Tag Archives: thinking


I really like the idea of using open ended questions as a starter for lessons and often use the Thunks website from Independent Thinking. I found a new site which I called Thought Questions  which has questions in a similar vein although the questions on there are often a bit deeper. They could certainly lead to good ‘citizenship’ and PSHE discussions. There are also some lovely images which go with each question.

I am going to use the images from the site to create an interactive thinking display in my room. The questions will be in the middle of the display and the children will  add their answers/ideas on post-it notes around the display.

Have a look at the site and see what you think.

Apple Smoking In The Darkness

Low-tech mental oral starter 2

Another popular low-tech starter is a version of the memory game ‘I went shopping.’ In the maths version children take it in turns to say

‘I went shopping with £x.xx and I bought something (let the children choose, it adds to the fun) that cost £x.xx, what change should I get.’

This activity lends itself to circle time maths and pretty much to any age groups which have worked with money. Older children could add the ideas of a % discount or price rises too. The children will really enjoy making up problems to extend their friends maths skills!

Low-tech mental oral starter!

Just a quick post. I got reminded listening to my partner’s daughter this evening that the most interesting and effective things in teaching can also be the simplest.

Her maths teacher uses a variation of the ’11’ game to practice counting down, through hundred barriers.  To play you would stand up all the class and begin with a random child and a number near a hundreds barrier (214 for example). Each child subtracts either 1,2 or3 numbers from 214 until some child says 197. The child who says 197 sits down and are out. So a sample game might go,








197 OUT!

You play until only one person is left in.

You can also use an extension to this game. That is for the winning player’s table to get a reward of house points etc. The children then have to use a planning strategy to try to keep their table’s members in.

I’ll be giving it a go with my maths class tomorrow!

Using physicsgames.net for problem solving.

Physics games is a site I use with my class to develop thinking skills. It is a site which contains hundreds of free games which, as the name suggests have some degree of physics in them. This doesn’t mean that they are complex science games. The science involved is often simple use of gravity, although many of the games have an element of forces in them also.

The site has been updated recently to put the games into categories; block removal, construction, demolition, platform, projectile and stacking. Each game, as well as being free is easily embedded into a blog site and could be embedded into a class blog page.

I use the site for problem solving activities, with the children working in table groups and attempting to solve the puzzles on the IWB. This approach often leads to other tables seeing the solution as we collaboratively achieve the goals.

The games on the site are successful, I feel, because they do not require the ‘knowledge’ which I feel sometimes holds back problem solvers where a problem is based in maths (as I find many problem solving activities are). There is no need for number bonding, nor tables. The problems are solved generally through the problem being identified, the resources being evaluated and then a mixture of trial and error approaches. Within these trials, the children may identify changing an order of events as being required for example or using one set of resources to change to effect of another. In nearly all of the games I have used, the skills required are built steadily from one level to the next leading to a good progression of problem solving skills being required.

As well as developing these skills, the games on the site are extremely popular, I find, with many of my class working on them at home and asking to stop in through playtime to work on them.

The link is in the sidebar under the category thinking skills.


We began our new topic this week, it’s all about trying to make Buddy Bear into a famous film star. He’s not been successful so far, and he wants our P7 classes to help him. Much of the planning of this topic needs to come from the ideas the children have, so an obvious place to start, I thought was with a mind map.

I’ve made mindmaps before using Publisher very successfully, but our LA doesn’t seem to support Publisher in primary schools, so I wondered if there was an online web 2.0 type alternative. I posted on twitter and 10 minutes later I got a response from @atstewart suggesting mind42.com I had a look at it on Tuesday evening and had a bit of a play and it seemed really simple to use.

I liked the fact that it could easily use pictures from the internet (it has a built in google image search), as well as the fact that I found it a really simple, but smart piece of software to use. It created good quality mindmaps easily. It took away the need for rubbers, rulers that don’t have a ‘nick’ in them and felt tips that don’t work and allowed the children the chance to edit their maps as they went along, without making a mess.

When we used the program on Wednesday, the children soon worked their way around it and as ever helped each other out and found out quickly what could be done. The program autosaves work to the account it is signed in to. It allows the maps to be saved and then printed by a variety of means, including pdf. There is also a publish to web option.

You do need a sign-in to use the program, but I created a temporary one (in that I deleted the account after the lesson) and shared the username and password with the whole class. Through using their GLOW passwords the children invited their friends to collaborate on their  mindmaps.  As I hoped, the children are beginning to move past the ‘msn’ novelty of collaborative work and are just adding to and editting each other maps.

I thought this was a really good piece of web based software which I feel we will use regularly in class and hopefully the children will use it out of school too.

Here is a vimeo to watch explaining it all!

Mind42: Introduction from Stefan Schuster on Vimeo.


We’ve been doing shape in class this week and I’ve been trying to find some more interesting ways for the children to learn. I find that children have a set visual idea of certain shapes, and when they are confronted with a shape that doesn’t conform to that idea, they cannot define it. For example when asked about a hexagon, the children will think of the regular hexagon shape, yet a hexagon is any polygon with 6 lines (the l shape is often found to be a problem).

