Posted in Uncategorized

“Making Connections” Between the Mathematics and Numeracy and Language, Literacy and Communication AoLEs

Join Lynwen Barnsley and Helen Bowen for a full-day LIVE ONLINE ZOOM COURSE on May 7th 2021

The day will be full of practical ideas for making links between the Mathematics and Numeracy and the Language, Literacy and Communication AoLEs. As we begin to embed the new curriculum over the next few years, schools will need to explore how they can make manageable links between AoLEs. How can we use literacy skills in a meaningful way to develop and improve mathematical understanding? Where is the natural overlap?

We will explore and discuss:

  •  Where is the literacy in mathematics? Where are the opportunities for developing literacy skills?
  • What are the good speaking, listening and reading strategies that can help make sense of mathematics and develop reasoning skills?
  • Do you have a toolkit to support talk in mathematics and numeracy? Is it consistent? Is it progressive? Are pupils able to use the toolkit independently, at home as well as in school?

Book your place now at

Collective Learning Zoom meeting

Posted in Chinese New Year, Logical reasoning, Numicon

Chinese Year of the Ox

2021 is the Year of the Ox

It’s the Chinese year of the ox and Digit Dog and Calculating Cat are using the Numicon® shapes to cover the picture of the ox.


You will need the ox picture (download here – make sure you print at 100% so that it is the right size for the shapes) and a set of Numicon® shapes. If you don’t have the plastic shapes you can download a set of printable Numicon® shapes here. 

Use the Numicon® shapes to cover the ox in any way you can.

How many different ways can you do it? Describe what you’ve done.

Compare your ox with your friend’s. What’s the same and what’s different? How did you check that your way was different from your friend’s?


How did you cover the ox? How many shapes did you use? Talk about how you chose the shapes. Which shapes were most useful?

Can you cover the ox again, using different shapes?

How many different ways can you do it?

What is the fewest number of shapes you can use? The most?

Can you just use odd shapes? Even shapes?

What if you weren’t allowed to use the same shape more than once? How many ways can you do it? Is this more difficult? What are you thinking?

What’s missing?

When the ox is covered, player 1 closes their eyes, player 2 takes away one shape. Player 1 says which shape is missing and explains how they know.

Feely bag challenge

Put some shapes in a feely bag, take them out one at a time and place on the ox. Can you find the shapes you want by touch alone?  This helps with visualising the shapes.

Challenge learners to:

  • describe and explain what they are doing.
  • have a strategy for choosing shapes rather than do it randomly.
  • swap shapes for other equivalent shapes each time they look for a new arrangement rather than starting from the beginning.
  • put all their completed rats together and ask “what is the same?” “what is different?”

Try the same activities with the other animals (download here).


Posted in Logical reasoning, Patterns, Shape

Patterns with tiles

Use 4 of the pattern tiles (download here) to make as many different designs as you can.

Digit Dog and Calculating Cat have arranged the tiles into a square.

What do you notice about the patterns they have made? Can you think of a way of describing the patterns?

What is the same? What is different?

How many different patterns do you think you could make by arranging the tiles in a square?

Try it. Take some pictures of your designs.

How will you know you have found all the ways?

Is there a way of being systematic? Explain your thinking.

What if……..

…….. you only made symmetrical designs?

…….. you arranged the tiles in a straight line?

…….. you used more than 4 tiles?

…….. you designed your own tile?

Posted in Counting, Games, Number sense

Counting games

Digit Dog and Calculating Cat have been practising their counting skills by playing the Incey Wincey Spider  (Nursery and Reception) game (Year 1 and 2) from


Digit Dog and Calculating Cat enjoyed the game so much that they made their own version of the game.


The game is for two players – one is Digit Dog, the other Calculating Cat.

You need:  One dice, one counter.

Digit Dog wants to get to the bone, Calculating Cat wants to get to the fish.

Put the counter on start.

Take turns to throw the dice and move the counter. Both players move the same counter – Digit Dog moves the counter towards the bone, Calculating Cat moves it towards the fish.

The winner is the one who gets to the food first.


Use two dice – throw the two dice and choose which dice you want to use.

Use two dice – add the numbers on the dice and use the total for your move.

