One of the things I always find difficult when teaching fractions is finding accurate ways to create the images I desire. I have found two sites which create the representations I want in my lessons.

The first is part of a large suite of online materials.

VisualFractions.com has a large range of tools linked to fractions. The page above is the basic fraction maker which I use a lot. The site has clear instructions for each area and works really well. The downsides, for me, are the lack of colour choice and no possibility to change the orientation of the final image. It can, however, create improper fractions.

This has the option to make shapes as polygons or circles, provides space to apply a custom colour and can rotate the images. Unlike my other option, this cannot make images for improper fractions.

As always, if you use these links in your lessons, I’d love to hear how you get on!

MathsBot is a recent discovery of mine which has a few great tools aimed at older maths learners – on loading, it displays resources for GCSE pupils, for example.

However, it also has a section of online manipulatives which are great to use in the Primary classroom – particularly one which may be lacking somewhat in concrete resources.

Now, I know that online and virtual pictorial representations are no substitute for hands on experience, but they still have a place in the classroom.

Right now, there are 12 available:

algebra tiles

bar modelling

counters

counting stick

Cuisenaire rods

Dienes blocks

fraction wall

geoboard

number frame

pentominoes

place value counters

unit box

Of those, a handy way to create place value counters and Dienes blocks, will prove invaluable to me.

Old folk like me will probably remember the National Numeracy Strategy (NNS) Interactive Teaching Programmes (ITPs) – some of which were great and some of which were horrible.

It turns out, they were great tools to show loads of mathematical ideas on whiteboards – but because they were made in the late 90s, and in Flash, lots of them no longer work.

Ted Burch of mathsframe.co.uk has very kindly remade them all in html5 but retained their original look.

The reworked programmes should work on tablets and most modern devices.

There are currently 25 remade tools which are all available for free here:

A great way to think about conceptual variation is to ask children when something doesn’t fit into a specific set of criteria – knowing not only the properties of a maths topic but being able to explain why particular objects don’t belong in that topic too is a feature of maths mastery.

Conceptual variation means the opportunity to work on different representations of the same mathematical idea. This might be, for instance, looking at multiple representations of a number with Diennes equipment, place value counters, Gattegno grids, place value grids, arrow cards etc. These numerous representations demonstrate to pupils the different conceptual ideas that underpin a mathematical concept.

So, in the context of place value, some will reveal the quantity or value of a digit, some will show the importance of the position of a digit, others will support the order of the number and some will reveal the additive or multiplicative nature of place value.

The use of conceptual variation can be applied to all areas of the mathematical curriculum.

One website I’ve found to aid in this aspect of conceptual variation is nonexamples.com.

The site has a range of mathematical topics to choose from and will display a variety of appropriate images of both examples and non-examples relating to it. There are two modes currently: question and compare.

I feel the initial question mode would be useful for opening lessons, possibly mid-way through a unit of work. They would also be a wonderful resource to develop and assess children’s reasoning skills.

Compare mode, however, is something I would use to introduce a new concept – perhaps even just displaying examples and non-examples side by side as above and asking children what they notice.

Numberblocks is a pre-school BBC television series aimed at introducing children to early number.

These NCETM materials use each episode as a launch pad. They are designed to assist Early Years (and also Year 1) practitioners to move on from an episode, helping children to bring the numbers and ideas to life in the world around them.

You don’t even need to register with the NCETM to use them!

The materials are designed to be used in conjunction with the Numberblocks episodes. They highlight and develop the key mathematical ideas that are embedded in the programmes. Each set of materials comes in the form of a PowerPoint file, and includes the following features:

The episode description summarises the story and the key things that happen

The maths in the episode explains the key mathematical concepts that are featured in the episode

Using mathematical language – because it is important that practitioners model precise and correct mathematical language, there are suggestions of key sentences that you might use and have repeated; they provide a language structure to connect each mathematical idea to different contexts. Children will initially use their own language to talk about the mathematics, and will develop correct and precise language if this is modelled by adults.

Overviews of each series, their storylines and the mathematics addressed, are available as downloadable PDFs from the link below.

More materials are available on the CBeebies’ Numberblocks page, also linked below.

I have long been a fan of Steve Wyborney’s blog where he shares plenty of engaging and different ideas to develop mathematical thinking. Although based in Oregon, the ideas are still very relevant to the UK curriculum.

I recently came across his use of dot patterns to promote ‘noticing’ – not something we necessarily spend a lot of time on, but I now wonder why we don’t.

One big focus in mathematics teaching currently is the use of small step and space to let children think. This sort of activity undoubtedly lends itself towards these ideas.

Steve has created 10 pages of dotted patterns, the purpose of which is to promote a wide variety of partitioning, seeking different perspectives and recording observations in ways that can be very useful. I would guarantee there will be children in every class who see a different pattern or way of breaking things up to draw out different mathematics every time.

He recommends using 18 copies of the same pattern with the space underneath being vital to allow plenty of working room and many opportunities to explore the same thing in different ways.

The following image is from his explanation video of how to use the patterns (found here), demonstrating 4 ways to investigate one such pattern.

For a greater challenge, once children are used to working with these, you could develop more complex images with different coloured dots – each colour being worth a separate value – to explore larger numbers, perhaps. Each dot doesn’t need to necessarily only be worth 1, either.

The 10 patterns and some further information can be found at the link below.

This lovely animated GIF makes me feel like there is something worth getting children to investigate further – either as a lesson activity or as a project to create short films showing other numbers.

As always, I’d love to hear if you use the idea, or it has inspired you to do something different in a lesson.

I’m not quite sure why I’ve never thought of this before now, but… using sticky notes to highlight the partitioning of a number after an addition to show how to deal with numbers larger than 9 is a complete revelation to me!

Show students how to add up the numbers in the ones column and write the answer on a sticky note. In the beginning, it is probably worth labelling the left side of the note “tens” and the right side “ones.”

Use a pair of scissors to cut the note in half vertically.

Put the “tens” half of the note on top of the tens column. Put the “ones” half underneath the ones column. Add up all the numbers in the tens column and there’s the answer!

I will certainly be using this with my pupils in future when introducing this concept. I’d love to hear how you get on if you try it too.

The following ten files are a straightforward set of mathematical vocabulary flashcards. I have grouped them by topic and have written on in small lettering where in the curriculum the term is introduced.

A sample page from the addition and subtraction group is shown below. All of the pages share the same design.

Feel free to share with colleagues – I would love to know how they are being used.