What is a resource?
We talk about resources all the time, how useful they are and how they impact upon learning, but we don’t actually talk about what they are! Are they books? Are they worksheets? Are they games? Are they blocks? Truth is, resources are whatever you and most importantly your child needs them to be. Today we are going to explore different types of resources and how they might be used to support learning.
The first resource that children find when completing maths, is their very own fingers. They use them to count on, to subtract and even to keep track of where they are when they skip count. The use of fingers as a maths resource is often a taboo subject, with many believing that the use of fingers demonstrates poor maths and poor mathematical skills. However, a child using their fingers for basic maths skills is a natural reaction, it is an instinctive safety net to allow them to keep track of their thinking. They are in fact demonstrating to you a method to manage their thinking. This may not be the fastest method, however, if it is a method that works for your child allow them to use it. By practising they are likely to reduce their reliance naturally and progress their skills.
Blocks/ Base Ten
Most schools use base ten to help children understand place value. Understanding what a digit means in a given number is essential if your child is using multiple numbers to complete a task. Place value is fundamental to maths, often when children struggle to add or subtract larger numbers it is due to a lack of place value understanding. Base ten allows them to use single blocks to represent the ones column, sticks of ten for the tens, 100 square for the hundreds and a 1000 cube for the thousands. These physical representations bring to life the number, allowing them to hold the number in their hand. This allows the completion of the calculation to be a practical experience. Eventually your child will use pictures to represent this idea, before finally accessing the maths through numbers alone. Base Ten can be expensive to buy for the home, but many websites have digital versions that you can access for free.
A long standing belief is that if a child is given a resource to support learning, they will never truly master that concept. However, I believe in the Concrete, Picture, Abstract approach, whic means that without a physical resource children are unable to fully explore the maths in order to understand how it works. A multiplication square acts as a support for children, particularly when they are calculating long multiplication, long division, working with fractions or percentages. With all the steps they have to work on their fact finding for multiplications can become weaker and causes them to panic. This creates a greater chance of error and a stronger belief of failure. A simple grid can drastically reduce this, as they become more confident they will rely on the grid less and less.
These plastic rods can be a god send. They can be used to create bar models, to support the mastery approach of calculation. Creating a physical bar model which can be moved is often supportive of learning, particularly if you are adopting this approach after other methods have been taught.
These colourful rods also make wonderful tools for creating and comparing fractions. Making a fractions wall with cuisenaire rods is a simple, yet, effective method of demonstrating how different fractions interlink and how simple it can be to determine which is greater or smaller. By using the rods the creation of a draw fraction wall is far less abstract and as such can feature a multitude of fraction sizes.
These rods are also great for demonstrating ratio and proportion and I have seen them used effectively for place value exercises as well.
Most schools now use numicon in Early Years, Foundation Phase and Key Stage 1. However, they are rarely used with older children. Numicon are great for learning to count and recognise values, they create a beautiful visual of which number is the greatest or smallest too. They are perfect for fitting together, in order to practice number bonds and can be used in addition and subtraction calculations.
Numicon also has a place in explaining fractions, demonstrating tenths and can be used to illustrate percentages which are a multiple of 10. They are increasingly finding their way into the Key Stage 2 classroom.
These are just a few physical resources that can be used to support your child and their learning. The most important thing to remember is that there are numerous resources out there, some will be perfect for you and others will have no impact. There isn’t a one size fits all resource that can be used and experimenting to what works best for you is ideal. This gives you and your child an opportunity to explore maths and decide which tools you like. The decision to remove concrete resources as children get older is a mistake, we still need to understand a concept before we can truly work with it.
I hope this guide has been useful for you, check back next week when I will showcase my top 5 maths games. In the meantime if you are supporting a child with maths anxiety or you are maths anxious and unsure of how to support your child join our wonderful community and become part of the conversation.