Posted in Calculating, Christmas, Logical reasoning

5 Christmaths baubles

An activity to explore numbers that total 5.

Screenshot 2020-12-09 at 08.51.42

Digit Dog and Calculating Cat have some red and blue baubles to put on their tree. They can only put 5 baubles on the tree and have to decide how many of each colour they use. How many different ways can they do it?

Download tree and baubles


Look at the picture. What do you notice? Describe what you see.

What has Digit Dog done? What is Calculating Cat thinking?

How many different ways do you think they can put the baubles on the tree? Why do you think that?

Try it yourself. How are you going to record your different ways? How will you remember what you have done?

How do you know you have found all the different ways? Convince me.

Have you found any patterns?

Look for children who are starting to organise their work and systematically look for all the combinations. The activity is about exploring the combinations and reasoning about choices and patterns.

Ways to record

Provide enough baubles and trees so that each combination can be kept and checked. Children can then look at all the trees and say what is the same and what is different. Ask them to put the trees in order and look for a pattern.

Have number sentences on card and ask children to match the number sentence to the trees.

Screenshot 2020-12-08 at 17.39.58

What does the 5 represent? It is the 5 blue baubles. The 0? There are no red baubles.

Write number sentences for each tree on separate post-it notes. These can then be sorted and put in order.

Use Numicon shapes to represent the number pairs.

What if…………

There was a different number of baubles on the tree? Explore other numbers.

There were more than two colours of bauble?

Posted in Additive relationships, Calculating, Christmas, Conceptual understanding, Fluency

Practising number bonds with the Christmas flik-flak

Make practising counting and remembered facts part of your daily routine.

In order for children to develop fluency they need to have a daily routine where they practise:

  • Counting;
  • Remembered facts;
  • Using number relationships to do calculations.

Children need the opportunity to:

  • Talk mathematically;
  • Discuss and solve problems;
  • Be creative;
  • Use reasoning skills.

Use the flik flak to practise number bonds

Look for patterns within numbers and help children understand that whole numbers are composed of smaller numbers e.g. fold the Digit Dog flik-flak in half as shown:


How many dogs can you see altogether?

What else can you see? I can see 3 dogs with red hats and 3 dogs with green hats. Three and three more equal six altogether. I can see two groups of 3. I can see 2 groups of 2 and 2 groups of 1.

Repeat by folding the flik-flak in other ways.

Screenshot 2020-12-03 at 08.15.22

Now what can you see? What do you notice?

How many with red hats? How many with green? How many altogether?

How many on the top row? How many on the bottom? How many altogether?

I can see 8 with one missing.


Use the flik-flak as a quick way to practise number bonds to 10 (the pairs of numbers that add togther to make 10).


Show children the flik-flak and ask:

“How many dogs can you see?” “How did you count them?”

Explore the numbers of dogs in each row and column. Ask questions such as “Which row has most dogs?” “Which row has the fewest dogs?” “Which row has one more than the bottom row?”

Explore the groups of dogs you can see. I can see 5 dogs on the top half and 5 dogs on the bottom, 5 + 5 = 10. I can see 5 with red hats and 5 with green 5 plus 5 equals 10. I can see a group of 7 in the middle and 3 others, I can see 4 on one side and 6 on the other.

Before continuing, make sure children are confident that there are 10 dogs altogether.

Fold the flik-flak:

Screenshot 2020-12-03 at 08.23.25


How many dogs can you see now?

How many dogs are hidden? How many dogs can’t you see?

How do you know? Explain your thinking.

“How many dogs altogether?”

You want children to realise that they know there are 10 dogs altogether, that they can see 5 of them and need to work out how many of the dogs they can’t see. They might:

  • Count on from 5 to 10
  • Take away the 5 from 10
  • Use or visualise the Numicon shapes
  • Use their knowledge that  5 and 5 equals 10

Expect children to explain their thinking.

Fold the flik-flak in a different way:

Screenshot 2020-12-03 at 08.25.40


Ask the same questions.

How many dogs can you see now?”

“How many dogs are hidden?” “How do you know?” “Explain your thinking”.

“How many dogs altogether?”

Keep folding the flik-flak to explore all the combinations of numbers to make 10.








Posted in Additive relationships, Calculating, Conceptual understanding, Fluency, Number sense, Problem solving

NEW! Challenge card pack – Exploring Additive Relationships

New from Digit Dog Challenges – the challenge cards are extended versions of Digit Dog’s popular posts and are now available in packs of 5 with links to Curriculum for Wales 2022.

