Numbalee

Does the thought of helping your child master maths make you groan with despair? I feel your pain. I can show the twins spellings, comprehensions and English tests until my heart’s content but try anything maths related and it’ll end in tears if I’m not careful. When I was asked if we’d like to review the new fun maths game Numbalee, I jumped at the chance with every hope that it would be fun and the girls would become more confident in their maths.

Numbalee is a neatly packaged game in a zip bag containing 150 number tiles, two 12-sided number dice, one maths symbol dice and five symbol discs alongside an instruction booklet for 12  family games.

The game is aimed at players aged 6+ (perfect for Key Stage 1 and 2) and can be played from 1 – 8 players as there are a range of games to play solo for practice or competitively in a group. Players are encouraged to talk through the sums they are making to improve their understanding and their confidence.

Each of the games has been designed to cater for a wide range of abilities and specifically to improve skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

The game was initially created by Oliver Leck to help a friend’s daughter who was struggling with maths in school. He spotted that there weren’t any fun maths games on the market and together with his father, a teacher, he developed the game with primary school children in mind.

What’s the verdict?

With my teaching assistant hat on I can say this game is an excellent resource for practising the essential maths skills needed in everyday life. It also makes my afternoon interventions more exciting, the children look forward to playing a game with me rather than ‘doing maths’.

I also gave Numbalee to a few members of my school Blog Club to get some feedback and where they (Year 5 and 6) enjoyed the game and played happily for an hour, they said it wasn’t for them. I asked them why and they said it was ‘too easy’ for them.

Would you recommend it to anyone else? I asked. ‘Yes, for the younger students. It would be perfect for them.’ came my reply.

Numbalee is now available online (RRP £19.99) at www.numbalee.com as well as on Amazon.

back to school year 1We are one week in to Year 1 and I had tears Tuesday morning from Twin 1 who didn’t want to go into school.

She did say her throat hurt and in all fairness she was exhausted the night before not moving from the sofa after teatime, so I gave her some Calpol and sent her in.

Is that really bad mum practise?

I could have kept her home, I work from home but I was brought up that unless you were on death’s door, off to school you went. Anyway moral of the story I got called at lunchtime to pick her up and then she really did look poorly, big red eyes and a hot forehead, all symptoms that weren’t clear in the morning.

Cue mum guilt.

I’m lucky that working from home allows me to be on call all the time as we don’t have anyone who can step in for us should there be a call but occasionally I do get invited up to London to attend an event or a press day and this made me realise I need to put an action plan into place. I need to speak to a school mum or neighbour and ask their permission that in the unlikely event that I am in London could they pick my child up from school and keep her until I can get back from London which would most likely be an hour at least.

I’ve heard from school mums of various little ones this week having break downs before school, crying and being taken into school by a teacher, heart breaking for a mum to stand and watch and one thing we’re all having to get used to is no contact with the teacher at all other than the contact book. This makes me feel jittery, these people are with my children all day and I am interested in what they do, how they behave when I’m not there, how they cope with various situations and of course, it’s the start of a new term, I want to know about it.

Some children are really good and relaying to their parents what has happened at school, my twins aren’t. I ask them how their day was and the reply ‘Good.’

I try to find out what they’ve been doing but if I push too hard they both clamp up and say ‘Can’t remember.’ in a real teenage way, like ‘lay off mum!’

We’re taking up a few after school activities too. Last year we did gymnastics and the girls loved it, we also did swimming which they adore too so we’ve continued those until such a time they tell me they don’t want to any more and to the mix we’ve added two new school activities, Dance and Drama.

Yes this may be too much but I’m hoping it will be more play than hard work and I’m hoping they will enjoy these new experiences and gain courage from them because that is what it’s all about. The minute they tell me they don’t want to do it anymore we’ll stop.

