Are We Nearly There Yet? Maths Games for Long Journeys

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Maths Games for Long  Journeys

Every parent’s been there: you’re twenty minutes into an all-day car trip and a small voice pipes up from the back seat: “Are we nearly there yet? I’m booooored.” Unless you come up with something to entertain the kids, sharpish, the journey’s going to feel even longer than it already is.

Luckily, it’s not hard to learn a few games that will buy you a little bit of relative calm — while helping everyone’s maths skills (even yours) and without resorting to little heads being stuck in a tablet for the duration of the journey.

Number plate games

You can hardly look out of a moving car window without seeing a number — whether it’s on a road sign, an advertisement hoarding or, most reliably, a passing car’s number plate. The canny driver with restless passengers can use these as a sort of random number generator for several possible games.

Odd or even

“Odd or even” is good both for practicing recognition of numbers, and for counting. The game is to predict whether the passengers will spot more even numbers or odd numbers on number plates before a time of your choosing — and then test that hypothesis!

One player counts the odd number plates; the other the even. As a car goes by, someone — either one of the players or a neutral — should call out the number on its plate; the player who just ‘scored’ then calls out their new total.

Odd or even can be played to a time limit or until someone reaches a given score, depending on what the players prefer!

Reach 100

It’s not very practical to play cards in the car (especially if you’re driving). However, you can play a variation of blackjack without having to worry about shuffling and dealing, while still getting the mathematical benefits! Each player’s goal is to get their total to 100 — or as close to it as they can.

Each player starts from zero, and take turns to ‘add a card’. When a vehicle passes, add up the digits on its number plate and adds the total to the running total: if they have 47 and a car with the number ‘194’ on its plate passes, they would add 1+9+4=14 to their score and say “61”. They can then choose to ‘stick’ and make that their final score, or twist and add the next number plate to their total. If they go over 100, though, bad luck! They score nothing.

Whoever ‘sticks’ closest to 100, wins the round. It is traditional for the loser to request “best of 3”, then 5, then 7…

* There’s nothing special about 100 — if you want to pick a higher or lower target, feel free!

Times table practice

If you’re really at your wits’ end, you can use number plates for times table practice. When a car passes, call out the digits on the number plate; the players race to multiply.

If the number on a passing number plate is 352, the first person to work out 3 × 5 × 2 and say “30” gets a point; set a winning target depending on how long the journey is and how busy the roads are.

* For younger or more tired children, you can try adding the digits rather than multiplying.

Spotting games

Number plates aren’t the only (ahem) interesting thing to spot on your travels. If the kids can keep their eyes peeled, there are plenty of other ways to use the features they can see out of the window as a source of maths practice games. (Spotting games are also more useful for train journeys, where you tend not to see so many number plates.)

Spot the shape

“Spot the shape” combines shape knowledge, observation and a little bit of creativity! The game is to be the first to spot a named shape: for example, if the shape is ‘circle’, someone might point out the wheel of a lorry; if it’s ‘triangle’, a road sign might fit the bill.

Only the most competitive families (like mine) keep score in this one.

* Be prepared to make rules about what’s allowed — can a triangle have rounded corners? Does a rectangle count as a square?

Travel cricket

For slightly older children, travel cricket is a great way to keep them from whining for a while! Don’t worry, though, you’re not going to need to set up a wicket on the back seat and recover leg-byes from the hard shoulder!

Instead, agree on what the bowling team needs to spot to take a wicket (something fairly unusual, like a vehicle with a flashing light on top), and what the bowling player needs to score a run (something common, like a red car), a four (something less common, perhaps a car with German number plates) and a six (something quite unusual, such as a car with a bike on its roof). Naturally, pick things appropriate to your journey!

One player ‘bats’ and counts up the runs; the other ‘bowls’ and counts up the wickets. When the wickets reach ten, the players switch roles; if the player batting second beats the first player’s score before ten wickets are down, they win; if the ten wickets are taken first, they lose!

* This one is easy to make longer or shorter as necessary — play several innings to make it longer, or reduce the number of wickets to make it shorter!

Games you can play in the dark

Observation games are great for whiling away the hours in the daytime — but what about at night, when it’s too dark to spot bikes on roofs? We’ve got some ideas for that, too!

