# Making the ordinary, extraordinary – Tablecloths & Wallpaper

**Making the ordinary, extraordinary with tablecloths & wallpaper**

One of my favourite pieces of work are the Primary Able Maths days I deliver for @Authors_Abroad. They are often the most challenging but always the most enjoyable work days because of pupils curiosity and enthusiasm. This week we had yr 6 pupils knowing bits of Pythagoras, factorials and logarithms but they then became the teachers of others as they tried to articulate their knowledge.

I explore extensively the skills of maths problem solving. The biggest problem I have with problem solving is the teachers who will not let the pupils get stuck, stay stuck and then think about what they can do to solve. Human nature dictates that we want to be helpful…and a stuck pupil is worse than a stranded whale in Norfolk…humphing and garrumfing and being very vocal in the fact that they cannot do what is expected…but that is when the resolve and resilience skills are uncovered, discussed and worked through. Often support teachers only want to direct pupils to the next step and “spoon feed” so I actually am training them too. (I also have teachers who complete the problems before the pupils & then merrily tell them the answers so after a punch or two the matter is resolved and they leave to get a a coffee 🙂 )

By the end of the day we have experienced each of these problem solving skills at first hand…and it doesn’t always feel nice but then the satisfaction comes when a solution is found. Dylan William says to “make the students the resource for each other” and that is the basis of my work.

Through problem solving and a series of carefully selected maths mysteries we culminate number work in “all the fours”

and then finish with “The A to Z Tablecloth of Mathematical Literacy”. This goes down a storm but pupils are expecting me to tell them exactly how this should look but the control is entirely with their group, hopefully developing some good collaboration skills. I have to say the results are usually pretty amazing. We discuss each element individually if we are not sure what they mean and address correct spelling throughout as every teacher is a teacher of English in my book.

Tablecloths work brilliantly but also wallpaper too and I have done a number of wallpaper design sessions for Yr11 revision where they make geometric wallpaper using all their knowledge of geometry – it distracts them from the exam if a little disengaged. Triangular bunting is another goody where pupils construct a range of triangles and then fill each with revision knowledge in preparation for GCSE. In my experience students of any age and any level love coloured paper and colouring pens…it doesn’t feel like maths and can be very calming if highly anxious. I often do a lot of general maths work on coloured paper and pens.

Blue Peter had a lot to answer for! And yes, I do have a Blue Peter badge…

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