Scavenger Hunting

Have you ever done a mathematical scavenger hunt?

If you haven't here's your chance and if you have enjoy doing another.

This weeks activity follows the same guidelines as any other scavenger hunt: find the objects listed on a piece of paper.

The difference between this and any other one though, is this is mathematical. I love this kind of activity because it's maths, it's fun, it can be done outdoors and it requires a little bit of imagination. ie. it's not always obvious and can require some thinking 'outside the box' which is great practice for any young, budding mathematician.

For those that have not heard the expression ' thinking utside the box' it means that where maths is completely literal this is not and is sometimes going to take a little bit of thinking with imagination - which is not always easy for young mathematicians.

For example one of the objects could be 'Find a double'. This tests your childs understanding of double but let's them have some fun with it. They might find two trees stood next to each other (double 1), they might find 2 plants, each with 3 flowers (double 6) etc.

So, this week, as normal, I have broken the activity down into the four age ranges and produced a list of objects for each group.
5, 6 and 7 year olds
7, 8 and 9 year olds
9, 10 and 11 year olds

Please remember these age ranges a wide so you may need to alter the sheet (create another document with it and then alter it however you like).

My advice would be to start the hunt together and discuss what was found to tick a particular item off the list. With the older children you could then give them a time limit and get them to complete the rest of the sheet on their own and then go through it afterwards. You could always invite a friend round for your child and get them to do the hunt together.

I would suggest that for the younger children you work through this together, discussing and having fun.

A final suggestion: you could bring a camera with you or send older child off with a camera and take pictures of each item and then discuss the pictures together the next day.

I envision this happening outside but if you are stuck inside on a wet day I think this could be lots of fun to do round the house.



Those that know me well have probably been wondering how long it will take for cooking to appear in one of my posts. I love cooking, mainly baking, and spend a lot of time creating things in the kitchen with the children, using the excuse that it's educational. So, in order to justify my claims, I thought I would look at how we can make cooking educational for this weeks activity.

I'm assuming many of you may do cooking with your children and already pull out the educational opportunities without realising it. Others of you may cook but, like me, are often  in a rush so don't manage to make it as educational as it could be and, I suspect, there are others out there that avoid the kitchen with the children.

For those that already cook with your children I'm sure you have lots of good recipes that you already use and have fun with. For those that don't get in the kitchen much or need some inspiration I will add two of my favourite 'cooking with children' recipes to the end of this post. We regularly make Shortbread biscuits, courtesy of Delia Smith, and the other 'go to' for us is a basic sponge cake. These recipes are simple, fun to do with all ages, have the flexibility to pull out all sorts of mathematical learning and produce tasty treats.

Living in the US I am slowly learning to cook with cups and finding the conversions very interesting! However, in the interest of mathematical learning I would like to encourage everyone to use scales for this exercise, if at all possible. There is a lot more maths involved in weighing ingredients out, multiplying recipes using the weights rather than the cups and understanding how capacity, weight and measure all work. I know this isn't always possible but if it can be done I would recommend it (I have spare scales if anyone local wants to borrow them). Please anyone that is using scales, weigh your ingredients in grams and kilograms. This is the standard measure recognised across the UK now and what children in the UK are taught at school.

Rather than break this weeks learning into age groups I am going to work through the process logically and discuss the different ways you can be mathematical as you work through your recipe.

Weighing - the most obvious activity with cooking is to weigh and measure the ingredients. This can be done right from little children up to big children with varying levels of expectation. My daughter (4 yrs old) spoons the ingredients in until I screech stop and then we talk about what the scales say. With older children, you can ask them to spoon in the ingredients and to monitor themselves how much they are putting in.

Measuring - a lot of recipes use liquids and this again is another great thing for the children to do. This can work from asking them to pour, while you monitor the amount or vice versa, asking them to monitor the quantity while you pour. Or they could do both. Sometimes only small quantities are used and you need measuring spoons. We have fun counting the number of spoonfuls that we need as we put them in. An older child could count the quantity that has gone in, rather than the number of spoonfuls. eg. 15ml, 30ml, 45ml.....

