Posts Tagged ‘maths’

Christmas by Signalong

Signalong-The Communication Charity- provides resources, training and free advice, and readily works with others in the field to promote communication skills for children and adults with speech, language and communication needs and English as an additional language. A central tenet of Signalong is “one concept per sign, one sign per concept” which is different to other British Sign Language based systems, which require an understanding of the context in order to distinguish meaning. 

Download your free Advent Calendar craft activity here!

advent 2021.pdf (

Educating your child at home

Give your child the chance to read each day (10 minutes is fine)
Read stories to your child (three short stories before bedtime goes down a treat)
Cook with your child (preparing a meal, operating the microwave or weighing and measuring are great opportunities for learning mathematics)
Buy bread and milk (or other basics) on the way home from school. Doing this in person at the shop using loose change is great ‘real life’ mathematics
Have fun. Playing games, taking turns, watching TV together and dressing up are great ways to support your child
Write shopping lists, keep diaries, write letters and invitations to inspire you child to write.

There are lots of ideas on this 50 Ways to Learn poster that you could also use at home.

Anson Primary school has a great range of resources. Check their website:

Maths at home – Support for busy parents (

Using Busy Things to develop phonological awareness skills

Using Busy Things to develop phonological awareness skills

Almost all schools now offer a literacy curriculum based on systematic synthetic phonics which most children respond really well to. But, there is a small group of pupils that don’t make the progress that we expect.

The building blocks to good phonic skills include really strong phonological awareness skills (the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in spoken language e.g. syllables, rhyme etc.) and phoneme awareness  (manipulating individual sounds).  Research shows that the majority of pupils that go on to struggle with spelling, reading and writing have a relative difficulty with their phoneme awareness and other phonological skills.  This group need extra time and attention.

Early Years settings are brilliant at developing phonological awareness skills, but as children move up into Key Stage 1 and beyond, it becomes harder for class teachers to find time to spend time on this.

One useful resource, available to all schools with access to the London Grid for Learning is Busy Things.  We found their phonic games very helpful when supporting children during lockdown, as they develop phonological awareness as well as phonics.

They updated a lot of the materials in May 2021.  We like the way you can customize the games to concentrate on specific grapheme phoneme correspondences.


Our pupils loved the games. There are games to support rhyming skills such as Topple the Tower and Robert Robot:

As well as games like Feed the Monster and Build the Word which focus on oral blending and segmenting:

The software allows you to choose which scheme you want to follow, as well as your regional accent preference (north or south of England):

Once pupils are confident at using the games online, you can also produce pdf’s of specific patterns to reinforce areas that they are working on. This was useful to set as targeted homework.

Busy things does not replace the work we need to do to help strengthen phonological awareness skills but it is a really useful tool. Children can independently use the game on laptops during class reading time or other pockets of the school day.

Teachers can set up class profiles and monitor how their pupils are doing.

For more information, there are youtube videos on how to get started, as well as tutorials online. Alternatively, do contact us for more information. While not experts,  we are  happy to share what we have learnt!

Tower Hamlets Language, Literacy and Communication Team

September 2021






Numbershark provides many ways to learn

What is it?

As the name suggests, this is the maths based equivalent of the better known Wordshark, and it shares many of the features.

There are a large number of games and activities – designed in quite a quirky, retro style, that enable the same concept to be learnt in a number of different ways. Topics are listed in such as way as to be easily searchable, with main headings such as Counting and sequencing, Division, Mixed operations and so on, which are then broken down into sub sections, like ‘Easy adds to 100,’ or ‘Counting in tenths.’ These can also be viewed as the National Curriculum 2014 KS1 and KS2 to aid classroom planning, and can be enabled with automatic progression so the level of challenge increases with mastery.

Once a topic is selected the system offers a list of Recommended games to be played, but there are other lists given, too, such as ‘Counting and Ordering,’ or ‘Place Value,’ as means of organising them.

The teacher can assign activities to learners, or they can select them themselves. A recording system means the teacher can later review how they got on, which includes errors made.

Who is it for?

Whilst it is largely thought of as a teaching tool for working with children and young people with special educational needs, it is full enough and flexible enough to be used more broadly than that, particularly in  primary schools, where all learners will benefit from the opportunity to practice mathematical skills in fun and engaging ways. In secondary schools it will probably be more appropriate for those learners who need additional support to master mathematical concepts.

How do I use it?

The content covers the entire primary school maths curriculum, however,  this is a resource to be used as part of a wider intervention. The activities can be used as a reinforcement to build on what has been taught. The multiple approaches to each concept, or area of maths, means that a degree of repetition can be achieved without pupils becoming fed up or bored.

There is also a need to generalise, to transfer the skills and knowledge learnt whilst working on screen into other areas of the timetable. Sometimes pupils can become proficient in the area of focus whilst using the Numbershark games, but then not be able to perform the same tasks with pencil and paper, or by doing mental maths.

The recording system means it is theoretically possible to ‘plug in’ the learner to the machine then walk away whilst they get on with it, but there is a need to engage with the learner whilst playing the games to support their understanding. Otherwise they might see the gaming element without appreciating just what they are learning.

What else is there?

There are many edtech maths resources available. However, Numbershark is different because of the variety of activities that are offered for any particular area of the maths curriculum. Teachers may decide to only use one activity with a pupil, or have them do half a dozen, to approach it in different ways. The flexibility is there for the teacher to decide how this resource can fit in with the wider approach taken with a learner.