As I have mentioned on many previous occasions, children need to sometimes just play with numbers and see what they can discover for themselves. Although it can look like they are not doing much their brains are doing a lot of processing as they have chance to look at a number and use the number however they want so they can puzzle over it and their brain can logically work through what that number means and what it can do.

So this week , I am keeping the activity simple and fun. All I would like you to do is print out some 100 squares and let your child play with them.

Initially I would sit with your child and maybe take a 100 square each and talk about the numbers on it.

What number does it start on?

What number does it finish on?

Can you find the number ___?

Can you find a single digit number?

Can you find a 2-digit number?

Can you see any patterns? What?

Once you move onto discussing patterns you need to be very open minded and guide the conversation but not lead it. When a child sees a pattern the pattern could be what we would deem a pattern to be or it could be a completely new idea to us but something very interesting to your child. Go with it and talk about why it is a pattern, what makes it a pattern, where the pattern begins, where it ends etc. I always find this bit fascinating as children's minds are less restricted than ours, everything is still new enough to them that they will explore in every direction they can think of and are not limited by the parameters of what we are now trained to see as normal. We really want to encourage this open minded thinking. When you are talking about the patterns please encourage your child to explain the patterns in their words. Explaining their maths is actually something children find really difficult and the more practice they can get, the better. Help and hint but try not to put works in their mouths.

Once you have discussed the square, the numbers and anything interesting about it find some coloured pencils or pens and colour some patterns. This may be something you do together or something your child is happy to do alone. However it works, keep popping along and chatting about the patterns that are being coloured. Try to keep the conversations light and interesting but not too pressured or heavy. This is supposed to be a fun activity where the children are discovering for themselves. These patterns can be patterns with the numbers or they might be patterns with the squares which you could follow up by looking at the numbers in the squares. Make sure you have multiple copies of the 100 square so multiple patterns can be coloured.

I am going to keep the differentiation simple this week. This is a very open ended task that looks like it could be very simple for the older children. However, what often happens with this activity is the older children love it because they don't get to play with numbers any more, they're too busy manipulating big numbers. Often, being given this chance can really help them to make sense of some of the more difficult concepts they are studying.

**Pre-school**

Keep it simple, fun and interesting and finish before your child gets bored. You will more likely be working at the first half of the 100 square, don't push them too far if they're not ready but there's nothing wrong with taking a look at the higher numbers and seeing how they work. This is a fab activity for this age as they can really explore some numbers. One way of working through this with them is to look at a new pattern every day for a week.

**5, 6 and 7 year olds**

You will hopefully be looking at the whole square with these children. This activity is great for this level as it can really help them consolidate their knowledge of numbers to 100 and possibly beyond. At this age the number square often helps make sense of what they're learning. Hopefully when doing this your child should be able to come up with patterns that fit across the whole square and be able to explain the patterns her / himself without too much guidance.

**7, 8 and 9 year olds**

I would imagine these children will enjoy just being able to play with numbers with no pressure. They should be able to work with the whole square and make predictions about higher numbers and patterns. Something to encourage at this level is talk of place value and how the numbers are made up of tens and units and how this is the basis for some of the patterns they will find. The visual of the number square should help them to really see how the place value works. (place value is something I intend to discuss in a later article, if you are not sure about discussing this with your child then don't worry, we will go over this later.)

**9, 10 and 11 year olds**

Use what I written above but then extend them with some different number squares. These can be really fun as they start to encourage thinking away from our base ten number system. Most of all with these children let them have fun and rediscover the joy of playing with numbers.

5's number square

6's number square

7's number square

8's number square

9's number square