Converting Units - I mentioned above that all weighing should be done in grams and kilograms but if you have an older child (9, 10 or 11) they can really benefit from being aware of other units of measure, being able to work in them and converting the units. One day you could try cooking but using pounds and ounces. A step further would be to get them to convert a recipe from grams to ounces. This is difficult and will need support but can be fun. You could also convert between grams and cups. I have found this particularly interesting. If you're really keen and have lots of time then try cooking a recipe using grams and then cooking it again using cups and see if the results are the same. If they're not the same, a really fun extension of this would be to then play around with the conversions until you can get the two recipes to create the same product.

Filling the pans / tray - this is always fun time to get mathematical. When we put the shortbread onto the trays we always do some kind of counting / adding exercise. You could just count them. Or you could count them in twos or threes etc. Or, like we did today, we counted both baking trays and added together how may we had.

Time - When your product is cooking you can time it in various ways to help the maths. With little ones I would encourage them to set a digital timer, if you have one. This is fun for them and is starting to give them an awareness of time. With older children look at what time it is and ask them to calculate what time the cooking will be complete. With children not quite ready to do this on their own you could work it out with them.

Sharing out the finished product - this can be a great fractions activity, particularly with a cake. I'm assuming you're not going to eat the completed cake / shortbread / other tasty bites in one sitting but you could have a really good discussion on how you would divide it if you were going to and how many others were going to join you or if it was to be split between the same number of people but over two sittings........

Changing the recipe - once you have made your cake / cookies / something else there is much fun to be had in creating variations. I've mentioned some possibilities for these under each recipe but ask your child for ideas too. Once they've decided how they want to alter the product then they need to decide how much of the extra ingredient they need.  This could be as simple as you pouring and asking your child to call stop when they think there is enough and then weighing to see how much that was. Or you could make it really mathematical and ask your child to work out what quantity they think would be appropriate. You could even turn it into an experiment and make several batches to decide. Some fun mathematical thinking.

Sometimes an activity like this may not look particularly complicated or difficult and, as parents, you want something to challenge your child. This may not challenge in the way that number equations will but it will give them much needed practical experience with measure and capacity and throw in some good old life experience. Also, it will meet my aim, to make maths fun and enjoyable and to show children it can be this and not always working in a book. Please enjoy your cooking this week. I would love for you to share any recipes that you love to cook with your children or to see some photos of you doing some mathematical cooking added in the comments.

Shortbread Cookies

150g plain flour (For anyone American that is All Purpose!)
100g butter or marg
50g caster sugar (For anyone American that is granulated sugar)

  • Cream butter and sugar together.
  • Work in flour
  • Roll out mixture until ½ inch thick and cut out with cookie cutters
  • Place on a large baking tray.
  • Cook on 150°c / 300°f / gas mark 3 for about 30 minutes, until the cookies are turning golden

Once you've mastered the basics you can make these more interesting by adding chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, spices............

Basic Sponge Cake 

113g caster sugar (granulated sugar in the US)
113g butter or marg
2 eggs
113g self raising flour (self rising in the US)
(if you're living at altitude, like me, then you will need to add about 100ml of milk and cook for longer)

  • Cream butter and sugar together
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time
  • Fold in the flour
  • Divide the mixture between two small sandwich tins
  • Cook on 180°c / 350°f / gas mark 4 for about 20 minutes, until cake is golden, coming away from the edges of the tin and springs back when gently pressed.

Depending on the size of your tins you may need to increase this recipe. I do double this for my tins which are
Variations: chocolate (I add 100g melted chocolate  and 20g cocoa to my doubled recipe), coffee, orange, lemon......

Of course once you have made this cake you will need to ice it.......