Each pack has 5 challenge cards, linked to a theme, concept or resource. There is also an overview of how Digit Dog Challenges address the five proficiencies, and links to the relevant Descriptions of Learning in the Mathematics and Numeracy Area of Learning and Experience.

The latest pack contains activities that focus on solving problems that involve additive relationships. They are aimed at Progression Step 2 level descriptions:

Statement of What Matters 1

I have explored additive relationships, using a range of representations. I can add and subtract whole numbers, using a variety of written and mental methods.

Statement of What Matters 2

I can find missing numbers when number bonds are not complete.

Digit Dog and his bones are used as a context for exploring additive relationships and solving non-routine problems that focus on missing numbers.

Packs are available for purchase at

Posted in Calculating, Fluency, Making totals, Strategic competence

Bottle Top Bugs – Making tens

You need a set of Bottle Top Bugs 0 – 10 with spots or numerals

Screenshot 2020-03-26 19.07.14
Screenshot 2020-03-26 19.07.06

Take turns to choose two bugs so that the numbers on their backs add up to 10.

bottletop bugs add to 10

What do you think?

How many pairs of numbers can you find to make 10?

How do you know you have found all the pairs?

What if.…………

…….you looked for 3 numbers which, added together, make 10?

…….you looked for numbers with a difference of 1? What do you notice?

…….you made up some of your own questions?

If you don’t have Bottle Top Bugs you can do the same activity with:

digit cards (download here)

numbers on pieces of paper

number pebbles like these.



number pebbles 2

Posted in Additive relationships, Calculating, Fluency

Bottle Top Bugs – Under the leaf

How many spots are under the leaf?bug under the leaf

Digit Dog is using the bottle top bugs and leaves to create some number problems.

This type of problem encourages learners to think and talk mathematically and use the  link between addition and subtraction.

Ask children to:

  • Explain what the problem is about in their own words.
  • Explain what information they know and what they are trying to find out. How many spots are on the bug they can see? What number of spots cannot be under the leaf?
  • Find a way to work out how many spots are on the bug under the leaf.
  • Describe the strategy they have used. They might:
    • use counters to represent the spots and work out how many more they need to make 10
    • draw pictures of the spots
    • use number bonds – the numbers that add together to make 10.
    • I know that 7 + 3 = 10 so there must be a 3-spot bug under the leaf.
    • I know that 10 – 7 = 3 so there must be a 3-spot bug under the leaf.
  • Convince everyone that their answer is correct. Use sentence starters such as:
    • I know the answer is 3 because ….
    • First of all I…………then I………
    • I know that …….. so…………
  • Write a number sentence
  • Change the bugs – choose two different bugs, work out the total number of spots and then hide one under a leaf.

What if……….

…… tried it with 3 bugs? Work out the total and then hide one bug under a leaf.

…… tried multiplying the numbers? Hide one bug under a leaf but this time say “the product of my numbers is…..”

Posted in Calculating, Games

Bottle Top Bugs – Collect the bugs

Collect the bugs

You need:

A set of bottle top bugs  (0 – 12)

A set of leaves to put the bugs on (optional)

2 dice

Set out the leaves with one bug on each leaf.  Take turns to roll both dice and use either addition or subtraction to capture a bug. For example, if you throw a 5 and a 3 you can either add the numbers together, 5 + 3 = 8, and capture the 8 bug, or you can subtract the numbers, 5 – 3 = 2, and capture the 2 bug.

collect the bugs

Explain your reasoning like Digit Dog.

When all the bugs have been captured, the player who has most bugs is the winner.

Which bugs are easiest to capture? Why do you think that?

Which bugs are more difficult to capture?

Posted in Calculating, Counting, Games, Subitising

Bottle Top Bugs – Who has more?

Who has more?

You need:

A set of Bottle Top Bugs

A feely bag / box or cloth

Put your bottle top bugs in a feely bag or a box or under a cloth. Each player takes one bug out, puts it in front of them and says how many spots there are. The player with more spots captures both bugs.

Who has more?

Keep playing until all the bugs have been used. The winner is the player who has  captured most bugs.


Who has more spots? How many more?


I have ……. spots. I have ……. more spots than my friend.

Make sure that learners also practice using the word fewer.

