August 2016

The learning packs from Mathletics definitely met the criteria last year of including online stuff, teaching worksheets, lots of variety and hands on activities, all within an easy to stick to frame work.
This year is definitely a case of it isn’t broken don’t fix it.
It isn’t a programme for children to get on with themselves.  Lots of two player games and activities.  Works well for us though as Sam likes me about and likes doing different things.
We’ve upgraded from spreadsheets to online planners though, to give Sam more control as he can allocate jobs to days now.

I’ve allocated the 10 topics to weeks over the year.  For each topic I’ve given him a list of online games (from Mathletics) to go with the pen and paper stuff.  Where appropriate I’ve fitted in some of their enrichment tasks.

I have learnt my lesson about not printing the assessment stuff because of course we never looked at that.

August 2015

Just glanced over my notes from July 14 and laughed.

We lasted a couple of months into the year before the repetitive nature of Saxon became a negative rather than a positive – see Rethinking Maths post from January.

We’ve spent the rest of the year mixing and matching hands on stuff and the playing with online schemes.  The lessons learnt are:

a) He likes the competitive nature and awards of online games.

b) Online stuff is great for practice for us but not for teaching.  He just doesn’t learn that way.

c) I am not as good as I’d like at delivering Maths ‘hands on’.

d) We work better with a scheme and a plan for Maths, although a loose, flexible one.

So the quest for this year was to find a ‘scheme’ that we could link to an online programme that included lots of variety and hands on stuff.  Not easy but I think I’ve done it!

Quite by chance I was poking around the parent area of Mathletics, his online programme of choice, and came across their workbooks.  They include few too many worksheets maybe but a lot of it is games, investigations and puzzles, can’t imagine I’ll find something more suitable for us without writing it myself which is what I’m trying to avoid.


The workbooks are broken down into 12 topics so I’ve split these into terms.

Term 1: Reading and Writing Numbers/Multiplication and Division

Term 2: Addition and Subtraction/Geometry

Term 3:Length,Area and Perimeter/Volume, Capacity and Mass

Term 4: Position/Time

Term 5: Data Representation/Fractions, Decimals and Percentages/Chance

Term 6: Patterns and Algebra/Plus time for assessment/recap

I got a bit carried away and have a nice colour coded spreadsheet breaking the online and paper lessons down by day mathletics plan 15  Hmm, I’ll try and treat it as more of a guide than a todo list.

The units all have assessment sections.  I’m unsure how to use these (or if to) yet.  I’m thinking of saving them to the end of the year and using as revision.

We’ve a few ‘catch up’ weeks in the calendar if needed.  Theoretically if we’re on target we will use these weeks for ‘fun maths’ and use some of the pointless gimicky stuff I bought in the hayfever fog of early summer when for some unknown reason they seemed a good idea.  Realistically I should just pass them on now ;).  They do look good but not really for us, too ‘fun’!


July 2014

Maths is an area that has come together at last.  One of those just keep going subjects from last year.  All I have needed to do is photocopy, write out the problems and patterns, and  make and gather resources.  Taken several days but all prepared until February – I hope!

We are using Saxon.

20140731_22It is expensive (we’ve bought second hand though) and American (deals in imperial measurements, US money and annoying scripts) and I think the level is considerably below that expected in the UK (do not expect Grade 3 to anywhere near cover the UK yr 4).  Also the paper of the workbooks is horrible, thin and scratchy so I end up photocopying it all which is costly and takes ages. But for us all those negatives are outweighed by the positives.

The gradual introduction of ideas and repetition works for Sam, the lower expectations help his confidence as he is generally within his comfort zone and the hands on/short tasks work well as he doesn’t get frustrated/lose interest.

Each session starts with a ‘meeting’, where the date and temperature is recorded, practice on reading the time, working out patterns and skip counting and a ‘problem of the day’ is covered.  We don’t use the meeting book/strips that come with the course, we have a door!


Calendar and temperature charts.
20140730_7 Patterns are printed and in the maths folder.

20140731_16 Skip counting is done running round in circles (backwards when counting backwards obviously).  Problem of the day is written in a little box – I wrote 70 of them on Monday so they will definitely be used all the time this year. I got fed up of writing them last year and we stopped using them but as they often introduce a new idea first I want to use them hence the mammoth writing session.

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After the meeting comes the lesson.  This is usually only about 5 minutes and usually hands on.  I refuse to follow the script so I skim read and pick out the important bits.  Sometimes we’ll skip altogether if he obviously understands or it is not relevant/doable in some way (try getting gallon/half gallon containers easily and cheaply in the UK).