113g butter / marg
225g icing sugar
drop of milk

  • Add all ingredients to a bowl and gently blend together.

Bribery, a tidy house and a child that can work with money........

So, who has longed for a house that can be organised and yet still be inhabited by children?

What feels like many years ago I had a similar longing but it was for a tidy classroom. I had a class that were particularly messy and disorganised, as is fairly typical with year 5 (4th grade) students. At the time I worked in a school where we had three classes per year group and so myself and my colleagues put our heads together to try to solve this problem.

The answer: The Belongings Shop!

In essence what we did was to give each child some imaginary money (this particular year group had 10 pounds recorded on a sheet). Then, each time a child came to a lesson particularly well organised they were 'given' some money. For example, if someone arrived to the lesson with everything they needed and was sat ready with it we would verbally give them 50 pence. It was then the child's responsibility to record this on their sheet and get it checked by me or whoever was teaching them, by the end of the lesson, without interrupting the lesson. However, if a child was missing something they needed for a particular lesson then they were 'fined'. For example, if someone came to my maths lesson without their ruler then they would be fined 10 pence. Again it was then the child's responsibility to record this on their sheet and then get it checked.
We also used this for belongings that were left lying around. If they had been lying around long enough we would scoop them up and then 'sell' them back to the child for a small amount of money.
At the end of the half term (6 weeks) there would be small prizes for those children with the most money. Each child would then start with a fresh sheet for the new half term.
This was all done in a very light hearted manner and while doing it we were able to have fun with the children and laugh about it. It did get the message across though and, I felt, that year we had a year group that were very good a dealing with money and percentages (at the end of each week they were 'given' interest on the money on their sheets.)

We found this was a fun, but practical way of learning about money that also helped to keep the children organised. From a maths teachers perspective, this was a great exercise to do as the best way to teach money is to get practical and actually play with money.

I therefore thought that this could be adapted as this weeks activity, particularly in light of the approaching summer holidays and the chaos that then surrounds every household.

Please note the idea behind this is to get practical and think about money and, therefore, the maths behind it. So any calculations here should NOT be done on a calculator. A lot of the learning will be lost if this happens, as it's easy and requires little thinking to put something into a calculator and copy the answer.

These little people are only small and only just beginning to come to understand what money is and what it is used for. My instinct would be to use real money here as they are going to struggle with the concept of imaginary money plus the actual touching and playing with money will benefit them so much. So, before beginning this activity your quest is to gather pennies and I would gather lots, be prepared for a preschooler on a mission!!
I would start by giving your child 10 pennies in a pot and then talk to them about what they can do to gain more pennies and how they might loose pennies.
The activities I will leave up to you but keep it light and fun. I suspect I might give her pennies if she puts things away but she looses them if I find her things lying around. Please don't turn this into a behaviour management system, it is supposed to be fun and lighthearted.
We will probably do this for a couple of days maximum, I don't want her to get bored and disheartened.
To make the maths work for these people I suggest that periodically throughout the day you can sit with them and count the pennies they have and maybe discuss how many they might have had if they hadn't lost 'x' or how many they could have had if they had lost some. This can be a very practical discussion on simple addition and subtraction using the coins to help.

5, 6 and 7 year olds
Hopefully these children have an understanding of what money is and a basic knowledge of the coins and how much each one is worth. The older ones should also be starting to count in sequences of 2's, 3's, 5's etc. If your child has come across sequences of numbers and is starting to understand and manage this then I suggest using either 2 pence coins or 5 pence / cents. Like the preschool children I would use real money and not imaginary.
Again, I will leave it up to you to choose the activities you reward and fine. My thoughts run along the lines of belongings around the house and being organised for things. So give money for putting stuff away or being ready to go swimming with swimming bag etc. or take money away for leaving things lying around or not having the stuff needed to go somewhere.
Do this for a few days, not too many as it is supposed to be fun and not just endless. Then, periodically throughout the day sit together and count the money. This is great practice for counting in sequence. And, like the preschool children, a fab exercise in basic mental subtraction and addition if you discuss how many they might have had if they hadn't lost 'x' or how many they could have had if they had lost some. This can be a very practical discussion on simple addition and subtraction using the coins to help.

