Louise Racher is a Primary Maths Adviser for Herts for Learning.  In this blog she harks back to the crazes that have blighted or enlivened the teachers’ year and how we can exploit the latest one for mathematical ends in KS1 this summer.  

As another academic year comes to a close it is time to reflect on all the crazes which have dominated children’s (and parents’) lives.  The dab (may it rest in peace), bottle flipping, fidget spinners and last but not least Lego Cards!

Not all these crazes might have touched your lives, but as a teacher, it is hard to remain aloof when a certain craze occupies pupils conversations in and out of class.  Teachers are creative and flexible, along with a craze comes an opportunity to be seized.  Before you know it you’re measuring the length of time a fidget spinner can spin unaided, comparing that to other varieties, conjecturing about whether the weight affects the length of spinning time.  Word problems will no longer feature sweets, it is the number of dabs, the price of a fidget spinner and the mean average of time a bottle can be successfully flipped which are included in order that they have a bespoke context relevant to the pupils.

As a parent of a year 1 child, Lego Cards have been the obsession in my household (I will admit to sharing it slightly).  Of course, this is nothing new, I can remember fondly trying to complete my Jurassic Park sticker album, the excitement of finding which I needed in my weekly purchased packet from Martin’s Newsagents.  Of course, with the advancement of social media parents have been able to give this craze a helping hand as they quest to find the final few (for interest I have 4 remaining cards to find … but clearly this isn’t the forum for that discussion).

As the craze dwindles the left over cards will no doubt be left cluttering up houses across the nation, gathering dust.  However, with a few weeks left of school lets keep up the engagement in maths with a few ideas of how you might be able to use a bunch of cards which you could ask parents to donate in droves. (I am sure they would only be too happy to assist!)  So here follows a few ideas to get you going, no doubt there are many more ideas than these.

Idea 1 – Order them!

This sounds obvious, but giving each group an amount of cards to order can be an interesting experience in their efficiency.  Will they organise them into multiples of 10 and then re-order each pile.  Will they line them up numerically and slot numbers in between as they go?  And what will they make of the zeros which are placed before the numbers, such as 001, how do pupils interpret these?  A good discussion can be had about the value of these and what their purpose is.  If all the cards are ordered then other activities can be much easier.

Idea 2 – Make a bar graph


Giving pupils a range as appropriate e.g. 1-10 you might ask pupils to find out if they think some cards are more popular than others (while you might not want to get into a marketing conversation I would like to point out that number 140 seems rather elusive).  Once the bar graph has been constructed you might ask pupils to represent that information in any way they like.  This could span to quite a few lessons as the pupils record this (individually, in pairs or as a group) and then interpret their data as well as comparing other representations which have been drawn, evaluating which ones are the easiest to interpret.


Idea 3 – adding/subtracting totals

Using the icons of rock, paper scissors which appear on the corner of each card pupils could select an appropriate range of cards (hopefully they are ordered already) putting them in the middle then turn over one at a time to indicate who wins.  Rock will blunt scissors, for example.  The winner of that turn could replicate the numerical value of the card on a tens frame, or a recording scaffold.


The “shiny” cards could be worth ten, this can reinforce place value.  Pupils can add totals by accumulating their points in this way, and if recording in alternating colours will be able to see how those totals have been made.  This game can be adapted by saying the loser from each round has to take away the value of their card (in which case a concrete resource could be better than a recording frame).  You might introduce a talk frame to make the addition or subtraction more explicit.  After each turn they could comment.  “I had X points, I added X and now I have X points.”  This could be extended by comparing the totals, “I am winning/losing by X points.”

Idea 4 – Estimating – measures

Pupils could be asked to estimate how many cards it would take to get from one end of their desk to the other, across the whiteboard, or the classroom.  The total of the length is not important here, but the ability to able to estimate using a range of strategies.  Pupils might use one card and use that to scale up, or they might look at half the distance, estimate that and then double it.  They could be encouraged to make a “silly” estimate, this might help support those pupils who have a tendency to give numbers and ideas before they have had a chance to think about the reasonableness of their answers.  Of course they could then be challenged to work out the exact distance using the length of one card, which is 8cm.

Idea 5 – Word problems

Just giving the cards as a context to solve some problems could give teachers an opportunity to rehearse key vocabulary, translating that into calculations.  Perhaps using the idea that someone needed four more cards, and asking them to work out what numbers she needs.  Then the pupils could have a look through their (ordered) cards to see if they had them, which would give them a purpose to solving the problem.

The card number is half-way between 10 and 20

The card is even, between 60 and 70, with both digits being the same

The cards is less than 20, it has a single digit, is odd and is half of 10.

I hope these ideas might ensure these cards are given a final reprieve before they end up in the “Uncool” heap along with shell-suits, snap bracelets and a certain brand of puffer jacket.

Other brands of newsagents, linking cubes, stickers and padded jackets are available!

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