Teaching maths at primary school can be challenging at the best of times. At least in the classroom we can use tools and apparatus to present real-world examples to help our students get their heads around somewhat abstract concepts like fractions, decimals or even just one-to-one correspondence. With remote learning, we need to adjust our teaching to include more creative ways to engage and enthuse our learners, while addressing the challenge of delivering content remotely.
For G Suite users, there are some great in-built tools to help support learning as well as some third-party apps and extensions that can really level up your maths teaching.
Jamboard is a relatively new G Suite tool, and it has been a real game-changer for home learning. It works just like an interactive whiteboard, but can be shared directly onto your students’ devices and, even better, they can interact with it in real time too.
You can also create a Jamboard directly from a Google Meet, which will open a new Jam. Check sharing settings and place a link in the chat for your members to join.
For KS2 children, if you’re keen to encourage them to interact with your Jamboard during live teaching, don’t forget to show them how to have two browser windows open at once so that they can see both your Meet and the Jamboard.
Through the browser, Jamboard has some great features, like auto shape drawing and image insertion, as well as text boxes and sticky notes. You can also easily draw straight lines by holding down the shift button when you use the pen tool. If you download the app, you can get really creative by using the magic pen which uses AI to ‘guess’ what you’re doing and suggests simple line art to go in its place.
For younger pupils, consider using a Jamboard to encourage pupils and their parents to represent number facts. For example, they can find items around the home that represent the number 5 or show different ways to represent ½ or arrange numbers on a number line by dropping in images of different numbers.
My favourite use of Jamboard in a live lesson is to demonstrate a formal method, for example long multiplication, then asking the pupils to have a go. They can do so either on their own page on the Jamboard or if they don’t have touch-screen technology at home, on a piece of paper or in their books. They can watch me demonstrate live, then try it themselves, just like they would in the classroom.
Like all G Suite tools, Jamboard can be shared directly via Google Classroom and can either be set as ‘students can view’ ‘pupils students edit’ or ‘make a copy for each student,’ meaning that you can create a template activity and give each child a copy to work on in their own time.
2. Google Docs
It’s easy to dismiss Docs as a word processing tool, which isn’t very useful in maths, but with the insert -> equation menu, you can easily add in fractions and other mathematical symbols, making it great for creating worksheets.
Once you’ve clicked insert → equation, you’ll notice a new menu bar appears on your doc
Clicking ‘new equation’ opens a little blue box which allows you to select the operators that you need. These include the division symbol, found in ‘miscellaneous operations’, and fractions, which can be found in the ‘math operations’ dropdown. It becomes relatively easy to present maths more effectively for students.When you’ve created your maths, why not take a screenshot and import it into Forms, Jamboard or even Slides?
I’ll admit, even with the equation function, inserting equations into Docs isn’t the easiest thing to manage. If, like me, you regularly want to insert fractions, division symbols and other mathematical operators, then it’s time to start looking outside of the G Suite ecosystem. No maths teacher’s arsenal is complete without EquatIO - not only does the extension allow you to easily import mathematical signs and symbols either by typing, drawing or speaking, you can also scan in images of written maths, which the system will interpret and convert to print. All maths is dropped into your document as an image so it works brilliantly with Forms, Slides and even Jamboard. More importantly, while TextHelp charges you to use EquatIO on your student accounts, teachers can get completely free access to their premium product by filling the form here.
Apart from enabling you to create great resources, EquatIO also includes MathsSpace, which is perfect for developing resources with maths-related images and manipulatives. These include fraction wheels and tangrams that can easily be imported into your Docs as images. The best thing about MathsSpace though, is that it integrates with Google Classroom! So if you upgrade and get pupil accounts, you can create interactive worksheets for your pupils.
If you’ve not already utilized virtual manipulatives on Toy Theater, then you’ve been missing out on a fantastic tool. From bear counters to probability spinners, there are a host of fabulous and easy-to-use manipulatives ready to use for your live lessons. There are even a few interactive games on the site that are worth exploring - my personal favourite is to use a 0-99 number grid to play maths Connect 4. You can find similar resources on Math Playground and The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives so there are plenty of opportunities to bring maths to life for your pupils.
5. Flipped Learning
Learning in a lockdown is never going to be the same as learning face-to-face in the classroom, but it’s a great opportunity to explore some of the more creative ways of delivering teaching and learning and giving your students a chance to demonstrate their understanding in a flipped classroom. Encouraging pupils to be creative in Flipgrid, ThingLink or even Google Sites are a few ways students can work independently to consolidate their learning.
Why not get your younger pupils to film themselves counting to 10 on a Flipgrid or adding objects from around their home to make 6? Older pupils could make their own videos or interactive ThingLinks about how to multiply fractions or to demonstrate how to measure an angle using a protractor. Furthermore, the pupils needing extra support in your class can be encouraged by watching their classmate’s videos and can learn from their peers.
The key to flipped learning is to encourage students to reflect on their learning by getting creative and there are a host of interactive tools that can enable this.
6. Web-based Maths Games
There are endless subscriptions services out there for maths, and now is a good time to explore them. Many of these services can support asynchronous learning and give your students time to practice what they’ve learnt. Popular ones include Times Tables Rockstars, Mathletics, Hegarty Maths and Manga High. My experience is that the first two offer a great user experience for primary-aged pupils, but it’s worth noting that some of the Manga High Games can be played for free, without an account. One example is Pinata Fever, which is a simple addition and subtraction name on a number line, which is great for introducing negative numbers .Just check out the games before you have students play, as some of them are definitely aimed at secondary school users.
Do you have favourite maths tools for teaching during lockdown?
Cat Lamin is a former primary school teacher with 12 years of teaching experience. She has a passion for coding and computer science and specialises in supporting teachers who are getting started on their journey into using technology in the classroom. In 2017 Cat was shortlisted for the European Digital Woman of the Year award and has been invited to speak about her experiences teaching computer science around the world including in Brazil, Argentina and the US. She is passionate about talking about equality, stereotypes and mental health as well as supporting the teaching of computer science. Cat is a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, CAS master teacher and Google Certified Innovator.