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5 Emergency Tasks - Maths

08/03/18

Jo Teage kindly put together a list of maths tasks which you can use in case of emergency!

'You turn up in good time for your day’s assignment. Great – the teacher you’re covering has left everything you need on the computer, and after fifteen minutes, you find someone who knows the password! You’re all set. You are trying to access the lessons when the news arrive. The network is down. We don’t know when it will be back. Please manage the best you can. You can see from the plans that the lessons rely heavily on smartboard and internet resources that you are not familiar with. The bell is due to go in five minutes. Aaargh!'

Fear not! Here are five Maths activities that you can do, and adapt for various primary ages, with very few resources. If there are no whiteboards or pens, use scrap paper and felt tips! You will need something to write on that the children can see.

1) ‘Hurl the Honker’ (Maths vocabulary, general number practice)

I carry a small ‘Sesame Street’ toy with me for this purpose. You might need to change the name of the game according to your own preference for beanie toys. This is a great way to gauge ability, and encourage joining in at all levels. Put a number on the board, say ‘12’. Demonstrate giving mathematical statements about the number, e.g. 12 = 3 x 4. They will soon get the idea. They put their hands up when they want a turn, and you throw the toy to them. They give their statement and throw it back to you. Challenge them to use a wide variety of mathematical language, e.g. “Can anyone use decimals/negative numbers/fractions/ measurements?” For lower ability children, allow them to repeat any of the statements they have already heard – this will make them listen so that they can have a go. This could be extended to a written task after all ideas have been shared. Of course you can also change the number as often as you like!

2) Birthday candles problem (systematic working, using operations)

Find the child whose birthday is closest. Work out together how many candles they could have blown out in their life. Model how to record clearly. Then give them an older person (yourself, or a famous/made up person whose age you know) to try this with. Discuss ways of working it out. Extend to other appropriate questions – ‘If you only blew out X candles, which year did you not have a cake?’ or ‘How many candles will you blow out if you live to be 92?’ etc. Children might enjoy making up and solving their own.

3) Code cracking (reasoning skills)

Show a simple code, e.g. A=1 etc. Write a few words with the children. Now switch the numbers to start in a different place (e.g. M=1). How might we crack this code? Using a sentence written in the code, help them to find patterns such as double letters, common and uncommon letters, letters that often go together etc. Try again, starting in another place, and children work in pairs to try to crack the code. Extension: shift the code again and write a message for the teacher.

4) Write your own SATs! (fun revision task)

If you’re teaching year 6, particularly at this time of year, they are probably very well aware of what a SATs question looks like. Give them large paper if possible, ask them to concentrate on presentation and create their own SATs questions with given maths facts. Write up a variety of ideas, such as ‘quarter of 52, subtract 2.5’ or ‘the average of seven different lengths in cm & mm’ or ‘the probability of scoring a 5 on a spinner’. The children will probably be very good at helping with this list. They will need to create questions that require these calculations and make sense, then work out the answers. If they’re good enough, they can do each other’s questions and mark them!

5) ‘Alien museum classroom’ (measuring skills)

Tell the children that they are alien explorers, and they must report back to their superiors with the exact measurements of the classroom so it can be recreated for an alien ‘Earth’ museum. According to their ability, insist on accurate measurements to the nearest cm or mm, and clear recording of their findings. Divide up the jobs so that they are measuring different things. Extend the task by asking them to work out the area of things like the tables, floor, whiteboard etc.

Next time: Five emergency English activities!

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