Although we’re breaking new grounds in the use of technology in teaching and learning, we remain firm believers in the old-fashioned mantra ‘practice makes perfect’. It’s certainly the case that with maths – the more you do, the better you get (with the proviso that you are practising at your threshold.)

But sometimes it’s easy to let good intentions slip. Here are some tips to build good habits. None of these are our own – as you might guess, we know a lot of people who do DoodleMaths, and love hearing how it works for them!

1. Put aside a few minutes each day for DoodleMaths. Ideally this will be at the same time each day. My own son, Ted, is an early riser, and he does his DoodleMaths whilst I’m still getting to grips with my first cup of tea. His friend is allowed 30 minutes Minecraft time before tea every day – but only if he has done his DoodleMaths. And his cousin Poppy does her DoodleMaths whilst her younger brother is reading his Biff, Chip and Kipper books every evening.

Tabitha car 32. Amelie does her DoodleMaths on the school run every day. Her mum reckons she does an extra 75 minutes of maths per week in this way.

3. If doing it daily is tricky, try doing a good bulk weekly. Owen does his DoodleMaths for 30 minutes every week whilst Molly has her swimming lesson – and then they swap when it’s Owen’s turn to get in the water. It doesn’t matter then if he only does one or two more short sessions that week.

4.  Maisie is admittedly irregular in her usage in term times – her mum is a teacher and Dad works long hours. But she picks it up rapidly every holiday, doing 15-30 minutes daily to keep her brain active. If she’s had a break of more than a month from it, mum puts it in reassessment mode to recalibrate it to her level, strengths and weaknesses.

Here are some of the common issues that prevent regular usage:

a) Tablet is always out of battery/lost/under the sofa/being used by Dad etc. If this is common with you, make sure you are making the most of DoodleMaths’ best feature: cross device synchronisation. This was important since more than 50% of families now have more than one touch screen device in the home. Download the free DoodleMaths app onto any touch screen device or smart phone, and log in to your family account. This way, your child can do their DoodleMaths on whatever device is easiest at hand. Stuck in that morning traffic? Hand your child your phone, and the work they do will synchronise to the iPad ready for them to resume before tea-time.

b) Work program is too hard. Children lose motivation if they keep getting things wrong – and maths is all about confidence. DoodleMaths calibrates the work so children are generally working at around an 80% accuracy – sufficient to balance reward with challenge. If your child is finding it too hard, force a reassessment from the parent dashboard, and then ensure they have no help when the app is in assessment mode – if they do receive help, the algorithms will assume they are more able than they really are.

c) Child needs incentivising. Set targets for your child. Our studies have shown that 50 stars per week will help your child keep up, and 100 stars per week to catch up or get ahead. Make your child aware of this. Some children are motivated by knowing their DoodleMaths Age, others by stars, some by their pet and others by whether they’re on 7, 8, 9 or 10-a-day. And for the significant majority, only ice-cream or pocket money will do (and, btw, that’s fine in our household!)

If you have an Apple device, you can even send encouraging pet messages to them whilst they are using the app (endless fun if your child doesn’t know what you’re up to!)

I hope this helps. Practice is the key – a few minutes every day can rapidly mount up over the course of weeks and months and make a truly significant difference to your child’s maths.

We’d love to hear your tips, too!

This month’s problem can be solved by pre-schoolers in seconds, but it can take maths professors much longer:

1235 = 0
2678 = 3
3668 = 4
9000 = 4
8000 = 5
3218 = 2
6777 = 1
8888 = 8
1568 = ?

The solution: count the number of enclosed spaces within each digit.

1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 have no enclosed spaces

6, 9 and 0 have one enclosed space

8 has two.

4 has 1 or 0 depending on what font you are reading this in – so I left this digit out.

Summer’s here and it’s time for you to come up with the punchline.

“Where do maths teachers go on holiday?”

Post your punchline below. If yours is our favourite, a bag of Doodle-goodies will be winging it’s way to you!

‘Practice makes perfect!’ It must be one of the most irritating things that was said to me as a child. But, in my view, never has an idiom been so true.

I know of a CEO who has a golf lesson every fortnight with a top coach. He pays almost £200 per hour. He hasn’t improved his handicap at all over the last year. Why? Because between his lessons, he couldn’t find time to practice.

The same with the numerous kids who have piano lessons every week. The ones who move through the grades aren’t the ones who have the best teachers. It’s not necessarily even the most gifted. It’s the ones who put in their daily practice.

Our experience as teachers and educators has taught us that the quality of practice in maths is far more important to the learning process than the quality of explanation. However elegantly explained, a concept will not be remembered unless it is practised sufficiently. Kids learn through doing.

We define good quality practice as being regular (ideally daily), engaging (touchscreens helps here!) and at the level most appropriate for the individual. The latter is vital – most children, when faced with a choice of tasks, will choose not what is most appropriate for them, but what will give them the highest reward for the minimum effort.

