Maths is about ideas and creativity, not just right answers!

Have a look at this short, but very inspiring maths video from Jo Boaler:

It’s amazing to see how the children’s attitudes to maths have changed in just 18 lessons! I particularly like one of the children’s analogy at the beginning to maths lessons as being in prison – “serving a sentence even though you’ve done nothing”! Through working as a team, discussing and sharing ideas and looking at problems from different perspectives their attitudes are completely transformed.

Key to this approach are:

  • use of visual materials
  • exploring different methods and strategies to solve problems
  • allowing lots of thinking time, rather than focusing on speed
  • learning from mistakes

All key principles of the Highland Numeracy Progression!

My favourite quote – “I thought math was all about right answers and wrong – now I believe that math is really about ideas and creativity – it’s a lot more inspiring.”

Not only were the group’s attitudes transformed, but they also improved their attainment on standardised tests by an average of 50% after 18 lessons. Find out more on YouCubed at Stanford University.


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Sharing effective practice in Highland


The National Numeracy Hub is a fantastic site for sharing resources and great practice – and we are very proud to contribute! Education Scotland came to film our numeracy training day in February and this is now available to access directly from the Hub.

Go to the Anytime Learning tile, then Module 32 – Sharing effective practice:


The day has been split into five sections and you will find these in Session 8:


Thank you so much to Barbara Gray from Education Scotland for coming along on the day and supporting with great advice and guidance.

It is fantastic to be able to contribute to the National Numeracy Hub and be part of this great opportunity to share effective practice on a national level! I’d love to hear your thoughts or feedback on these sessions, either by commenting or emailing me on

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Four maths boosting messages from Jo Boaler….

Watch this inspiring video from Jo Boaler for four key messages when learning maths:


  • Everyone can learn maths

  • Believe in yourself

  • Mistakes and struggle are important to our learning

  • Depth of thinking is more important than speed

Have a look in the Highland Numeracy Progression for lots of ideas to promote creative thinking and conceptual understanding with your children:






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Primary Enterprising Maths Challenge

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Just a few photos from the Primary Enterprising Maths Challenge on Wednesday!

Thank you so much to all the teams who entered – we were blown away by the maths skills, teamwork and enthusiasm from everyone! Well done to Avoch Primary who took the very first trophy for Highland, and Ullapool who came second – but also to every single team who were all winners in their fantastic attitude to maths.

A huge thank you to MillburnAcademy, Craig Lowther from the UHI and Helen Martin from the University of Aberdeen, and to all the wonderful adults who came along and were such a help with marking and organising the day.

Can’t wait till next year!




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How can we spark a love of maths?


Have a look at this interesting research from Australia, investigating what makes children switch on and off to maths:

How do you spark a love of math in kids?

This study followed on from previous research following 273 students over the course of their first year in middle school, where findings showed that children became disengaged and saw maths as less valuable during the year, and was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

This seems very relevant to us in Highland, where most of us have had some experience of seeing children switching off to maths as they move through school, and even on a national level come across negative attitudes to maths so often! Have a look at the National Numeracy site for lots of interesting research on this:

Attitudes to maths

Findings showed that these factors were predictors of how children engaged with maths:

  • “Challenges that were well-matched to the child’s skill level, with clear goals and unambiguous feedback.
  • Self-efficacy: students’ sense that they are competent and able enough to solve mathematical problems. To foster and encourage this in kids, Martin recommends that teachers and parents “restructure learning so as to maximize opportunities for success” by building on skills that students have already mastered, for example, and helping kids set challenging but realistic goals.
  • The value they attach to the subject. Parents and teachers can foster the sense that math is an important and relevant body of knowledge by demonstrating the usefulness of math in the real world, and by making themselves positive role models for valuing math. In fact, parents’ own interest in math is another important component Martin and his coauthors identified.
  • Students’ own love math was a strong predictor of their engagement with the subject. Parents and teachers can foster the enjoyment by creating what psychologists call good conditions for “flow”: a challenge that’s well-matched to the child’s skill level, with clear goals and unambiguous feedback.”

Have a look at all the resources on the blog to ensure we address these factors – Diagnostic Assessments to work from where children are, and build on their existing skills, the Parents page to encourage positive attitudes to maths and help children see the relevance of numeracy in their daily life, and of course previous posts showing how teachers are fostering growth mindsets and a love of maths!

Just a couple of examples here:

Growth Mindsets in Maths

Pirates at Badcaul and Scoraig!

Promoting Positive Attitudes to Maths

Please send your comments or email if you would like to share examples of promoting a love of maths within your setting!


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Scottish Mathematical Council Primary Journal

SMC PJ.png

Look out for the very first edition of the Scottish Mathematical Council Primary Journal, which is being delivered to all primary schools in Highland.

This Journal is a pilot project and the editorial team would be grateful if you could  provide feedback. This can be done by emailing – , or by tweeting @CarolLyon16 and/or @scottishmaths.

Also have a look at the latest SMC Journal which is now available online:

Scottish Mathematical Council Journals

I found Carol Lyon’s article, “Back to the drawing board: bridging the gap between concrete and abstract” particularly interesting .

She discusses the importance of allowing children to explore a range of ways to represent problems, such as concrete materials, pictures and diagrams as well as words, numbers and symbols to allow them to build conceptual understanding rather than a surface understanding of a process. This relates closely to the teaching model we recommend in Highland where we promote thinking through use of visual materials for every new concept or strategy introduced. Have a look in the Highland Numeracy Progression for more information:



Written recording is also important – by allowing children to record their thinking in ways that are meaningful to them they can make sense of mathematical problems, and develop understanding of connections and relationships. Have a look at the Written Recording page of the Highland Numeracy Progression, as well as the examples throughout the document.

Think boards are also mentioned as a great way for children to record thinking – look at these previous posts for lots of examples:

Think Boards

More Think Boards!

Carol ends with the point that it is so important to encourage creativity, value a diverse way of approaching problems and to plan learning experiences linked to developmental stage and existing knowledge rather than relying solely on textbooks or one published resource; “After all, teaching mathematics is not simply about imparting knowledge; it is about nurturing the ability to think mathematically.”

I hope you find this article interesting. Please comment or email any other articles you found of interest – or of course any great practice you would like to share!





















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Taking maths outdoors


Following on from last week’s post about the importance of meaningful contexts, how about using the outdoor environment as a stimulating context?

Have another look at Knockbreck’s fantastic numeracy garden here:

Numeracy Garden

This website has lots of fantastic ideas for outdoor maths learning:

Creative Star Learning – Maths Outdoors

          Exploring different types of angles!

                Making outdoor clocks!

                A leafy Tower of Hanoi puzzle!

I also love Stimulating Number Play which has fantastic outdoor learning activities for Early Years (see previous post Stimulating ideas for number play).

It would be great to hear ways you have used outdoor contexts  – please share by commenting or by email!


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