Have been making or printing the resources that we need for the lessons up until February,  Here’s just a selection.  Really pleased with the ordinal cars 🙂


The lessons round off usually with a practice of some simple Maths facts.  We use an online bomb timer for the fact sheets which appeals to Sam.

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Then there is a practice sheet (we only do 1 the course has 2, one for later in the day) which brings together some of the things from previous lessons to practice and jog memories.


Maths resources.

Over the years I have bought and got rid of a lot of resources, these are the ones we do use.


Pattern blocks – far and away the best ‘manipulative’ I’ve bought.  Useful for maths (and used a lot in Saxon although we had them for a long time before) and great fun for making pictures and patterns.

Snap cubes – close second to the pattern blocks.  Fantastic for adding, multiplying, volume, area, perimeter, building guns….



Balance scales – lots of fun to be had comparing weights that just can’t be had from standard kitchen scales.


Base 10 – we don’t use much any more but Sam still likes to play with it and as the base 10 system is so important we’ve found them very useful for adding and carrying etc.


Geometric shapes – tbh these are mainly used for playing in the sink and mixing potions, but they are used a lot and we do talk about the shapes/edges/vertices sometimes so I hope some unconscious learning goes on 😉

20140731_4Newest addition.  Not anticipating a great deal of play value from this but saw it on a blog and thought ‘more fun then flashcards’.

Jan 2014

Having tried a lot of different things for Maths, I have come to the conclusion Sam doesn’t learn Maths like the rest of the family.  He seems to have a quick understanding of some things and then struggle with some basics.

Perhaps peculiarly since I trained as a Maths teacher, Maths is the one area I think we really need a curriculum.  I know there is a lot of Maths that happens organically in everyday life but Maths more than any other subject is a set of building blocks with knowledge and skills relying so much on the foundations below.  Nothing should ever seem new and baffling in maths (except critical path analysis!) it should always be a logical extension of previous knowledge.

Discounted a lot of Maths curricula.

  • Singapore – too workbooky and think he’d struggle
  • Heinemann – he’s been working through these for a couple of years and so not working.
  • CGP, Schofield and Simms, MEP, off the peg workbooks – well they are workbooks and we’re not workbook people.
  • Galore Park – too hard and dry
  • Math U See – biggest pile of overrated, overpriced rubbish I have ever come across!

Brings us to Saxon Math an American scheme.  It appealed as being very repetitive and bringing in variety of learning approaches and use of some manipulatives.  It is expensive, far and away the most I have ever spent on resources (except perhaps the Math U See folly).


And I have to admit initial impressions were unsure.  It seems very complicated to organise, you get a big teachers guide, two workbooks and a meeting book. The grade level is definitely skewed, I bought Sam grade 2 (which he should be) but despite Sam not being particularly strong at Maths it was far too simple.  Luckily I’d had a rush of blood to the head and bought the next 3 volumes up second hand.  So we jumped on a grade – will have to get round to selling Grade 2.  It is still very simple but I am liking it I can already see certain weaknesses improving and his confidence is secure.

As ever we tweak a bit.

Saxon starts with a ‘daily meeting’, practice for dates, time, money, reading scales off a thermometer, basic arithmetic, skip counting, problem of the day, sequences.  Sounds a lot but is 5-10 mins max.  We don’t use the ‘meeting book’ though, that would be too boring, we use the door

20140201_13And then have a box for the ‘problem of the day’ and a ‘coin cup’

20140201_14We use a whiteboard for the sequences and if he needs to write anything to solve the problem.  And skip counting happens running in a circle and then going backwards when counting backwards (he started the running, I started the backwards – slows him down and stops the asthma attack!)

Then there is a ‘lesson’, often using manipulatives – I definitely don’t follow the script (really hate this part of US curricula) and we’ll skip through things very quickly if quickly understood.  Usually less than 10 mins.

This is the board for yesterday’s lesson – we were doing maths ‘stories’, showing them physically – we were using books, so many in one pile, some in another, how many altogether sort of thing – and then representing this pictorially.

Then there is some basic arithmetic practice – how many sums in 45 secs.  We like this online stopwatch – adds a little interest.

Then there is a daily practice worksheet.  These ask a range of questions covering previous lessons rather than that day’s lesson, reinforcing the skills and knowledge. I have been adapting their’s slightly. Anglicising them and adding a vomiting penguin (don’t ask).  The paper they are on is awful quality.  Sometimes I set the timer for this too – usually done comfortably within 5 minutes.

20140104_19 There is supposed to be a second worksheet later in the day to reinforce but I can’t be bothered with that, perhaps if he has more difficulty.  Also supposed to be an assessment every 5 lessons – we’re doing every other, so every 10 lessons.

Definitely doing what I want so far – reinforcing the basics and keeping his interest.


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