Setting Up A Numeracy Working Area
Numeracy working walls are becoming ubiquitous in UK primary classrooms but they run the danger of becoming just a display. Displays that the children don’t connect with and use regularly quickly become ‘wallpaper’.
I think it is important to put the emphasis on children using displays as a visual tool to help them learn. It helps to talk about how ‘real’ mathematicians use whiteboards to help them do their work and to encourage the children to see the wall area as a tool rather than a display. You can set up a numeracy work board like this on a fairly small scale and still have a really useful learning zone.
Ideally you’ll need a wipe clean surface, perfect for quick working out, jotting things down, trying out solutions, or even just some fun shape drawing! You could use blackboard paint on a board but using a whiteboard ‘idea paint’ and colored dry wipe markers is much more interesting. Idea paint can be painted straight onto the wall and gives a wipe clean surface just like expensive whiteboards. Amazon do some self-adhesive, wipe clean Magic Whiteboard stickers that look very good. (Perhaps you saw them on Dragon’s Den?)
Limit Your Colours
Limit the number of colors you use in this area. It is tempting to make everything bright and colorful but that can be distracting. Try to stick to a neutral (white or black), two main complementary colors and a bright accent color. Sticky putty will hold up any light items but sticky pads or small velcro squares work better for heavier things. You can also put up trimmed plastic wallets mounted on colored card to easily slide in work or pictures.
Ideas to Help You Set Up Your Numeracy Wall
Use some of these ideas to get the children thinking positively about maths. Of course what you choose to use depends on the age of your class.
- A puzzle challenge area for quick activities. You can get as creative as you like with this area. Change the challenges frequently, get children setting the challenges. Maths cube (Unifix) art would make an interesting challenge. If you are practicing mental maths you could record the questions on a ‘talking postcard’. These re-recordable ‘talking’ or ‘voice postcards’ are not too expensive A child can listen to the question then record their answer on another.
- A maths words area – cards with math vocabulary for the topic you are currently exploring printed on one side, definition on the other that can be taken down to copy, use for games etc. Don’t forget the children can make these and will learn a great deal by doing so. Definitions they have found for themselves, either from the internet or from a book, are much more memorable than anything we tell them.
- A working area that focuses on one area of maths that you are currently exploring – this is where children can stick up work they are pleased with, questions they are interested in, things they want to find out. One way of doing this would be to divide the area into 3 sections using paper tape. Add the headings What We Know, Our Questions, and How We Plan to Find Out. This sort of self-directed working is really useful for all learners but especially for independent learning times.
- Take lots of photos of the class doing things that involve maths. Get the children to sort and label the photos into groups according to the kind of maths involved. Throw in some wild cards and see if they can work out how something like driving the car or tidying the room might involve maths. Make a display of the sorted and labeled photos. You can use bright colored post-it notes to label the groups of photos, that way it is easy to take them down and re-sort them in a different grouping. (Most activities will involve more than one kind of maths.)Everyday maths is also part of putting up displays. From measuring the spaces between letters and working out proportions and ratios, to getting the angles for placing things right.
It is best to avoid too much visual clutter in a learning area so just choose a couple of these ideas at a time. Change them frequently so they never become just pretty wallpaper. There is lots of evidence that involving children in making choices about their learning environment improves their engagement so get them involved at every stage.
Idea Paint (US)
Muraspec (UK stockists)
They do a Home kit which covers 6 square feet or get a 20 square feet can and make a literacy working area too. You will also need a special base coat and the area needs to be specially prepared. This is probably a job for the school caretaker or janitor and not a DIY idea.
UK stockists Muraspec say:
We can offer customers Lil’ Bit Kits that cover an area of 3 square ft (0.28m2). At just £24.67 (ex VAT) these kits are perfect for testing ideapaint out on a small area and contain; a roller sleeve & handle, stir stick, tray and installation instructions. Each standard kit covers 4.65m2 (50ft2).
Ideapaint is available in five colours: White, Off White, Light Beige, Light Grey and White Sand.
Dry Wipe Stickers from Amazon
Try Magic Whiteboard, or even blackboard stickers if you feel retro! Less fuss than ideapaint these are better for making temporary display whiteboard areas.
Click here to find these and other similar products in the Classroom Displays Amazon Bookshop
Re-recordable ‘voice postcards’ from TTS
These are excellent but be sure to get the 30 second version as the 10 second ones will be too short for your working area. Talk Time Postcards