Numbershark 5: Tummys, Tripods and Tricks to support Progress
Edition dated 6/3/2019
Many parents and teachers ask us general questions about “how to use Numbershark”. This is one of a series of papers giving suggestions.
Overall, sell a message of wanting a happy, confident child who can see that they are improving at a speed that they are capable of, and are gaining mastery.
Only too often, the pace of a school maths class can be just that bit too much for a child, and/or a child is assumed to have more confidence and understanding from a previous exposure to a topic than is actually the case.
If asked “is it better to fully master 3 topics with confidence, than have encountered 30 topics, all of which are not mastered, retained or understood” the answer should be obvious.
However, feedback here from parents and some education staff is that they have a child who lacks confidence in Maths and numeracy and is becoming demoralised, confused and demotivated.
The “Tummy test” is one that served me throughout my time as a specialist Maths/Dyscalculia teacher, and one that I offer to you as an idea to “tweak” to your own needs. In the example below, I am considering a child or adult who is working at lower than a moderate GCSE grade (i.e. lower half of expectations for a 16-year-old).
- Open Numbershark. Go to the easiest level in addition (the black heading “numbers to 10 / adding 1”). Explain you want the learner to say how confident they feel with these sums. With number work such as 3+1, there will normally be a feeling of “this is totally stress-free, easy, no anxiety”. Explain this is the “easy-peasy lemon squeezy easy feeling in the tummy” (or other age-appropriate statement!)
- Go to the hardest level in addition (Addition above 1000 / Add 4- and 5-digit numbers) – or possibly for an older or more able child Division / Two-digit and three-digit division / Three-digit division. This is likely to be far too hard: What does the learner think? Re-frame to “queasy feeling in tummy”.
- Explain that you really want the learner to feel happy and confident, and work on the black heading one before the highest black list that gives an “easy” feeling for numberwork, because this “manageable level of challenge” is how they can improve fastest. Worry is the enemy of learning! For educationalists – note how this relates to Vygotsky’s Zones of Proximal Development, or “small steps approach”
- Return to the easiest level, and go up each list, quite possibly only a few seconds on each – the learner will usually instantly say “easy peasy” for the first ones, and then tell you when their “easy peasy” feeling is replaced by something slightly less comfortable. This will be the best list to start with for any given number area (number area = blue courses, Addition, Subtraction, etc.)
- IF you have a younger / less than fully independent learner, then use this list as a starting point for “setting work” (See the “Help” menu video tutorial for this). Under Admin / Add and Manage, assign that black heading as “Set work- Standard”, possibly along with the following 2-3 other black headings for other numeracy topics so that the learner can move between this limited number of topics to give some variety.
- Generally, allow the learner to remain on a given level as long as they need, playing as many games as they need, until they tell you that the assigned work is now “too easy” (i.e. mastered & consolidated)
- Initially, this may take only a few minutes for each black heading.
- On harder levels, or with a learner who finds numberwork challenging this may be several days or weeks.
- Play some games several times in a row (particularly the “Mental Maths” ones, perhaps finishing with the “Sum Test” game) and go to actions / view own records and see how their speed / accuracy / number of errors record on that list improves on that game. This can aid improvements in confidence, consolidate learning/understanding/speed/accuracy.
- Building on from a firm foundation at this topic level, the next list is then almost always a very attainable small but manageable step forward.
- DO please show the learner how to move to the next list (usually easiest via the > in the top right corner)
- DO please encourage them to start each new list by clicking on the example sums in the right-hand column and study the visual demonstrations that result. Being able to visualise the number concept can help many learners. This “Demo” stage is critical! It will also give you the educator a few ideas of how to use concrete material to support learning Educationalists – think Piaget’s 4 stages of cognitive development – [Sensorimotor] then “preoperational (goal=symbolic thought”; Concrete operational (goal=operational thought); Formal operational (goal=abstract concepts)
- DO please show the learner the “Options” menu, present in many games, and the “Speed” slider, both of which can make a game easier or more challenging – and which can be ratcheted up by the learner themselves as their confidence for a given list increases, along with their ability to “work faster” on the topic
- Do monitor the learner regularly: Numbershark is not designed as a baby-sitting service. Ask them to tell you when they have the fully “easy peasy” feeling, and the work is so easy they no longer feel they are “learning”. They may even say it is getting boring – a useful proxy indicator for “too easy” or “full mastery”.
Many years ago, as a trainee Maths teacher, I was taught that “Tripod is everything”. I found that this worked for my students. I hope it will make sense to you and be as helpful.
A camera tripod has 3 legs and holds your camera perfectly steady.
The Maths tripod has 3 legs, and ensures the learner’s confidence remains steady:
- Leg 1 is “Understanding”: The “Demo” stage referred to above is critical in supporting the understanding of the numeracy concept. See the games listed within the “Number Concepts” tab, as these will be particularly useful. All of the (usually many) games available for a given topic are likely to support a full understanding of the topic.
- Leg 2: “Accuracy”: Knowing the concept of “addition” is of little use, if the learner thinks that 7 + 7 = 16
- Leg 3: “Speed”: Understanding the concept and being accurate is great – but if a learner requires 2-3 minutes (or even 2-3 seconds!) to state that 7+7 = 14, then they have not yet developed the speed of recall that would indicate a move to the next level is appropriate.
- When the learner understands a concept, and can answer quickly and accurately, they are likely to have “over-learned” the topic well enough to move on. Even at this stage, re-visiting a topic (a black heading) at intervals over the following weeks will be wise. Many learners need this repeated exposure to commit a topic to long-term memory.
- Numbershark’s many games for each black heading support the “over-learning” which results in “Tripod”.
- If you allow the “Peep” option (default setting), then studying the “Actions/Own Records” for a child (also available within the “Admin/Add and Manage menu), you will typically see a child’s “peeps” for a given game gradually reduce, whilst speed and accuracy increase. (This is particularly the case in games where “motor coordination” is less of a variable)
I hope that you can “tweak” my suggestions to fit your needs: The “Tummy test” and “Tripod” have helped me over 40 years to ensure happy learners, confident individuals, and genuine progress built on solid foundations rather than a melt-down of muddled mathematics resulting from covering too many topics too quickly for a given learner.
Whether you find this works for you – or does not – feedback is always appreciated: email@example.com
Support Manager, White Space Ltd