Fizz Buzz

Fizz Buzz is one of the classic travel games — so classic, it’s sometimes used as an interview question at programming firms! It’s a cross between a counting game and a times table game, and it has the merit of being collaborative rather than competitive. Here’s how it works:

You agree on two numbers to be called ‘fizz’ and ‘buzz’. Traditionally, ‘fizz’ is 3 and ‘buzz’ is 5, but it’s ok to change them — especially if there are three or five players playing. The first player starts by saying ‘1’. The second says, you’ve guessed it, ‘2’. The next says ‘fizz’, because the number they would normally have said (‘3’) is a multiple of 3 — and has a 3 in it! It carries on: 4, buzz (5 is a mutiple of 5), fizz, 7, 8, fizz, buzz, 11, fizz, fizz (13 has a three in it), 14, fizz buzz (15 is a multiple of 3 and 5), and so on. If anyone says a number when they should have fizzed or buzzed, you have to start again from zero. How high can you get?

Number Guess Who?

You know the game Guess Who?, where you have a board full of flipped-up faces and you have to deduce which of them your opponent has chosen using yes/no questions? Again, that’s not really practical for the car. However, you can do something similar in your heads using numbers instead of faces!

The hider picks a number — let’s say between 1 and 50, but you can choose different limits. The guesser asks yes/no questions, such as: is it odd? does it have a 7 in it? is it a prime number? — and the hider answers truthfully. Once the guesser has successfully guessed, the roles switch and the game goes on as long as there’s interest in it.

Are we nearly there yet?

There are dozens of ways to ask questions about the journey itself to add some mathematical interest to the never-ending tedium of travel. Get the children to estimate things and see, later on, how close they were. How many miles are there still to go? How long will that take? What time will that be? How far is it until the milometer hits the next round number? How much petrol will it take to fill the car up? How much will that cost? You could go on for hours… and you probably will!

Summary

Spending long hours on the move with unhappy passengers is most people’s idea of hell — but with a little inventiveness and a sprinkling of maths, the journey can turn into something that seems to pass just a little more quickly, while building their maths skills. It’s almost enough to make me want to take the kids to see their grandma… almost.

 

I’m Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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Komodo Rewards – Budget-Friendly Ideas to Keep Your Little Learner Motivated

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Budget friendly rewards ideas for maths motivation

The Komodo programme includes rewards as one of the tools designed to keep Komodo learners (and indeed parents) motivated. Recently we’ve been thinking of a few ideas for parents to add to their mix of treats, particularly ideas that won’t put pressure on the bank balance. Naturally, these ideas are suitable for any family that uses a rewards system – not just Komodo learners.

We’ve split them into mini-rewards for completing a number of lessons or super-rewards for completing a Komodo level or levels. You are completely in control of exactly how much effort is required and how frequently rewards are offered.

Some children are better motivated by little and often rewards and others will look out for the “big prize.” You will know what works best for your child.

Suggested approach

Start in a way you can continue. The benefit of using Komodo comes over months – so it’s important to use rewards in a way you can keep up. It’s much better to start mean and become more generous, than the other way around.

Consider also that 10 lessons can be done in 30 minutes of using Komodo – this would fit into the “mini-rewards” . One level on the other hand could take a month of using Komodo five times per week – perhaps deserving a “super-reward.”

 

Komodo Rewards Scheme

Komodo Rewards Screen

Mini Rewards

How about:

  • Time on a game or device

    Many of us are concerned about how much time our children spend on screens and games – so why not have way of earning it through Komodo?

  • Add to a collection

    If your child has an insatiable desire for the latest collection craze, a card/sticker/figure is ideal for Komodo rewards and can prevent constant “pester power” !

  • Chose what’s on the menu

    Let your child choose what’s for dinner for an evening.

  • A trip to the park of their choice

    Give this classic Komodo reward an extra boost by allowing your little learner to chose their favourite park.

  • Picnic in the garden/local park

    Take your lunch/dinner outside – al fresco dining can be quite a treat on a good day.

  • Breaking a rule

    Allow your child to break a (minor) rule – like skipping a chore or staying up past bedtime.