7, 8, and 9 year olds
These children should be pretty secure in their knowledge of money, coins and simple pound to penny or dollar to cents conversions. So, with these children, particularly the older ones, I would be tempted to give them a whole amount of pounds / dollars, maybe 5. But I would keep the rewards and fines simple to start off with, so multiples of 5 or 10. These children should manage imaginary money but I would recommend at this age using real money (or pretend if you have a stash or cut out paper coins if you have time....). I feel that they strongly need the visual to help with this.
Again, I will leave it up to you to choose the activities you reward and fine. My thoughts run along the lines of belongings around the house and being organised for things. So give money for putting stuff away or being ready to go swimming with swimming bag etc. or take money away for leaving things lying around or not having the stuff needed to go somewhere.
Do this for a few days, not too many as it is supposed to be fun and not just endless. Then, periodically throughout the day sit together and count the money. I suspect the hardest part of this for this age group will be taking away an amount from a whole pound. This is a difficult concept and why I suggest having real money on front of them. (If you find life is particularly busy and you don't want to focus on this then work in pence / cents (not pounds / dollars) and give them amounts in pennies - these could be quite high and you can  just use this as an exercise on adding and subtracting but using numbers in the hundreds) If you do have time to sit and go over the taking away of small amounts from a whole pound / dollar then my advice would be to use pennies or 10 pence / cent pieces and very visually do this before slipping in some actual pounds / dollars.
You can also introduce the idea of interest at this point. I wouldn't get into percentages but maybe give them a penny for every pound / dollar they have at particular times during the activity.

9, 10 and 11 year olds
This was the age group we originally created this activity for. Start them with 10 pounds / dollars and make it imaginary but maybe also have a pot of money sitting on the side that they can use to help them with their calculations. When you reward / fine these children make sure it is obscure amounts of money like 27 pence or 53 pence so they really have to use their brains.
Again, I will leave it up to you to choose the activities you reward and fine. My thoughts run along the lines of belongings around the house and being organised for things. So give money for putting stuff away or being ready to go swimming with swimming bag etc. or take money away for leaving things lying around or not having the stuff needed to go somewhere.
With this age group you could run this for a week or more, depending on how it's going. Do remember to periodically check how much they have and maybe give them interest, every morning or week depending on length of activity.
If adding interest I would keep it simple. If they've heard the term percentages then they should have a basic knowledge that 1% of 100 is 1 and 2% is 2 etc. You could just give interest for whole pounds / dollars and ignore the extra pence / cents they have or, particularly the older ones could work the whole thing out with some help. My advice here is to gently suggest and proceed as long as your child is comfortable and seems to know what they are dong with a little guidance. I would recommend not pushing this part if your child is at all unsure as it can be quite a difficult concept to teach and trying to teach it to them at home may confuse what they are doing at school.

When you are finished doing the activity you could go out and let your mathematical child spend the money they earnt?

So, there you go, a fun activity that could help you keep a tidier house. Please do remember that this is to be fun and light hearted and not a behaviour system.

Many thanks and happy memories to Linda Wild and Di Jones, my amazing colleagues, for the fun we had with this 'system' of organisation!!

Measure, measure, measure......

When it comes to maths many of us automatically think of numbers and don't always consider the other parts that make up the whole subject. Measure is a huge part of learning mathematics; it needs knowledge and understanding of numbers to be able to measure and then you need to be able to manipulate those numbers to complete measurement calculations.

Over the years I have found the best way of teaching measure is to get out and do some practical work on it. There is only so much theory that you can go over with the children. What they actually need is practical practice in real life situations.

