Where’s Wally?

numeracy leaders teachers Nov 09, 2023

As a classroom teacher, every year I dreaded book week.

Not just because I have a deep jealousy of the fact we dedicate a week to enjoying and promoting a love of great literacy and nothing like this seems to happen for Numeracy...

No... it is a much more selfish reason.

I HATE dressing up!

I find choosing clothes to wear from my normal wardrobe difficult enough. Thinking of something that is specific to a book and then organising it in advance, is just too much effort for me!

My usual 'go to' was something very easy!

'Where’s Wally' (aka 'Where's Waldo' if you are from the USA) fell into this category.

All that is required is a red stripy top and some black round glasses. 

Now that I have children I have suggested on many occasions that ‘Where’s Wally’ would be a great character for them to choose for the Book Week parade.

Unfortunately they always seem to be after something a little more 'bespoke' than good old Wally! 🤷‍♀️

The other day I was thinking about 'Where’s Wally'.

When you complete a 'Where’s Wally' puzzle you are hyper tuned into your search target.

You are looking for stripes. So your brain is ignoring all other stimulus and looking at all the images through the 'red and white stripes or not red and white stripes' filter.

You are completely tuned into the goal of the search.

As experts in maths it is important that we scaffold our novice students to know what to look for in certain scenarios.

We need to help them filter out all the unnecessary ‘noise’ and tune into the most important information. 

For example, if we are teaching the 'near doubles' strategy, some equations are more appropriate than others.

For example, 6+7 is a great example of a near double.

6+9 isn’t such a great example.

An interesting finding Dr James Russo shared in his 2023 MERGA presentation was that the boys in his study tended to overuse the 'near doubles' strategy.

Once they knew it, they liked it so much they got 'stuck' on it and tried to use it for almost every equation. I am sure we have all seen examples of this in our teaching!

It is one thing to teach a strategy. It is another to scaffold students to know when to apply the strategy- this requires number sense.

We want children to be able to identify the equations that are most appropriate for particular strategies.

We often provide equations and ask them to identify which strategy is the most appropriate.

But to help them develop fluency with a strategy, I find it helps to ask them to 'reverse engineer' equations that would 'fit' the strategy. Generating non-examples is extremely important too.

For example, once we have introduced the near doubles strategy we could ask: Write on your whiteboard 2 equations we could use 'near doubles' to solve? and what are 2 equations we would not use near doubles to solve? 

Examples students might generate are:



Non Examples:



Discussing what students notice about the examples and non-examples is important as this refines their 'near doubles' filter.

Once we have worked on developing their 'filter', I like to use games to develop their fluency. One of my favourites is 'Strategy Snap'. Here is a quick video of me modelling this with my 2 daughters to give you an idea of how the game works.

As you will see in the video, if we are playing 'Strategy Snap'  with a focus on 'near doubles' (the focus could be on other strategies)... the students are tuned in to looking for numbers that are one away from each other (I begin by teaching 'near doubles' by using numbers that a one away to keep it simple).

This repetition helps their brain to practice attending to the numbers and to use that information to make an informed decision about the best strategy. 

This week I encourage you to think about the importance of helping our students develop their maths brain 'filter', just like we do when we are looking for Wally!

Want to learn more from Dr Ange Rogers? Click here to find out about her 'Quality Place Value Assessment in Years 3-6 Mini Course'

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