Let Teachers SHINE winner offers antidote to boring maths worksheets

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During his time in lockdown primary school teacher Roy Clutterbuck has been making games by hand to send to pupils in the post. Roy creates educational games to show children that maths can be playful and enjoyable.

After winning a Let Teachers SHINE award Roy was able to trial his Lampogo 3 game with 16 local schools in South London.

Like everyone else, since the Covid-19 outbreak Roy has had to quickly change his plans. He has taken the opportunity to ramp up production of the game and has already posted 35 sets to the homes of disadvantaged pupils and is continuing to make more.

However, making the games from hand is time-consuming and there is a limit to the number that can be produced. So that many more children across the whole country can benefit, Roy this month launched a crowdfunding campaign which will allow him to get Lampogo 3 manufactured.

Unfortunately, maths education overall still seems to be based around the textbook and worksheet, which for many pupils – and teachers – are full of problems that are wordy, abstract and boring. These are not the right problems for the job!

Roy Clutterbuck Lightning Maths

Even though there are plenty of resources online to help children continue learning while at home, many people do not have access to digital devices. Lampogo 3 is different, because it does not require access to a computer.

The game is designed for multiple players and will help families to start discussions about maths.

“Parents/carers don’t have to be amazing at maths to play Lampogo 3,” Roy says. “The most important thing is that they show their child that they are willing to try.”

As an educator, the question he has been exploring is: How can we share a love of maths? Roy knew the value of any answer depended upon the impact it had on pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. How can we share a love of maths with these pupils? How can we prove that, no matter what our background, we can all learn to speak and love the language of numbers?

“The foundation of a love of maths is the ability to enjoy solving a maths puzzle,” says Roy. “When you are solving a puzzle, there can be this outburst of creative energy as you try different methods, and then when you solve it, you get a great feeling of achievement and understanding.

“As teachers, our job is to give pupils the right problems and to support them in developing strategies to solve them. Unfortunately, maths education overall still seems to be based around the textbook and worksheet, which for many pupils – and teachers – are full of problems that are wordy, abstract and boring. These are not the right problems for the job!”

Roy describes Lampogo 3 as “an antidote to boring maths worksheets”. It is “a bit like a cross between sudoku and snap,” he explains. There is no pencil, no writing, and (once the rules are learned) there are no words to read. Instead there are visual puzzles, tactile counters, opportunities for rich mathematical conversations, and most importantly, there is laughter.

The game is ideally suited to children learning at home as siblings can play together, helping reduce screen time and boost their social skills.

“Many pupils are scared of writing the wrong answer,” Roy explains. “The counters give pupils confidence; it helps them with the process of trial and improvement. You end up moving the counters as part of your thinking, testing out ideas as you go.”

The visual nature of the puzzles makes them accessible, but they aren’t easy. “It’s the challenge of the puzzle that gives satisfaction when you solve it.” claims Roy.  In their feedback, pupils said that the level of challenge was one of the things they enjoyed the most.

A recent report by the National Numeracy Trust shows that four out of five adults in the UK have low functional maths skills. It also says that negative attitudes, rather than a lack of innate talent, are at the root of our numeracy crisis.

Roy delivering his games by bike

Roy set up Lighting Maths as a social enterprise in order to share his games and change attitudes towards maths. The aim of Lightning Maths is to move people away from maths anxiety, towards maths fluency.

“Of course, supporting pupils to develop their knowledge and understanding is a priority,” Roy says, “but this can’t happen in a context of low-confidence and anxiety. With Lightning Maths and my games, I’m really interested in exploring what we can do to increase engagement for our most disadvantaged pupils and how we can build up their confidence.”

The teachers trialling Lampogo 3 have reported an increase in enthusiasm for maths as well as increased speed at solving the maths puzzles. From the 36 pupils that gave feedback, 92 per cent reported an increase in mathematical confidence. By the end of the half-term, the average number of puzzles the pupils could complete within five minutes increased from two to seven.

You can help Roy’s campaign and get your own copy of Lampogo 3 at the crowdfunder page until 3 June. At the time of writing, Roy had met 88% of his target.