  • A certificate

    You can search for and print out free certificate templates online

Super Rewards

Use a little imagination to keep up the motivation levels and without resorting to additional expense – here’s our suggestions:

  • Parents join in

    How about joining in on some kids activity you don’t normally do? A family football tournament, outside water fun or console games tournament (kids Vs parents) for instance.

  • A girlie day/boy’s day – or whatever your child prefers.

    A little pamper session with mummy’s beauty products, a baking afternoon or DIY lesson.

  • A new book

    A win-win reward for all - with children getting better at maths and reading too.

  • Role reversal days

    Let your little learner take charge of the day (within reason of course – it’s fine to set some boundaries). Plan the day’s itinerary with your mini-adult and set a budget for spends. This will also teach budgeting lesson, which after all, is part of the role of being a parent!

  • A trip to (insert appropriate venue/person to visit) using public transport.

    If you normally travel by car, a day trip by train or bus can be quite an adventure.

  • Sleepovers

    An ever popular treat for kids. The excitement of staying up late with your bestie never fades (but don’t expect to get much sleep!)

No Rewards

There is an argument that children shouldn’t need rewards for learning. This is particularly true for older secondary school children, where self-motivation is important for exam success. With younger children rewards are pretty harmless and they work, but it’s worth remembering that the best motivation comes from your interest and encouragement. When you’re giving encouragement it’s worth remembering to praise the effort as opposed to the ability or score. Effort and resilience are the keys to learning not just having talent.

So that’s just a few of our ideas – hopefully these will trigger off some more of your own. We’d love to hear what rewards work for your family – if you have any ideas that might inspire other parents, please join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

I’m Jane, Co-founder of Komodo, and mum. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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We never think about the foundations, until . .

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We never think about foundations untilI had to think about foundations recently when the council’s building regulation officer told our builder that the new porch foundations weren’t deep enough. The builder of course didn’t like hearing the news, but after a few choice remarks he hopped onto the digger and got on with it. Fortunately the advice was timely – the cement wasn’t in yet and the digger was still on site.

This got me thinking about foundations – trust me I don’t think about them much, but that’s the point. We don’t think about foundations because they’re invisible. They were put in place early on, then built over with something splendid - or in our case something practical to throw muddy boots into.

crack

This isn’t entirely true. The one time we do think about foundations is when they let us down and the cracks appear. When this happens it’s very hard to fix because the crack is a symptom of a deeper underlying issue - the weak foundation.

Foundations in Maths

The foundation for success in maths is built early on - at ages five to nine to be precise. This crucial stage is about developing fluency and confidence in maths – which academic research has shown to be the key to success later on. Sadly for many, when the foundation in early maths isn’t solid the cracks appear later and confidence can be damaged. At this point it’s a much harder problem to address.

Komodo is about building these early maths foundations, not simply to avoid problems, but to allow young learners to soar skyward and reach to their true potential in maths.

I’m Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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5 General Election Maths-Themed Questions for the Kids

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Here are 5 general election maths questions to give your children a taste of the big event – and a little maths practice.

Question 1

There are 650 MPs in the House of Commons. How many MPs does one party need to win the election?

Hint – to win the election you need to have more MPs than all the other parties put together.  This is called a “having a majority”.

Question 2

Let’s say the Conservative party and Labour party  have 273 MPs each. How many MPs are they short of winning?

Hint – you’ll need to use the answer to question 1 to find this – see the answers below if you’re stuck

Question 3

Here’s an estimate for the election - it’s very roughly what the newspapers say is going to happen

Party MPs
Conservatives 273
Labour 273
Liberal Democrats 28
Scottish Nationalists 52
Green 1
Plaid Cymru 4
UKIP 2
SDLP 3
DUP 9
Sinn Fein 5
TOTAL 650

Who could the Conservative party join with to win the election?

Hint – of course it’s not as simple as this some parties don’t like each other and won’t ever club together.

Question 4

Who could the Labour party join with to win the election?

Question 5

Out of the 650 MPs 150 are women.  What fraction are women?

 


And the Answers . . .

