Action Maths

by Ian Fisher

Posted on May 18, 2016 at 09:02

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Every year we try to do something a little bit special. This year we have done something a big bit special. We have been busy writing our Action Maths – that’s active maths with a pulse, the new superfood for mathematics.


To begin, I must go back to the last century (yes that long ago), when as a young teacher I taught maths and PE. I was sent to Blackpool (not the northern equivalent of being sent to Coventry) to the Easter Blackpool PE conference. This was when LEAs (yes remember them?) had money to train teachers. The Blackpool conference put on a whole assortment of PE courses for those who wanted to use their Easter break for betterment. That year I was on a Health Related Fitness course, a relatively new concept that involved growing like a tree and relaxing to whale music...quite progressive for the time.


Going back to school, I had to implement a Health Related Fitness programme into the PE department. One lesson involved the circulation of the blood through the body. Here we used four hoops for the heart and a circuit around the hall that involved picking up red bands (oxygenated blood) and swapping them for blue bands (deoxygenated blood) as we progressed around different parts of the body. We threw in some sit ups, press ups etc just for sadistic pleasure. It was the start of kinaesthetic learning. The student retention rates of the facts, compared to their level of ability, were quite impressive.


This concept has been gnawing away at me for years. Finally, this year, I have buckled down to produce Action Maths. This is maths that involves running around and raising the pulse whilst solving mathematical problems. I have always been a big fan of doing active maths rather than passive maths. This Action Maths creates a new superfood group of mathematics, combining the benefits of active maths with the benefits of exercise. The boring research stuff is at the bottom of the page.


To find the Action Maths activities use the Search tool. Click on refine by worksheet type and select Action Maths. Refine by other criteria, if needed, then click search. In this initial set there are activities for Reception up to Year 9, with the bulk covering the Primary phase. This will also support less able KS3 students.


The Action Maths activities are there to consolidate the skills that have been taught through the 10ticks worksheets and are a way of reinforcing concepts through a variety of physical game play.

I won’t go into great details of the Action Maths activities here; you need to look through them to see the variety on offer and which suit you. They involve circuit training, hunts, relays, chases, skittles, dancing, jigsaws, trails, time challenges etc. We are always looking for suggestions, so once you have tried some of these please send us your ideas. We can add the best to the collection.


Double the benefit. A benefit of many of the resources is that they can be used away from the Action Maths environment as support material for lower abilities in small groups. This is the active maths element of the course supporting kinaesthetic learners.


Five reasons to use 10ticks Action Maths:


1). Two lessons for the price of one. As curriculum time becomes tight deliver a core subject in PE time, or add extra physical activity in core time.


2). Action Maths games are fun for the majority of children and can build a strong sense of community in the classroom.


3). Being physically active can increase attention spans, reduce stress and help students to learn. Children love to move—and they need to move. Too much sitting results in decreased circulation and a subsequent decrease in concentration, whilst certain kinds of movement stimulate the release of dopamine and noradrenaline in the brain, which are important in learning. These benefits carry on throughout the day, supporting other subjects.

4). Variety is the spice of life. The more ways you introduce and consolidate mathematical concepts the greater they are retained by students, making the students more motivated in the subject.


5). The materials can be used as support materials for low ability, kinaesthetic learners in a one-to-one, or small group environment. This active learning style has been shown to be an effective way of increasing knowledge retention.


Research: The combined benefits.

1).           Exercise              

It has been shown that after exercise people learn vocabulary 20% faster. Exercise improves short-term memory, reaction time and creativity. It increases attention span, coordination and complex thinking. 30% extra blood flow, oxygen and glucose to the brain improves learning ability.

According to Dr. John Ratey, physical fitness is like “Miracle-Gro” for the brain.   “I cannot underestimate how important regular exercise is in improving the function and performance of the brain,” he writes.  Exercise stimulates the brain to produce extra BDNF (brain-derived-neurotropic factor)  which is used to enhance the development of new neurons (and their connections).

Simply put, being physically active can help students improve attention spans, reduce stress and help students learn (Jones, 2012).

2).           Active maths

Research shows that pupils learn more when they are involved in active learning. This is because the emphasis is placed on higher order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation.


Further research has shown that pupils retain 90% of what they say and do. Compare this with the fact that pupils retain just 10% of what they read and 20% of what they hear and you will start to understand why active learning is so important (Source: E.Dale, 1969).

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Labels: action maths active maths action active active learning

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