My Primary School’s Maths Week

by Jo Cayley (March 2020)

For the past 10 years I have organised an annual maths week at my school, a small village primary school with about 90 pupils in 4 classes.  Being a small school, the children are used to mixing up for various special days such as art days and book days.  We also have buddy systems which mean the Year 6s often help out their Reception and Year 1 buddies and the Year 5s act as play leaders at break times.  Maths week has become a highlight of the school calendar and is something the children and parents look forward to and comment on having a positive impact.

We go off-plan and base our week around the resources from the Youcubed website and incorporate other problem solving activities from places such as NRICHYoucubed has created 4 different weeks of lessons called the ‘Week of inspirational maths’, including videos encouraging growth mindset as well as fun, open-ended mathematical activities.  Most of our classes are mixed year groups, but these activities can be accessed by a range of ages, so we often mix up the children to work in mixed ability groups or pairs.

I kickstart the week with a whole school assembly and introduce them to the website, show a video and we do some maths as a school. The children then have a go at the activities in their classes across the week, adding work, photos and comments to the communal maths board in the library.  There are also extra puzzles and challenges available in the library for children to do to earn extra housepoints!  I would highly recommend looking at the Week of inspirational maths and one of my favourite activities, which can be accessed by any age at different levels, is shown below:

The whole school have a go at this activity, the children are left to explore the patterns and associated numbers using different colours to show what they can see, such as patterns in multiples, prime numbers etc. Even if children have not come across prime numbers before, they can talk about why these numbers can only make circles, they can explore this with counters or cubes to check.

At the end of the week, we hold a Maths Day, which as its name suggests, is a whole day of maths! The children are spilt into their key stages and come to the school hall to have a go at the ‘Marble Maze’ (remember the old Crystal Maze on TV?).  This is something I was shown when doing the MAST programme, but it can also be found on The Mathematics Shed website.

Key Stage 2 children take part in the morning and Key Stage 1 in the afternoon.  The children are in mixed ability groups of 3-5 children, with a mix of ages in each group.  A Year 2 child leads each Key Stage 1 group, and a Year 6 child leads each Key Stage 2 group.  There are 5 zones for each group to go to, with 3 activities in each zone.  The KS1 zones are toys, supermarket, home, seaside and farm.  The KS2 zones are Africa, China, Egypt, Europe and India.  Within each zone there are 3 activities: number, logic, and shape.  An adult (or Y6 in the afternoon) supervises each activity and awards marbles or gives clues when necessary.  Each group has a clipboard, list of tasks, pencil and cup for collecting marbles as well as a phone-a-friend token for each member, which is worth a marble at the end if not used.

Each group has a list of the activities and nominates one team member to do each activity.  They can decide all these in advance to make it fair.  The rest of the group need to stand back and support their teammate with encouragement but can’t actually go and help.  The team leader (Y2 or Y6) organises the team, looks after the marbles and ticks off the activities, moving to the next one on the list.  Each completed activity gets a marble for their team to go in their jar.  Extra marbles can be awarded for good teamwork, encouragement, extra challenges etc.

Each activity lasts 3 minutes for KS1, or 5 minutes for KS2.  The bell rings at the start and end of the time.  If a child is struggling, some activities have a clue in the pack, or adults can offer a clue or encourage another team mate to help.  At the end, the adult will award the marble(s) before the children help tidy the table and move to the next activity.  They all move at the same time.  Children complete all 3 activities in a zone before moving to the next zone.  At the end of each activity the children are directed by an adult to the next activity.  They tick off the activities as they complete them and go to each zone in the order on their sheet.  After the 15 activities, the marbles are counted up.  Each marble is worth 1 second in the ball pit to look for golden tickets.  The team with the most golden tickets is the winner!  The ball pit happens at the end, (one group at a time) or the next day if we run out of time and is a huge hit with all ages (even some of the adults!)  My own two children who are now 11 and 14 come in after school to have a go!

At the end of maths day we hold an assembly to announce the winners and give out certificates and prizes, to which parents are invited.  Children also share what they have done during the day and across the week.  Some of the activities are left out for parents and their children to look at after school.

To add some variety, I wrote a second Marble Maze, which we use on alternate years, so children don’t remember the answers from the previous year! Many of the activities are practical or open ended, so the children may not remember how to do them, and it is unlikely that the same child will be chosen for the same activity again.

The children always have a great day and we have lots of positive comments.  Here are some photos to give you a taster of what it is like.  I would highly recommend holding your own maths week and maths day if you can, and I am available for advice if you need it at jocayley@cambridgemathshub.org.  Have fun!

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