To address this we did lots of work on pinboards, drawing shapes with certain properties. For example, on a 3 by3 pinboard, draw a hexagon which has 4 right angles. This practical activity got us all thinking and certainly seemed to help move away from pre-conceived ideas about what a shape should look like.

A resource I used a lot this week was a book called ‘Activities and Problems, Shape and Space’ from the Gateshead Numeracy Team. I have my copy from when I taught in Gateshead, given freely to Gateshead teachers, but now it costs £20 from the GAL education website. The book contains a lot of great ideas for teaching shape. It has a mixture of some games, some active maths lessons and some challenging shape and space problems.

Another book I used was Measures, shape and space for Y7.  This has some really challenging shape and space activities which extend the children as well as some good games which can be played at a variety of levels.

I also got the children to create posters for the facts about shape we had discovered during the week. This was a popular activity which helped to reinforce the properties of shape we had been learning.

A website I found and wish I had found at the start of the week was Tangram. Children enjoy trying to solve tangrams but often the cutting up of pieces of paper and the subsequent lost pieces makes the lesson more of a challenge than it should be. The website solves all these problems and allows the children the chance to try to create a variety of shapes from the given tangram.


Probably like many teachers I’m always on the look out for things for my class to do first thing in the morning. I like to give them something that is accessible to everyone, is stimulating, encourages thought and is fun (no pressure then!).

One of the things I use that goes down well is a thunk. A thunk is a question which often has a yes or no answer but can go as deep as you want to take it with your class. It’s often hard not to get carried away with them. They can also make great ideas for starting RME lessons to encourage reflective thinking.

Here is an example and a poll to answer. Feel free to comment as well!

[polldaddy poll=2423903]

And here is the link to the Thunks site http://www.thunks.co.uk

Have a great Christmas,


Maths Maps – Edinburgh

Tom Barrett has come up with a fantastic idea for using google maps to create maths maps. The idea, like many brilliant ones, is simple. You find an area (I did Edinburgh as it’s local, so I know it) and put in place markers in certain areas and attach maths questions to them.  Children can then work through them in and out of school and answer the questions.

Because of the way google maps is shared people all over the world can collaborate with these maps (including children as part of their learning). You can use different coloured markers for different levels of questions. I’m really looking forward to trialling it in school during our maths week.

Here is a link to my maths map. http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=100326449397226863158.00047b1da8e296c504701&z=11

Here is a link to the maths map area of Tom’s blog. http://edte.ch/blog/maths-maps/

And finally here is a link to Tom’s blog, which I think is brilliant. http://edte.ch/blog/

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=100326449397226863158.00047b1da8e296c504701&t=h&ll=55.946893,-3.223801&spn=0.134573,0.291824&z=11&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

‘Tis the season…

We’ve only got three more teaching days to go until we break up for Christmas, so we’re beginning to ease up a little. I enjoy finding puzzles and quizzes for my class to do in the run up to an end of term, so I’ve got a few websites with quizzes on to share today.

http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/braint.htm has lots of quizzes, puzzles and paradoxes on it (although some have a U.S. bias as the site is from the States.)

http://www.internet4classrooms.com/brain_teasers.htm has links to many other puzzle and brainteaser pages on it.

http://www.brainbashers.com/ has hundreds of puzzles (including new ones daily) on it. There are many visual puzzles on this site.

http://brainden.com/ is another site with interesting puzzles on it.

And finally for now http://www.sporcle.com/ is very enjoyable as a whole class activity at the end of the day.The quizzes on this site are list quizzes (e.g. name all the countries of Europe in 5 minutes). The children may not get to the end of the puzzle but they are very ‘open’ quizzes for everyone to play their part in. This site is based in the US and members submit quizzes (sadly a few are of an inappropriate nature for the classroom) so it is IMPERATIVE  that you find the quiz (or quizzes) you want on the site and put those quizzes onto the whiteboard for use in the class, rather than browse the quizzes with your class watching you! – Take a look and see for yourself what I mean.

Hope you find some of these links useful.

A spatial thinking game

My class are currently enjoying the game PHIT. It’s a bit like tetris.You have to fit shapes together in certain ways inside a yellow oblong (I think it’s yellow, I’m very colour blind).

I really enjoy using games like this as the children really get into it -it was the talk of the class this morning with children saying what level they had got onto at home. It also addresses an area which I feel many children need to develop – spatial awareness. Many children seem to have it, but often those who haven’t got a natural spatial awareness do not get enough exposure to activities to help them develop one. This activity, I feel, will help a lot.

I found it on the NCETM primary maths magazine edition 17 (which includes some great ideas about linking maths with the art of Andy Goldsworthy) and this version is hosted on the coolmath-games website.

Here is the link http://www.coolmath-games.com/0-phit/index.html