I’ve long been a fan of Learning Resources as a brand – both at home and in my classroom. I was first introduced to them during my time as Nursery teacher some 12 years ago and have used them in school ever since.
At home they are one of the first brands I look to when I’m searching for educational resources. I invested in a set of Learning Resources sorting animals when I was first trying to teach Ben his colours knowing we’d be able to use them for sorting, making patterns, learning about size and colour, counting… The list goes on.
All About Me Family Counters and All About Me Family Counters Activity Cards
Now straight up I’m going to say that the All About Me Family Counters aren’t just about maths – they’re also great for social development. With family counters to represent people and pets, they’re great for initial discussions around who is in your family and developing personal identity. That said, we went very much down the maths route when we started to play with them.
At first, I just tipped all 72 counters out onto the table and asked Amy if she could sort them by colour which she did confidently, naming the colours as she went along and also discussing the sizes of the counters or who they represented and counting some of them. For not quite three years old, she has a fairly impressive grasp of her colours and her sorting ability is top-notch. Had we wanted to extend the sorting activity we could have sorted them by type or grouping them into families with one of each type of counter.
Once she’d finished sorting the counters, we decided to take a look at the All About Me Family Counters Activity Cards, starting off really simply with a matching activity before moving onto simple repeating patterns. I was impressed that with a little help Amy was about to complete the most simple of the repeating patterns – this certainly wasn’t something we’d worked on before. The fact that the Activity Cards are “language free” means that your ability to read (or not) has no impact on you being able to complete the tasks – the focus is solely on your maths skills.
As the levels of the cards increases they begin to address simple addition, subtraction or multiplication calculations and even start to work on introducing some basic algebra with missing number calculations (something which children often find very difficult in the early days so it’s worth practising!) Ben came and had a look at some of those cards and whilst the foxed him initially he soon had it sorted and knew what was expected of him. (I love that this proves the value of the cards as they can be used from Amy being two right through to Ben being ready to move into the juniors next month! All three of my children can benefit from counters and activity cards)
This one box of easy to handle, brightly coloured counters (and the associated sturdy cards) offers up so many possibilities for learning and reinforcing early maths skills both at home and in the classroom and we flipping love them!
Figuro Mental Maths Card Games (Multiplication and Division)
Ben’s school report (like most kids of his age) said he would benefit from working on his multiplication & division facts. We often practice his timetables if we’re on our own in the car & I’ve downloaded apps from him to practice with (though he’d rather spend his time watching rubbish on YouTube). I know from experience that your times table and associated division facts really do need to be known by heart. I’m not sure I ever really learned mine properly and now at 36, I till find myself relying on “known facts” – which basically means that I know bits of my times tables (eg 6 x 6 = 36) and can quickly work out the rest from there. Which is fine, it works. But really I do wish I knew them better, that I could be quicker with them – I think I’ve just got a mental block now. I want Ben to know his times tables inside out so that he doesn’t even really have to think about them anymore.
Of course a great way of getting his multiplication and division facts really secure is to play around with them and the Figuro Mental Maths Card Games from Learning Resources give him the opportunity to do just that. Designed for 2 or more players, each pack offers up four clear games to be played along with suggestions for more activities.
The cards are great quality and are clearly made to withstand being played with over and over again. The cards are organised into difficulty levels so you can play with one level or all at once. They also feature a unique “self-check code” along the sides of the card which allows players to quickly check their answers whilst playing – the teacher in me loves this as it means the game could be played independently.
Although the cards are targeted at ages 6 and up, and Ben is more than capable of understanding and playing the games themselves, we found that as yet his knowledge of multiplication facts just isn’t good enough. The games focus on finding equivalent answers – eg if your card says 10 x 10 then you can find a matching card of 20 x 5 . . . so you have to work out the answers to both calculations to check that they match. I think this is great for children who are more confident in their times tables already but for Ben it was a step too far at the moment.
I can see the cards being really handy in a classroom as a starter activity or in small groups as part of a main lesson on multiplication or division. I know that Ben is going to really enjoy using them further down the line once he has a more secure knowledge base to work from!
*We were sent these Learning Resources products free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*