We had our first homework on Friday evening, 1 A4 page of sums. Count the animals in the boxes and write the number. Both of the twins forget which way round 2, 3, 5 and 7 go even though we did practise over the summer. 6’s and 9’s also need a little thinking over but slowly slowly they’ll get there. The other exercise was number lines, fill in the missing numbers like this

1 2 3 _ _ 6 _ _ _ 10

maths whomework

The girls found them easy and parents were encouraged to add extra challenges and mark the work ourselves all to be handed in by Wednesday. I added 5 simple sums as we’ve been practising over the summer (ie 1 + 3 =  ) they are easy for the girls, they use their fingers to count and they are very happy to get their ticks and smiley faces plus a Very Good written at the bottom.

I’m looking forward to getting our reading books sent home too, we need to get back into a reading routine.

How’s your back to school going?

cursive alphabetWhat a great school the girls are in! All parents have been invited to three workshops last week to enable us to help our children get to grips with the learning system our school are using with our children and I am so pleased they are encouraging parents to take part and help them help our kids learn.

One of the most important messages they’re sending us is they cannot stress enough how important it is for parents to take an active role in their children’s learning and this imput doesn’t have to take up hours of a busy parents time, for example five minutes alone reading time and games played around the house all help the child memorise and utilise what they’ve been learning in class.

The main point being raised at the moment is our children are learning mostly through play, games in the classroom, lots of outdoor activity – even when it’s raining as we have a sheltered playground and a game may cover three of four different parts of the education syllabus.

Phonics for foundation stage

Phonics is a method for teaching reading and writing the English language by developing learners’ phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes—in order to teach the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them. – Wikipedia

The above jargon explained in ‘proper’ English means our children will learn the sounds that make words and although there are some ‘tricky’ words that will have to be memorised as they don’t follow the phonics rule it is proven by following this method of teaching, children learn quicker. There’s even a video on You Tube to help parents recognise the sounds

Another rule they will be following is learning to use cursive writing from the start. The teachers say they have seen excellent results already with previous years that have used the method and they will also encourage the children to recognise letters in many different fonts. In fact how can we as parents help?

Well, think of the logos, and fonts used in every day life from store names to cereal packets to comics and basically anything that has the written word on it. Encourage the children to recognise the letters.

Play games which encourage children to think about the word they’re saying ‘what sound does cat start with?’ c would be the answer (see video for correct pronunciation)

This morning at breakfast I asked ‘Who wants some ‘te’ for toast?’ followed by ‘Would you like ‘ge’ for jam or huh for honey?’ I’m not sure I’m spelling those phonics correctly but you get the point and what’s more the girls loved it.

We’ve been given lots of sites where we can play games with the children that I’d like to pass on to you too and also note down for myself in case I lose the piece of paper!

  • www.phonicsplay.co.uk click on games but also printables available
  • www.ictgames.co.uk – Phonic and numeracy games
  • Kent ITC games – Phonic and numeracy games
  • Starfall – American site
  • Crickweb – variety of games
  • CBeebies – alphablocks
  • Letters and Sounds – printable games

Reading foundation stage workshop

Our second workshop was to help children learn to read and to assist their learning we are encouraged to spend 5 minutes a day listening to them, even if it’s just a picture and they are telling you what is going on in that picture. To ask questions like “What happened next?’ How did it end? so they get a notion of beginning , middle and end of story.

Preschoolers reading a book

We shall be receiving books home next week with a special contact book to write each child’s progress and it’s not important they finish the book in one go but concentrate on one/ two pages at a time and get them right. Make sure the child understands what they are reading.

Useful sties include

Maths foundation stage workshop

Lastly today our maths workshop. Most games played outside will include a numeracy aspect or shapes, mass, size, weight, and proportion. children will learn to recognise numbers 1 – 20 and know which number comes next and before. Our role is to let them help us measure when we cook, show them numbers around the house, ie on the remote control, telephone, clock and so forth. Get them to recognise the numbers on number plates and ask them to add one on to a number to get the notion of one more.

John crane High Tea Shape sorter, number

some helpful websites are

So I’m sure you agree we have plenty of resources to help our little ones learn easily over the next year

playing with water