Question 1

There are 650 MPs

The winning party needs half of them and an extra one. That’s 325 + 1 = 326

Question 2

If the Conservatives (or Labour ) have 273 they will need a further  326 – 273 MPs.

They will need 53 more  MPs.

Question 3

If the Conservatives have 273 votes they will need to join with other parties to get the 53 MPs they need to win and form a Government

This could be:

Conservatives ( 273 ) + Scottish Nationalists ( 52) + Lib  dems ( 28)  = 353 MPs

Question 4

Who could the Labour party join with in order to win a majority ?

If Labour have 273 MPs they will need to join with other MPs  to get the 53 MPs they need to win and form a Government.

This could be:

Labour (273) + Scottish Nationalists (52) + SDLP (3) =  328 MPs

Question 5

150 MP’s are Women.

As a fraction this is:

fractions

Which is not enough !

 

Our figures are very rough guesses and will certainly be wrong when the votes are counted, but it looks like this year’s election is going to involve a bit of maths to work out a winner.

I’ll update these numbers with the real numbers when we know more.

 

I’m Jane, Co-founder of Komodo, and mum. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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Reverse Engineering Success in Maths

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You can’t peer into a crystal ball to predict success in maths but there’s much to learn from the past. In this article I’m going to draw on academic research and Ofsted publications to “reverse engineer” the key factors that underpin success in maths. Academic research projects have tracked many learners over their entire school life looking for vital connections between early learning and later success.

The conclusions are pretty clear and very valuable to parents:

  • Early numeracy skills are critical. Lack of attainment at 16 tracks back to age 11 and even 7
  • Calculation Fluency – being able to work out arithmetic accurately and rapidly - is the strongest indicator of later success

The research highlights how important it is to ensure the maths learning foundations of are in place early.  Fluent calculation – mental maths –  is identified as particularly important as a platform for future achievement.

Here’s the research:

The Institute of Education, London:  “The development and importance of proficiency in basic calculation” ( July 2013 )

What we found

Basic calculation fluency (accurate and rapid solution of single digit addition problems and complementary subtractions) is the strongest correlate of success in mathematics in primary school and the most frequent symptom of difficulties in mathematics

Full paper

Ofsted: “Mathematics: made to measure” (2012 )

Key findings

Children’s varying pre-school experiences of mathematics mean they start school with different levels of knowledge of number and shape. For too many pupils, this gap is never overcome: their attainment at 16 years can largely be predicted by their attainment at age 11, and this can be tracked back to the knowledge and skills they have acquired by age 7

The disparity in children’s knowledge of mathematics grows so that by the time they leave compulsory education at 16 years, the gap between the mathematical outcomes of the highest and lowest attainers is vast. The 10% not reaching the expected level at age 7 becomes 20% by age 11 and, in 2011, 36% did not gain grade C at GCSE

 Full Paper

The Institute of Education, London & University of California “Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement”

The present findings demonstrate

That elementary school students’ knowledge of fractions and division predicts their mathematics achievement in high school, above and beyond the contributions of whole number arithmetic knowledge, verbal and non-verbal IQ, working memory, and family education and income. The relations of fractions and division to mathematics achievement were stronger than for addition, subtraction, multiplication, verbal IQ, and parental education and income. These results were consistent across data sets from the U.K. and the U.S.

Full Paper

The good news for parents of young children is that success, or lack of it, isn’t a fait accompli – a little extra practice at home has a huge impact on learning outcomes. Komodo is designed to have the maximum benefit in the areas that really underpin future success – such as calculation fluency and mental maths. Furthermore Komodo doesn’t require heaps of time sitting in front of the screen.

 

I’m Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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Tips for Learning the 12 Times Tables – from a Rock Climber

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learning-12x-tables

 

The 12 times tables strike fear in children at first – but there’s no need. In this article we take a look at how to learn them in bite sized chunks. First of all put yourself into the shoes of a child who is new to the 12x tables. It’s daunting - like looking up a rock face you have to climb. You might already know that 12 x 12 is 144 but wow, this is a huge number and there’s a long way to climb to get there. The good news is you’ve been learning tables for a while now, you’re getting the hang of it -  and this is probably the last tables to climb!

