What exactly is graffiti maths? Miranda has recently found out and explains for us how she uses it in her teaching.
I’ve just been turned onto graffiti maths for juniors. What a brilliant, practical and child-focussed way to get children engaged with logical mathsy thinking and embed learning garnered from previous maths lessons. It’s also a great way to stay ahead of the game on supply, though you do need to get access to the stock room and have a hardworking and energetic TA at your side.
I worked in a school this week, where the children were used to using graffiti maths as part of their weekly timetable. Their tables had all been laid out with sugar paper sellotaped all over like wallpaper. Each pair was given giant pieces of paper and proper marker pens (not just those thin whiteboard ones we are all eeking out until September’s batch comes in).
There were curious items on every table. On one, a treasure chest of blocks, on another was a bar of chocolate (pretend unfortunately – there’s only so far this real world maths can go folks…) and some pizzas (ditto), another had straws of different colours and some money.
The children were in mixed ability pairs apart from the very lowest ability children and the very highest, who were to work together to try to crack challenges on each table.
The TA talked to me about how to make the experience like a game. We spoke of the maths in terms of code cracking, discovering patterns and figuring out a system. The children used this vocabulary as they worked and we prompted maths-talk to cement their understanding of the operations they were using and connections to learning in previous lessons.
None of the children sat down for the whole session, all 30 moved about when they had completed a problem. Everyone buzzed and no one messed about or tried to go to the toilet eight times. We didn’t allow the children to give up, but we did let them have short breaks before returning to their problems. The paper on the desks filled up quickly with drawings and doodles, workings out and scribbled out pieces of frustration. It was so clear that the larger canvas had enabled bigger thinking, more experimentation with ideas and less fussiness about getting the right answer straight away.
Though difficult to evidence in books, the TA did a small amount of filming and took photo evidence of the children’s work for books. Behaviour and engagement was good enough for me to spend a few minutes assessing progress and moving some children onto more challenging tasks.
N-rich is a brilliant site to get the problems from to support applied practical maths – give it a go. They also give plenty of academically-backed information on how to teach this kind of practical maths - http://nrich.maths.org/teacher-primary
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