Therefore I thought for this weeks activity I would set you all measuring and doing one of my favourite classroom activities.

You will need:
ruler / tape measure
post it notes
pen / pencil

Once you have the above things ready it's easy. You and your child need to go round the house and measure as many things as you can with the ruler / tape measure. Once you have measured something the measurement needs to be written on a post-it and the post-it stuck on the item.

For example: You might decide to measure the height of the toaster. Write that measurement on the post-it and stick it to the toaster.

Once this gets going there are two ways you can follow this activity through.
1. You can either let your child go mad and post-it everything first and then do some discussion work after.
2. Or you can discuss each measurement as the post-it goes up.

Generally I do number 1 as children love the whole post-it activity and need time to just have some fun with it.

Once you're ready for the discussion part here's how it works:

Most importantly with these little ones you want to be using a very basic measure that just has single numbers and no millimeters or fractions of inches. We have a very simple learning resources one that we use.

With pre-schoolers you are simply introducing the idea of measuring to them, encouraging them to start measuring at the beginning of the tape / ruler and recognising and writing numbers. This can be lots of fun, as for the main you are going to be playing with the tape measure. If I was doing this with my daughter I would really be focusing on the measuring and reading the tape measure and let the writing on the post-its take a secondary role. This may mean that what is on the post-it does not really resemble a number but they've had a go which is sometimes just as important.

5, 6, 7 year olds
Again, with these children I would stick to a simple tape measure that works with single digits and no fractions of units. They hopefully now understand the basic principles of measuring and have a good knowledge of reading and writing numbers. The main focus with these children is to really start to understand measure and what it means. So as well as measuring objects and recording this, a really good focus is to compare what you are measuring. As you go around the house pick an object and encourage your child to find another object in the house, that they have already measured, that is longer / shorter than the original object. Talk about why this is so and possibly bring the objects together to physically compare them. Once you've done this and if you're child is confident with these comparisons you could introduce the idea of predicting and ask your child to find an object they THINK is longer or shorter than a particular object.

7, 8, 9 year olds
I would encourage these children to use a ruler with the basic units on but showing the fractions of units too. Something like this for UK children:
and this for American children:

This was my favourite age for this activity as these children are really starting to grasp measure and how it works and I was able to move them onto the next step and look at changing the units they were working with. So, the first thing they would do would be to measure in their basic unit (cm or inches) and maybe do a little bit of comparison of objects discussion to ensure their understanding. Once this is done the next thing to do would be to get them to go round and write on each post-it the same measurement but in a different unit. So, if the original is in cm they could write the conversion in mm or if they have originally used inches they could then use cm. Please let them use their rulers to help with the conversions and not expect them to do this in their heads. It can be a difficult concept to understand. After the conversions have been done use this as a discussion point and talk about the different units, how they compare and how the conversions were done - particularly cm to mm.

9, 10, 11 year olds
These children again need to be encouraged to use the rulers mentioned for the 7, 8, and 9 year olds.

You will find that, hopefully, these children have secure knowledge of measure but are still a little confused on changing from one unit to the next. Follow the above activity but I would encourage all children to work in metric units and to write three measurements in total on their paper. Can they write it in cm, mm and m? This is tricky and they may well need a ruler / tape measure or meter stick to help but it is really good to help them understand how to convert the units and to realise that different things need to be measured using different units and equipment. When your child is doing the conversions I find the best way is to let them work it out for themselves using the equipment and possibly some help but once it is done talk about other ways you could do the calculations ie. multiplying and dividing by 10.

A few final words

I loved doing this activity in class as we had lots of fun practicing measuring and working together and discussing what we were doing. Please don't measure every item in your house and then do the follow up with every single item. You will find that initially for that first measurement there will be lots of post-it notes but then attention and concentration of your child will not last to convert / discuss them all. You don't need to. Follow your instincts and stop before it becomes a chore and boring. This activity is supposed to be fun and not leave a lasting memory of boredom!