Easy-learning-12x-tables

 

The Easy Part

Climbers look for easy ways up a rock face – perhaps a safe ledge to rest on or some great hand and footholds. The 12 times tables has two great safe ledges to climb onto and they’re  pretty easy to use – let’s take a look:

  • 1 x 12 = 12
  • 2 x 12 = 24
  • 3 x 12 = 36
  • 4 x 12 = 48
  • 5 x 12 = 60  this is a safe ledge to jump onto

There are a few ways to look at these multiplications:

  • Adding 12 each time is a common method:  12+12= 24,  24 + 12 = 36,  36+12 = 44
  • Also notice the pattern in the ones columns:  12    24    36    48    60    72    84   96  108   120    the 0,2,4,6,8,0 pattern repeats through all the 12x tables.
  • You can use the half and double method :   So  3 x 12   becomes  6 x 6 = 36
  • Or use partition – faced with 4 x 12 =  split it into 4 x 10  add   4 x 2  so 40+8 =  48

The Walk to the Summit

learning-12x-tables-summit

The last three 12 times tables are also relatively easy to remember once you’re at the 120 ledge:

  • From 10 x 12 = 120 we can add 12 to get 11 x 12 = 132  and another 12 takes us 12 x 12 = 144
  • We can also “climb down” from 10 x 12= 120 to  9 x 12 = 108

 learning-12x-tables-scary

The Scary Bit

Between our two safe ledges at 5 x 12=60 and 10 x 12=120 is the scary part:

  • 10 x 12 = 120   a safe ledge to jump onto
  • 9 x 12 = 108   you can climb down -12 from 120 to get here
  • 8 x 12 = 96   memorize this one an extra ledge
  • 7 x 12 = 84  climb up +24 from 60 to get here
  • 6 x 12 = 72  climb up +12 from 60 to get here
  • 5 x 12 = 60   (START HERE)

Round Up

They say mathematicians make good climbers because they’re always looking for the best route through a problem. When you’re faced with a problem in maths it also helps to think like a climber – break the problem down into chunks and see if there are any safe ledges to jump onto and hold on while you figure it out. When we do this for the 12 times tables we soon see they’re not so difficult after all.

Here’s a useful worksheet versions of the 12x tables rock face:

12x-tables-Worksheet

worksheet version fill in the safe ledges first!

 

I have a little confession to make here – I was more of a wanna be rock climber than the real thing. The times I took to the rock face it was with an instructor and a safety harness!

I’m Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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KomodoChristmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Prizes Prizes Prizes to be Won:

KomodoSanta

  Here’s How to Build the Komodo Santa Claus and Win a Super Prize:

We’ve tried to make the paper-toy super easy to build, and our test builders, aged 9 and 7, managed okay – with a tiny bit of grown up help.

Here are the instructions:

  1. Print the paper-toy in colour onto A4 sized stiffish paper,  200g paper is ideal
  2. Cut out the body parts and accessories – making sure you also cut out the many glue flaps
  3. Starting with the bigger body parts, fold all flaps first then glue – we found Pritt stick to be ideal
  4. The arms and tail are double-sided – so need to be stuck together
  5. Post a Super-Santa Photo onto our Facebook Page or send it to hi@komodomath.com  and we’ll post for you - First names (only) will be mentioned
  6. Every Entry Wins a Prize!

Here’s the Komodo Santa Claus paper-toy:

Right Click & Save As to Download the PDF template

Right Click & Save As to Download the PDF template

Here’s the 2 page PDF printable template to get started. The end date is 1st January and it’s open to all subscribers.

 

I’m Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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The Transforming Power of Education

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As we approach Komodo’s second anniversary we’re very proud to start supporting  Many Hopes – an amazing charity that transforms the lives of street children and orphans in Kenya through education. After a chance meeting with the founders Thomas and Anthony, we were completely inspired by their ambitious vision and amazing achievements. Our first contribution will educate one child for one year, but we see this as the start of a lasting partnership - as Komodo grows we aspire to do much much more.