When it comes to the core basics of maths, regular practice is the absolute key to improvement. We can tinker with the Framework and the National Curriculum; we can try to employ the best graduates as teachers. But the simplest way to raise standards in maths would be to give children more opportunities to practice. In the UK’s quest to understand why Shanghai leads the way on the PISA tables, this has been one of the key findings: children in Shanghai spend more hours doing maths on a weekly basis than their counterparts in the UK.

A final warning: as with anything, if you don’t practice at all, you actually get worse at maths. Children regress more in maths than any other subject over the summer break – mainly because opportunities to practice are not so obviously available in everyday life as with reading and writing. Seeking out those opportunities, be it puzzle books, sudoko or DoodleMaths, is a great way to reverse this drop.


What comes next?

Scroll down for the answer:

It’s the top half of ABCDE, so the top half of F comes next.

After May’s frantic preparations for tests and exams, June and July seem a constant wave of sports days, residential trips, projects, activity days and school performances. Maths can seem to go by the wayside – and then it’s August. Children can quickly forget what they’ve learnt, and also get out of the habit of using the left (logical) side of the brain.

‘Brain Drain’ is very real but it affects some students more than others. If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s very excellent book ‘Outliers’ you’ll already have an inkling as to why. Gladwell described studies into why wealthier children outperform those from poorer backgrounds during their early years of schooling. The studies found that all children, regardless of background, made similar improvement during term time. It was during the long summer break that differences occurred: children from wealthier backgrounds had better access to the kinds of activities that keep their brains active, be that summer camps, physical activity programs, formal tutoring or simply more conversation with adults. In short, summer brain drain affects all children, but is much more apparent amongst children from less-wealthy families. In these New York based studies, this was shown to be the most significant factor in the discrepancies in academic performance between children of differing backgrounds.

You’ll have to read the book.

How do I stop brain drain? Here are a few tips to offer parents:

  1. Reading: lots of local libraries run a ‘6-book challenge’ over the summer holidays.
  2. Puzzle books: rather than videos on long flights or in the car, try mini-sudoku, hangman, word-search or brain-training books (or apps).
  3. Physical exercise: this has a beneficial effect on the brain, and can also involve plenty of maths – timing laps on a bicycle, scoring in cricket or tennis. Making up new games can help develop children’s creativity.
  4. Encourage play with construction toys such as Lego and Meccano on those (not-so) occasional wet days.
  5. Keep a diary and write postcards.
  6. Do something formal but fun as part of your routine – this is what DoodleMaths was made for!
  7. For more ideas on how to build maths into the summer hols, visit our this previous post written by our guest blogger Katya last summer.

As a teacher, it often feels like September is all about getting children back up to where they were in May last year. A new year is a fresh start and those children who make a flying start to the Autumn term are often those who carry that confidence through the whole year, perhaps moving up a maths group or performing better than expected in early assessments.

As a parent, I know I want my kids to have a break from formal learning this summer, because learning through play is equally important to their development. But where I can introduce the opportunity to keep their brains active, I will, by recognising that some types of play are better at staving off the dreaded brain drain than others.

Want to read more? We also really like this article from about beating the summer maths slump.

When I first used a tablet, what struck me, apart from the intuitiveness of touch-screen, was its potential in educating children in the poorer corners of the Earth – children who have a desire to learn but no access to formal education. Here are five reasons why tablets could transform education in these parts:

  1. They have long battery lives, minimal power consumption and can be solar-charged
  2. Many apps can work on or offline
  3. They are intuitive (you don’t need prior knowledge of Windows, for example)
  4. Generally speaking, tablets are cheap
  5. Tablets are durable and low-maintenance

To illustrate their potential, The One Laptop per Child organisation conducted a fascinating experiment by dropping boxes of tablet computers into two remote villages in Ethiopia.&MaxW=640&imageVersion=default&AR-312269921 The Motorola Xooms, loaded with educational apps, were quickly adopted by the villages’ children even though they had no previous contact with any such technology. When the researchers visited months later, the kids in both villages were still heavily engaged in using and recharging the machines, and had been observed reciting the “alphabet song,” and even spelling words. One boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion.” Older children had even worked out how to hack the Android operating system to gain access to hidden software. The full article is available here.

There are some remarkable charities doing pioneering work in Africa with tablet computers. We have paired up with one of these, Livingstone Tanzania Trust, who are running a pilot project using Hudls pre-loaded with educational apps including DoodleMaths. We believe that DoodleMaths will provide the opportunity for motivated students to learn maths for themselves, but also provide a structure and framework around which the local teachers may be able to base lessons. Each Hudl will be offline for periods in excess of a month, meaning children will need to stick to using the same tablet each time. DoodleMaths can store the work programs of up to 100 students at a time in an offline situation. We’re excited to see how it pans out!
For more information about the work of Livingstone Tanzania Trust you can visit their website.