Spot on with Numbers
By Carol Handyside
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The Games Pack from Spot On With Numbers is packed with games which use the Spot On Pegs and Boards. The Pegs and Boards are designed to enable children to work with concrete representations of numbers, which they are able to subitise, partition and manipulate. They can be used to support the concrete, pictorial, abstract approach to teaching mathematics. The Pegs and Boards form the concrete element, which link to the pictorial patterns on the dice and the abstract numbers on the games. The Games Pack includes the following 12 games, designed to progress with the learner and illustrate the use of the Pegs and Boards:
- Making numbers: Children should always be given time to play freely with manipulatives before they are used as a teaching tool. The first two games in the pack are designed to prompt free play and provide guidance on questioning to draw out discovery learning. There is a great deal of research on the importance of children making numbers and making numbers in a variety of different ways to develop number sense and flexibility when working with numbers.
- Making Patterns: Patterns form an important foundation for later mathematical thinking and reasoning skills. This game is designed to inspire the creation of patterns.
- How High Can You Fly: is designed to explore both symbolic and non-symbolic magnitude comparison. The advantage of using the Pegs and Boards alongside a vertical number track helps develop the sense of numbers getting higher, linking the non-symbolic (Pegs and Board representation) and the symbolic (Arabic numerals on the game). The game provides motivation for the child to make sense of the magnitude of the number as the winner is the player with the highest number. It encourages mathematical talk such as “I won as 9 is greater than 7”! The game involves adding together the score on 2 dice and is designed to aid counting on and familiarity of adding 2 one-digit numbers.
- The Last Peggie: promotes subitising skills, it supports counting backwards as well as number bonds within and to 10. It is a strategy game, so can be used to develop mathematical reasoning too. It has proved to be incredibly powerful for supporting children with dyscalculia develop a strong sense of the numbers to 10.
- Counter Attack: is the ultimate number bonds game. Using the Pegs and Boards, players can make the number thrown on the dice and then explore other combinations of their score to cover the numbers on the board.
- Guess My Number: promotes visualising skills with the aim of guiding children away from a reliance on the Pegs and Boards. A number is made and hidden in a box, so the players have to visualise what it looks like, its magnitude and the composition of the number.
- ‘Gotcha’ Number: looks at how numbers combine. It is a strategy game, encouraging mathematical thinking and visualisation. It is designed to show how the Pegs and Boards can be used with pre-made numbers 1-5 to prevent counting in ones and appreciate numbers as a set.
- Race to the Treasure: is a popular game which secures numbers to 20 on a track, using the Pegs and Boards to aid in securing place value, bridging 10, consolidation of number bonds to 20 and moving both forwards and backwards from one to 20. In one 5 minute game, we recorded on average, 19 maths questions confidently answered. The children didn’t realise how many calculations they were performing; they were having so much fun, they asked to play it again!
- Chains of three: promotes flexible addition as it requires players to combine the score on 3 dice. Children are encouraged to choose the easiest, most efficient order to add the numbers. By now, many children no longer need the Pegs and Boards, but they are there if necessary to help think flexibly about addition or model bridging 10. As the dice patterns are so similar to the way the children are used to working with the Pegs and Boards, this is the point that children start to mentally perform the physical manipulation they previously did with the Pegs and Boards.
- Flight of the Butterfly: secures doubles and halves with the powerful patterns made using the Pegs and Boards.
- Spots and Spikes: consolidates learning of numbers to 50. It promotes jumps along the number track either with addition or subtraction, moving efficiently to the next number, sometimes bridging the 10s. The rules can be adapted so that adding and subtracting 10 or 9 can be the learning focus of the game.
- Pattern Puzzles: is suitable for children from about 8 years old. This strategy game maximises the use of the Pegs and Boards while promoting reasoning and problem-solving skills.
The power of games is underestimated in maths teaching. Games give meaning to numbers and provide a purpose to learning. For example, 14 + _ = 20 is worth calculating when you know that it is the score you need to throw to win the game!
Sometimes maths work is timed to encourage children to work efficiently with numbers and prevent counting in ones. This can lead to maths anxiety, but through playing games, the motivation to perform a calculation quickly comes from within. This intrinsic motivation to learn and make sense of numbers, coupled with experiencing maths as an enjoyable and rewarding subject helps to engage and inspire children as well as remove any previous negativity or anxiety.