Use two dice – find the difference between the numbers on the two dice and use the difference for your move.

Posted in Christmas, Counting, Mathematical language

Christmas wrapping counting

How many?


Use a piece of Christmas wrapping paper and just ask the question “How many?”

At first, don’t specify what needs to be counted, let the question be open and the children come up with ideas and be creative.

I can count…….3 Santas, 3 elves, 3 snowmen.

You don’t need to stick to counting in ones……….I can count 32 eyes, that’s 16 groups of 2, 16 x 2 – true or false?

I can count 4 groups of 3 trees and 6 groups of 2 trees.

I can count 12 boots – I wonder how many people that is………..

What about this one? What will you count now?


How many stars can you see? How many holly leaves? How did you count them?

Describe what you can see.

I can see more…….than…………

I can see fewer …………than ……………..

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 Christmas, Counting, Fluency, Subitising

Counting with the Christmas flik-flak

Print your flik-flak onto A4 paper and laminate. Fold along the black lines and you’re ready to go.

In a large group:

Hold up the Digit Dog flik-flak and ask how many dogs can you see? You can show all the numbers from 0 to 10 by folding on the black lines. This allows children to practise counting sets of objects up to 10.

For example, you can fold the flik-flak like this:


How many dogs can you see?

How many are there with red hats? How many with green hats?

What if there was one more dog? What if there was one less dog?

Show me with fingers how many dogs there are.

How many dogs? Do that number of jumps.

Once children can confidently count the dogs with 1:1 correspondence, encourage them to subitise i.e. to say how many dogs there are without counting in ones.

In a small group:

Give children individual flik-flaks and ask them show me questions. Use your questions to develop mathematical language and reasoning skills.

Use your flik-flak to show me:

  1. Single digit numbers – 1, 2, 3, 4 ……etc.
  2. The numbers 0 – 10 in order. How many ways can you show each number?
  3. The same number as I am showing.
  4. One less / one more than 3, than 4….. etc. How did you work it out? Can you do it without counting?
  5. More/fewer than I am showing. Explain your answer. Has everyone got the same answer? Can you give me another answer?

Posted in Christmas, Numicon, Problem solving

Baubles again

These baubles have a larger space to cover with Numicon shapes.

Ask learners to use the Numicon shapes to cover the space in any way they can.

How many different ways can you do it? Compare your bauble with your friend’s. What’s the same and what’s different?

What is the total of the shapes you have used? Can you wite a number sentence to record what you have done?

Digit Dog didn’t use any shape more than once? Can you try this? How many ways can you do it? Is this more difficult? What are you thinking?

Can you use one shape repeatedly to cover the bauble? Which shapes will work? Which won’t? Why?

What is the fewest number of shapes you can use? The most?

What if you use only odd shapes? Only even shapes?

Look for learners who:

  • can reason about which shapes to use,
  • can discuss what they are doing and explain their thinking,
  • can work systematically,
  • can see patterns and discuss why they are choosing particular shapes,
  • can substitute shapes so that they have more or fewer, rather than starting from scratch each time,
  • can talk about similarities and differences.

Posted in Christmas, Numicon, Problem solving

Christmas Baubles


If you enjoyed Cover Santa’s Sleigh and Cover the Christmas Tree, here’s another version of the activities.

You need:

  • copies of the baubles (download and print – make sure you set the print scale at 100% so that the shapes are the corect size)
  • a set of Numicon® shapes.

Match the shapes to the spaces on the bauble.Cover the bauble

  1. Give learners a limited number of shapes to choose from to match the spaces on the bauble.  Can they find the shapes they need?
  2. Have a complete set of shapes for children to choose from.
  3. When the bauble is covered, one partner closes their eyes, the other takes away one shape. Which one is missing? Can you find it in the pile of shapes?
  4. For an extra challenge, put the shapes in a feely bag and find the ones you need by touch alone.
  5. Ask: Why does Calculating Cat think there might be more than one way of covering the shapes?

As learners are working, ask them to explain their thinking.

Why did you choose that shape?

How many shapes do you need?

Which shape do you think will fit here…..? Is it bigger than the orange shape?

Is the shape that goes here big or small? Bigger / smaller than a pink one?

Can you take away one shape and put two in its place?