Friday, 25 November 2016

Play Based Learning - Why do it? How does Number Agents fit?

This year has been a major year of discovery in me.  Play based learning has completely changed the way I think about learning and new entrants.  Learning has become flexible, individualised, fluid and firmly student driven.  Devices as something to consume have disappeared, they are only used if used to share or transform our learning.  I feel myself more relaxed, less burdened by a timetable and less bothered by the mess that play based brings.

Number agents was an approach that I developed before play based learning, however it has strong correlations and similarities.  Number agents is an imaginative and playful approach that places the child in role, there is negotiation and defining of roles just as the children would do themselves.   The teacher is also in role, is an equal in the play and while the roles are strongly defined, they are also negotiated within the play.  Basically when children step back into agency, they step back into the play and continue the narrative, every day they build on this narrative and create a story around the play.

This is why I love Mantle of the Expert.  It is a playful approach, that allows children to define and negotiate roles.  It elevates them to expert and takes away any perceived barriers of being a child.

And so these approaches have come together to form something I am very proud of in my classroom...we can teach maths without stepping out of the play, but actually stepping further into the play, into our own little narrative, and the results have been real.  Children are confident, elevated to experts they feel capable of solving the problems that the 'villains' present us with.  This playful approach feeds into a world that children love, where goodies defeat baddies.  The children who experience most success are those who are often disengaged in the normal way of 'teaching' maths, dare I say it, they are usually our low level boys.  Those children who love storytelling are engaged in this process...everyday our story has a beginning, middle and end.  In essence each day of agency could be a different chapter in a story book, with the children taking the role as the main characters.  I see Number Agents has a real potential for transforming maths for all of our children.  Maths becomes 'real' for them in this 'imagined' world.

Obviously, as in any school our timetable often gets thrown out the window...however in a perfect world with no interruptions where we can do what we want each day...this is what our day looks like and how number agents fits.

The fluid nature of play, means there is a lot of just in time teaching that goes on...learning is authentic and often is guided by the children.  For example the children found a huhu moth the other day.  They were intrigued and so much learning came out of it, we ended up learning about insects, drawing the moth...this spun off into learning about butterflies, observing our butterfly garden, drawing life cycles and because insects have six legs, learning all about the number six and posing problems around this.  Wow, heaps of learning.  This was all shared on our blog so children can go home and share all of the wonderful authentic learning they have been part of.

Play based learning...why do it?  Put simply, because this is how children learn best and while it may not look it on the timetable, every day is different, all learning is valued, and children become equals in the learning process.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Agent Eyes

I can't say enough about how much using visual images has strengthened agency this year.  The questioning skills and problem posing skills of children have increased hugely.  They are brilliant for helping children to see maths in the world around them.

I love what this has added to my programme so much I have put a set of 23 photos together that I think will work beautifully for anyone trying my approach.

I have added it to my TPT store here.

What questions can you pose from this picture for further investigation?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Maths games

I have put together a pack of my favourite maths games.  These all use everyday classroom materials and are based on strengthening number sense.

I have them for sale in my TPT store and they can be found here.

This is an example of one of the games...all based on cool games that I have modified and used over time.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Maths/Drama Games

A lot of the games I use through agency come out of my head and just grow and morph and change.  If you are after some ideas I have put together a very small pack of games here.

Mathex in agency

My approach to mathex in number agency has been inspired by a senior version I used to use with older children.
Usually as the agents get more independent and better at working in multi-level group I will add the challenge of mathex.
This approach is usually introduced by the brain drainer (who as yet does not have a puppet form...just me in role as yet)  I am on the search for a brain drainer - or perhaps a riddler to take on this role.
Mathex is quick and once agents get used to the approach it flows beautifully.  I design the sheets to complement the problems the agents have encountered during the week.  It is great for some just in time teaching as you see the common gaps each group has.
This approach is also brilliant for developing team work, growth mindset and comprehension.
I have been working on creating a set to go along with my number agent book.  At this time of the year it can be incredibly hard, however have designed a starter set with two mathex sheets to give you an idea.  I have uploaded it to teachers pay teachers here.

Have a go at this approach, great for this time of year and a lot of fun!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Maths Eyes - A Fabulous Addition To Agency

During Maths PLD this year we came across an approach called maths eyes.  The website can be found here

I am a massive fan of Jo Boaler and love her work.  So this idea of maths eyes linked in beautifully with the research I had done.

I absolutely can not take credit for this idea, but it has had lovely spin off effects for agency.

This year I have used maths eyes separately from agency, just as quick activity that can help to develop children's visual problem solving.  I have been giving some thought to how it will work in agency, but did not want to implement it till I had a full handle on how it could work.

Quotes from Jo Boaler's work on visual maths I love....
Visual mathematics is an important part of mathematics for its own sake and new brain research tells us that visual mathematics even helps students learn numerical mathematics. -

Mathematics is a subject that allows for precise thinking, but when that precise thinking is combined with creativity, openness, visualization, and flexibility, the mathematics comes alive

When we don’t ask students to think visually, we miss an incredible opportunity to increase students’ understanding and to enable important brain crossing.

whole article here.

After playing around with maths eyes this year, I have some initial ideas of how it will fit with agency and think I have a character to specialise in this.  I am unsure of his name yet, but I think this wizard fits well with the concept.  He will be used at the beginning of agency during our warm up.  Basically maths eyes can either require agents to solve a problem using the picture, or my favourite way to use it is for agents to pose their own questions.  It is a great way to integrate strands.

I know as a staff we have been really enthusiastic about maths eyes.  At a junior level it is pretty basic, but once you start looking for it you see it everywhere.  It is also great for agents to go and take photos to capture their own images for maths eyes.

Some examples of maths eyes I have used this year:
Basically these questions are generated by the children themselves....there are far more challenging ways you can do this, but starting simple gives them a good idea of the process.

(youtube is great as you can pause a number rhyme and take a screen shot)

How many pieces of fruit in the photo?  What groupings
can you see?  What number stories can you pose for another

Can you find a pattern?  Can you make your own pattern?

Friday, 4 November 2016

talk moves and our newest member

This is cowgirl calculation, I am excited for her to arrive from Amazon as I have big plans for her.  Rather than be a villain this puppet is destined to be a professor.  She will help us to nut out solutions to problems and help us to understand strategies by reinforcing the talk moves.  I find the puppets are such a great hook for children and really engages them in the process.  
The talk moves image below is not mine, just popping it there for anyone not quite up with what the talk moves are.