Many Hopes is quite unique in its strategy and approach – in their own words:

“We believe that loving and educating a network of children who have endured the worst of poverty and exploitation is the best way to equip them to eliminate the causes of the injustice they and their neighbours have suffered. We believe in tackling the causes of injustice, not just housing the victims of it.”

manyHopesInvest

There are a few things we really like about Many Hopes:

  • They’re passionate about the transforming power of education – and we are too
  • 100% of donations go into the schools and educational projects
  • Their projects are designed to be sustainable within ten years
  • Their work is not faith based – children come from all religions, Christian, Muslim or none – they can pray and worship as they wish
  • Most importantly they aspire to break the cycle of injustice through education:

“Nobody cares more about justice than those who have suffered injustice. If we equip children who have suffered the worst of exploitation with the education in their heads, the confidence in their bellies and the network at their fingertips to match that desire already in their hearts, they will do work we could never do”

Our donation was match funded by a wealthy American family fund – so this means education for two children for one year! We’ll keep you posted with Many Hope’s amazing school project from time to time. Thanks for subscribing to Komodo – without your support this wouldn’t happen at all!

Ged, Jane & the Komodo team

To find out more about Many Hopes or to donate visit manyhopes.org

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

 

 

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Your Child’s Concentration – How to Improve it

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Even as I’m writing this my mind is drifting  – did I return that letter to Kate’s school, I need to buy flights for Christmas before they rocket in price, will I get soaked on the way home . . .   I swipe these distractions aside and try to maintain my focus – but it’s not easy. Concentration is the raw ingredient that gets stuff done, but being able to concentrate is far from straight forward – it’s an elusive quality that’s hard to conjure at will – even for adults who are more self-aware and have access to fresh coffee!    

Concentration is even harder for our children, but it’s important and there are some things we as parents can do to help.

What’s the Big Deal about Concentration?

The education system has its cycles of what’s in or out of fashion and there’s an endless debate about what skills are important and how to teach them. Surprisingly concentration rarely surfaces as a skill or quality that warrants developing alongside the likes of communication, imagination, confidence, creativity, group work  . . (all important too!) . .  This is surprising because although classroom teaching styles have evolved a lot over the past thirty years – less of the chalk and talk we suffered – the exam system hasn’t changed one bit – and here concentration is everything. And if, like us, you live in an area that has academic selection for grammar schools you will be more aware than most of the importance of concentration in preparing your child for a crucial hour long exam. It’s not just about exams – concentration is required for listening to the teacher, focusing on classroom tasks and most aspects of learning.

How Parents Can Help

We sometimes forget that our children spend all day in a class of thirty other kids where individual attention is in short supply. This means your child will probably get more one-to-one attention from you at home during homework time than all day at school. We can have a big impact at home on education and we can do much to ensure better concentration. Here are some aspects of your child’s life that influence their ability to concentrate:

Sleep

An obvious easy-win in the concentration battle is getting enough sleep. As this BBC article suggest we’re talking about 10 to 12 hours per night for a child of 5 for 11. Establishing a bed-time routine always helps and makes an early bedtime easier to implement.

Emotions

I mentioned earlier that as adults we’re more “self-aware”. Of course this is wishful thinking – adult or child, we’re all emotional beings and more often than not we’re completely unaware of being driven by our emotions. When it comes to concentration nothing gets in the way more than worry – so if your child is worried about something find time to talk it through with them. It may be pretty trivial and easy to resolve, but if it’s persistent and happening in school consider talking to the teacher.

a worried brain

Diet and Water

I think we all agree that a balanced diet helps maintain concentration – after all if your child is hungry or fizzing with sugar they’re unlikely to be thinking straight.  There are a few foods that are worthy of a special mention:

  • Oat Cereals, such as porridge, release their energy slowly – so breakfast keeps children going through to lunch.  The opposite is true for sugary cereals – so ditch the sugar puffs and coco pops!  Confession here – my kids recently rejected their porridge for weetabix but it worked while it lasted! 
  • Omega Fish Oils – If your child has issues concentrating or is coming up to an important exam I’d consider this supplement simply because it’s cheap, harmless and there’s growing evidence supporting the benefit to concentration and learning.

Water is very important to the brain and dehydration has a clear impact on concentration. This is something we often consider only in summer time but it’s really worth ensuring your child is hydrated in winter too. Most schools are on top of this, but if not a tap-filled water bottle is an easy answer – annoyingly my son’s new secondary school believes drinking water is best delivered via the caterer’s vending machines!

