean?

c – this is to show that a child has only just started to work at this level, so has yet to grasp all of the concepts contained within that level
b – this means that a child is working comfortably within the level
a – this indicates that a child has reached the top of the level and is ready to move on to the next level

The next question is how to know when a child is working at the correct level. Often, parents know their child’s levels but they don’t know whether this means they are average, above average or below average. The basic rules in the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Levels are:

By the end of Year 2 – A child should be at a level 2 in order to be in the average band
By the end of Year 3 – A child should be working somewhere between level 2a and 3b in order to be in the average band
By the end of Year 4 – A child should be working at a level 3 in order to be in the average band
By the end of Year 5 – A child should be somewhere between level 3b and 4c in order to be average
By the end of Year 6 – A child should be working at level 4 in order to be in the average band
A child who gets a level 7 at the end of Year 9 is often projected to get a Grade C in their GCSEs, but of course this will vary.

How many levels should a child be progressing by each year? Well, the target set is to go up a whole level every 2 years, so each year your child should be progressing by 1.5 sublevels.

When it comes to maths, the national curriculum is separated into different teaching attainments:

Attainment 2: This is the section called Number & Algebra, which covers operations and problem solving
Attainment 3: This section is Shape, Space and Measure, which covers topics such as area, volume and time
Attainment 4: This section starts at Key Stage 2 and is called Handling Data. It includes graphs and charts

For further information on maths curriculum levels, go to: National Curriculum Website

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe – Maths Poems!

November 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s funny how maths crops up in day-to-day life! Whether it’s finding a bargain in the supermarket or trying to catch the 499 bus, numbers are everywhere! They even appear in nursery rhymes and poems . . . but these can be effective teaching methods for children to start learning their numbers. It means you can teach your children to count without even tinking about it!

One, two, three, four, five
Once I caught a fish alive
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten
Then I let it go again

Not forgetting:

One two buckle my shoe
Three, four, knock at the door
Five, six, pick up sticks
Seven, eight, lay them straight
Nine, ten, a big fat hen
Eleven, twelve, dig and delve
Thirteen, fourteen, maids a-courting
Fifteen, sixteen, maids in the kitchen
Seventeen, eighteen, maids in waiting
Nineteen, twenty, my plate’s empty

And of course, for all those getting in the festive mood, there are always those 12 days of Christmas!

Maybe you know some for the more advanced maths skills . . . let me know!