Story: Ali’s story

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Ali didn't enjoy maths, because she found it boring. "I never do maths at home," she said.

Ali is in Year 5 at Byron Wood primary school in Sheffield.

At the beginning of the year, she told her teacher that she didn’t enjoy maths, because she found it boring. “I never do maths at home,” she said.

In school, Ali has a lively enthusiasm and always works hard to get the most out of each lesson.

However, she comes from a disadvantaged background and speaks English as an additional language. She is also diagnosed as having Special Educational Needs (SEND) – specifically a Speech and Language Difficulty. Because of these barriers, and despite her best efforts in school, she is behind age-related expectations in maths.

Along with a group of children from her school, Ali was selected to take part in the Lightning Maths project during the Autumn 2021 term.

Lightning Maths runs projects funded by SHINE to increase maths enjoyment and confidence for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds through the use of physical maths games. Lightning Maths’ first game, Lampogo 3, has been specially designed to make maths reasoning and problem solving enjoyable and engaging whilst also providing purposeful practise of number fluency.

From the first session of playing Lampogo 3 in school, Ali loved flipping over the cards, moving the counters and solving the puzzles. “Solving the puzzles felt good. I was happy I could do it so quickly,” she said.

Ali was over the moon when she was told that she could take a copy of Lampogo 3 home to keep on solving the maths puzzles. Over the course of the project, she was determined to keep practicing and to get quicker at playing the game. She would often come into school and say that she had been playing Lampogo 3 at home with her family the previous evening.

The Lightning Maths project is structured so that each week the pupils learn a new problem-solving strategy with the games, such as ‘Trial and Improvement’ and ‘Working Systematically’. These strategies are useful for playing the Lightning Maths games, but they are also strategies that can be used across the whole of the maths curriculum. Ali was very keen to learn these new strategies as she knew it would help her to get even quicker at solving the Lampogo 3 puzzles. Every week the group would recap the previous strategies learned, and Ali was always one of the first to put up her hand to explain to the rest of the group.

“The ‘Easy Win’ strategy is to look at the easy bits first. If I see the 17, I know it has to be made by an 8 and a 9.”

At the end of the project Ali, along with the rest of the group, took part in a ‘Number Hunters’ celebration event that involved collaborating with other pupils to solve a range of different number puzzles. Pupils wore headbands with numbers on and had to run around the school hall to find the correct ‘number pair’. A highlight was when the whole group had to work together to solve 50 Lampogo 3 puzzles within 5 minutes. There was a lot of excitement and laughter in the room as Ali and her friends solved each puzzle and shouted out “Lampogo!”. By the end of the project Ali had increased her fluency speed and was now able to answer 24 addition questions correctly in a minute. Furthermore, drawing upon her experiences of playing the game, she was now able to recall and explain the different problem-solving strategies.

The resources and support for playing the game at home led to one of the biggest changes; now Ali really enjoys practicing maths at home.

“I play Lampogo 3 nearly every day at home. I like the puzzles because there are different levels”

When asked about advice for others who played the game, Ali said: “Lampogo 3 is a really fun and excellent game! Even if you make mistakes, if you keep on going, you can solve the puzzles.”

Name changed for anonymity.