Exercise

Several research studies point to exercise being beneficial to school children’s concentration. This study from Denmark even suggests walking to school – as opposed to driving - improves concentration and the effect last all morning. Aside from the obvious health benefits of exercise it’s useful to know that it’s good for concentration too. Sending the children outside to play for 15 minutes during a long homework could be a win-win situation.

Relaxation

Rest and relaxation is of course important for concentration – so balance home learning with down-time. Personally I’m a little concerned that some forms of down-time such as console games are actually exhausting in terms of concentration. I’m thinking particularly of my son’s post-gaming lull in attention which usually takes thirty minutes or more  to shake off. I’ll come back to this in another article.

Distraction and Focus

For younger children the kitchen table is the ideal place to do homework - because you are are likely to be around to help - but it’s worth remembering that TV, radio and even telephone conversations can be distracting. As learners reach ten or older and become more independent consider a desk in their bedroom or another room and best not to allow devices during homework time. Also try asking them to set a target time to complete the work - this can help them focus.

Concentration as a Good Habit

By setting up the environment and conditions for learning at home and instilling the idea that learning is important we can improve concentration. If we do this consistently then it becomes a good habit - and perhaps even a lifelong one.

 

I’m Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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Build a Paper-toy Komodo Competition

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paper-toy-komodo-ivy

A shy Komodo is photographed at night

At Komodo we love our paper-toys - they’re cool and kids love making them. There’s a maths angle too – in seeing how a 2D plan folds into a 3D shape. Now we’ve taken this to a new level, thanks to Niall our very own paper-toy master craftsman.  We’ve made a Komodo paper-toy and we’re asking you to build it and enter our competition.

Instructions

We’ve tried to make the paper-toy super easy to build, and our test builders, aged 9 and 7, managed okay – with a little grown up help. The amount of grown up help of course depends on age and how “crafty” your child is in cutting and sticking the model – a good look at the Komodo photos before making helps.

Here are the instructions:

  1. Print the paper-toy in colour onto A4 sized stiffish paper, 200g paper is ideal
  2. Cut out the body parts and accessories – making sure you also cut out the many glue flaps
  3. Starting with the bigger body parts, fold all flaps first then glue – we found Pritt stick to be ideal
  4. The arms and tail are double-sided – so need to be stuck together
  5. We’ve numbered where to stick the arms, tail and legs
  6. You can choose a tongue – hey you could even design your own!

Here’s the Komodo paper-toy:

Right click and "save link as" to download the 2 page PDF

Right click and “save link as” to download the 2 page PDF

Here’s the 2 page PDF and here are the JPEG versions Free paper-toy Komodo page 1,  Free paper-toy Komodo page 2

The Competition

Some Komodos are so shy they only come out at night under cover of thick ivy leaves – see the photo above.

Some have very particular tastes – this one only feasts on fresh passion fruit flowers:

papertoy-komodo-passion-fruit

Some are quite cheeky and are often caught raiding the fruit bowl:

komodo-in-fruit-bowl

 

The Competition is to build your Komodo paper-toy and photograph it in its natural habitat. Please tell us a little bit about it if you wish!

The Rules:

You can enter the competition by adding your Komodo paper-toy photo to our Facebook page.

  • Please add your child’s first name and age
  • A little story is most welcome
  • Or you can email it to us – hi [at] komodomath.com –  and we’ll add it to this blog post ( Note that we’ll only refer to your child’s first name and age )
  • The competition will be judged by Niall - our paper-toy master craftsman
  • The competition will end at midnight on Tuesday September 30th
  • It’s open to all children – whether you’re a current Komodo subscriber or not

 

The Prizes:

Papertoy-Monsters

A copy of the wonderful “Papertoy Monsters Book” will be sent to the best two entries in each age ranges:

  • Age 6 and below
  • Aged 7 & 8
  • Aged 9 to 11

If you have any questions please comment below or on our facebook page

Good Luck Everyone!

 

I’m Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

About Komodo – Komodo is a fun and effective way to to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (10 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths – without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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