Who has fewer spots? How many fewer?

I have …….. spots. I have …….. fewer spots than my friend.

Practise subitising (saying how many spots there are without counting in ones).

When you turn over a bug, say how many spots there are without counting in ones. How do you know how many spots there are? Calculating Cat knows she has 11 spots because she saw two groups of 5 plus 1.

Vary the game

Change the rules so that the player with fewer spots wins.

Players take two bugs and add the number of spots together. They then compare their totals. The player with the greater total captures all four bugs.

Players take two bugs and find the difference. They then compare their differences. The player with the greater / smaller difference captures the four bugs.

Posted in Calculating, Making totals, Numicon

Total 6

Total 6 is an extension of Investigating totals

Put the shapes on the grid but this time each row, column and diagonal has to total 6.

6 grid

You might want to start by:

  1. Just making each row total 6. Then try
  2. Just making each column total 6. Follow this by
  3. Making both the rows and columns total 6, and finally
  4. Include the diagonals too.

Which shapes are you using in each row / column? Why?

Is there more than one way of completing the grid?

Look at your partner’s grid. What is the same and what is different?

Make the task more challenging:

  1. Use digit cards instead of the shapes.
  2. Don’t give the total – Can you put the Numicon shapes on the grid so that each row, column and diagonal add to the same total?

What do you think the total might be? Why?

How are you going to start? What are you going to try first?

What if.…… used three different consecutive shapes?

3 twos, 3 threes and 3 fours                                 3 threes, 3 fours and 3 fives

Screenshot 2018-09-26 14.28.32or   Screenshot 2018-09-26 14.28.43

What will the totals of each row be now?

Screenshot 2018-09-26 15.51.01

Posted in Calculating, Making totals, Numicon

Investigating totals

Digit Dog has got a 3 x 3 grid and 9 Numicon shapes – 3 one shapes, 3 two shapes and 3 three shapes. He is going to put the shapes on the grid and investigate the totals he can make.

Screenshot 2018-09-23 15.50.21

This is what he does first:

Screenshot 2018-09-23 15.50.32

Copy what Digit Dog has done.

Digit Dog says that the sum of the shapes in the first row is 6. Do you agree with Digit Dog? Why or why not? Are you sure?

Expecting learners to explain their thinking helps develop their reasoning skills.

If you agree, convince me that Digit Dog is correct. If you don’t agree, explain why you think he is wrong.

Encourage learners to explain why the total of the first row is 6. Use the Numicon shapes to show that the 3 shapes in the first row are equivalent to a six-shape. Explanations are much easier when you use concrete apparatus.

Screenshot 2018-09-23 18.01.53     Screenshot 2018-09-23 18.01.40

Screenshot 2018-09-23 18.07.13

Use the pan balance to explain.

Calculating Cat says that the total of the shapes in the third column is 6 too. Is she right? How do you know?

What is the same and what is different about Digit Dog’s row and Calculating Cat’s column?

Can you find any other rows or columns that total 6? Are there any that total more than 6? What about less than 6?

Can you find a row or column that totals 1 more than 6? What about 1 less than 6?

What else do you notice?

Find a way to record the totals you have found?

Now arrange the shapes on the grid in any way you want and investigate the totals that you make. What do you notice? What is the largest total you can make? The smallest total?

Look at a grid your friend has done. What is the same? What is different?

What if you used other shapes?

Posted in Additive relationships, Calculating, Conceptual understanding, Fluency, Numicon

Making 10

Numicon pairs to 10

Look at the Numicon shapes and find pairs of shapes that make 10. Check that you are correct by placing each pair on top of the ten shape.

Put your pairs in order.

Numicon pairs to 10 pattern

What do you notice? What patterns can you see?

Say an addition sentence for each pair e.g. 1 add 9 equals 10.

Write an addition sentence e.g. 1 + 9 = 10.

Say a subtraction sentence e.g. 10 take away 1 equals 9.

Write a subtraction sentence e.g. 10 – 1 = 9.

Play What’s Missing?

Set out your pairs like Digit Dog and Calculating Cat.

Player 1 closes their eyes, Player 2 removes one shape and says “what’s missing?”

Player 1 works out what shape is missing and explains how they know.

For more Numicon activities visit Oxford Owl for Home Maths.

Download and print the free Numicon shapes and the Numicon at Home Activity Kit for Years 1 and 2.