I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for “fluency” (whatever that means!) and how not having a firm grasp of the basic number facts and relationships sometimes holds students back from accessing higher order topics. I think that there is a definite difference between “sums” and “maths”. Now, don’t be getting all academic on me (because if I’m being really honest, I’m not interested in the debate – I don’t have the time) – you’ll have your own opinion and remember this is MY blog where I write about my teaching and it is after all just my humble interpretation.
Let me clarify: I’m thinking about those times when a student gets that red mist moment and just can’t “get” any further in a concept you are trying to teach because they are still processing the fact that 7 x 8 REALLY is 56 and not 54 as they had thought it was AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME. In most cases, we know that given time and prompts to check their answer most students would have gotten there in the end but because of this (as lots of them would call it) “brain fart”, they end up thinking that they can’t “get” this new concept you are teaching them. We’ve all been there and no doubt you, like me, would pre-empt their frustration by telling them “Maths” isn’t just about getting the correct answer it’s about the journey towards a solution too.
Ideally, I’d like students to have instant recall of the basic “number” facts but in reality I know that I have to still think about certain relationships so why would students be any different? This has never held me back and it shouldn’t hold them back either. It’s not that I don’t know them and when I do write the answer down I know it’s correct, I just can’t recall 6 x 9 as fast as I can tell you the answer of 2 x 2. I hope that makes sense and doesn’t make me sound imcompetent!?!?!
Alongside this I was introduced to a game called “Dobble” by the lovely Dawn Denyer when we met up for a couple of days over the Summer (**waves to #geekclub**) I have to admit I am a little bit addicted to the game and have introduced it to all the kids of any family and friends I’ve seen this Summer (I even got Seagers daughter to nag him so that he had to actually buy it for her … that is an achievement given how tight he is!). If you haven’t seen it (you can watch a video -> Dobble ) it is a card game where players compete with each other to find the matching symbol between one card and another. The amazing thing is that every card is unique and has only one symbol in common with any other in the deck and finding the “match” can be difficult to spot as the size and positioning of the symbols varies on each card.
When we were introduced to the game, we got to talking about how a set could be used in maths with symbols etc and I’ve taken the idea and “ran with it” and am putting together a full 56 card set with “basic” number facts (times tables, number bonds, squares, roots etc) which I will share when I’m finished. However, in order to get my head around the combinatorics involved in ensuring that every card has only one symbol that matches every other card I’ve put together a “short” version of just 13 cards, primarily around those least remembered tables i.e. 6, 7, 8 and 9. No sum is the same but gives only one of 12 answers so for example 7 x 9, sixty three, 7 x 3 x 3 and 21 x 3 will appear on different cards and will all match as they are effectively the same number.
There are different variations of the game – the most simple is that each player is given one card and the rest of the cards are placed in a “pile”. Players “claim” the top card when they can match a sum on their card with the top card of the pile. Repeat until the pile is finished and the winner is the one with the most “pairs”. An alternative is that cards are shared with one on the pile and you get rid of your cards by matching the top card and the winner is the first to get rid of all their cards.
Anyway I’m going to give it a trial with my years 7, 8 and 9’s this week and if you want to have a go you will find the cards here to print and cut out -> 13 Card Version
If you want a sneak preview of the full version … it’s below. Excited!!