Calculations with a purpose

One of my favourite things about my job is coming up with ideas for teaching and activities. With many of the students who I teach out on placement at the moment, I get frequent emails asking for support with activities for science and mathematics. This week’s waffle was originally a reply to one of those requests which I thought would be interesting to share here.


Get the children to do your tax return?

Get the children to do your tax return?

I would often ask the children to complete some ‘marking’ for me.

Number is one of the most frequent areas of mathematics which is taught in school and it is important that we try to avoid endless lists of calculations for the children to complete. Although these are sometimes unavoidable and do fulfil some requirements, I always think that it is better to present number work within a context so that children can recognise the link between the mathematics and real life and use those important skills involved in ‘working mathematically’. So here are some ‘scenarios’ that can be used to engage the children in calculations

  • Mark this for me-It is important that children are able to recognise when calculations are incorrect as well as completing them correctly. I would often ask the children to complete some ‘marking’ for me. This wasn’t my marking, it was actually a worksheet that was completed by me that the children ‘marked’. I would say that my friend or a fellow teacher didn’t have time to complete it and would they help. The idea of this is that the children have to complete the calculations in order to mark them, including using inverse operations where appropriate. If an answer is incorrect, they of course needed to look into the calculation to see where the person has gone wrong – this allows them to engage with success criteria/steps to success – following the process to see where they went wrong.
  • Give me a quote? – This activity has a range of scenarios and can involve almost all of the four operations. The idea is that someone requires some work to be completed. The price list or costings are provided to the children along with the requirements of the job. The children are then required to put together a ‘quote’ using the costings that meets the requirements – the important part is that they are required to present their working out since the customer needs to see where the final bill was created. This scenario also has links to other areas of mathematics – for example area and perimeters for quotes for gardens and measurement for painting and wallpapering.
  • On a budget – This is when you provide the children with a budget to create an event. This could be anything from a themed party to the end of term disco. The idea, similar to ‘Give me a quote’ is that the children have the costings and have to work within a specific budget to great the event. This can be expanded to include a mini enterprise project – the teacher in year 6 often used to get the children to cost out making biscuits and then selling them for charity. The group which made the most money of course won the prize! Again, in order or progress with their business plan/budget idea, they need to present it, which means that all working out needs to be presented.
  • Tax returns! – Originally this scenario focused mainly on percentages although the principle can be used in many different situations. The idea is that the children are provided with a number of different amounts/numbers – this could be anything from items that have been claimed on expenses to the different food items bought by the zoo keepers. The children then need to group these and total them and present them in a suitable form. This of course has strong links to data handling (or statistics if you want the new national curriculum term for it). Due to the accountant needing to check out the children’s work, all workings need to be provided!
  • So, next time you are sat in your PPA room trying to think about a new scenario for number work, hopefully these will help you to get those creative ideas flowing. If you have any other ways which you have engaged the children with their number work then please add them in the comments below or send me them to be via twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, google+ or email.

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    Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later