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Reviewed by John Dabell
My maths teacher always warned me to be wary of vicious cycles, and he was right. Experiencing failure at maths, then believing you’re no good at it can be exactly that. It’s a spiral that’s difficult to escape unless someone, or something, intervenes to stop the rot.
This is why interventions for numeracy are widely used in schools, and there are many reports of the positive effects they have on both attainment and attitudes. There’s no single programme that works best for all pupils in all situations, but one approach that can be effective, especially with pupils who have language difficulties, is the use of structured apparatus and multi-sensory teaching.
Interventions needn’t be very time-consuming or intensive to be effective either, as proved by The Number Box – the follow-up from the highly praised Five Minute Literacy Box. It’s a multi-sensory teaching programme and maths resource that’s ideal for supporting children who are working well below age-related expectations.
The Box itself is a suitcase containing physical maths resources and activities that cover Foundation Stage and KS1 numeracy concepts. These include magnetic numbers; counting cubes; coins; shapes; a clock face; a ‘magic’ tape measure and instructions; a numbers base board; a shapes base board and a board with hundred squares. There are also number cards, symbol cards, table lines, dice, a penny board, and a whiteboard and pen. All this comes with an instruction guide, activities booklet, record of achievement covers, and record of work sheets.
The Number Box is designed to be used by TAs in one-to-one support, with small groups, and as a second-start programme for EAL children to ensure that concepts and maths language are understood. The instruction manual provides very easy-to-follow, fully illustrated multi-sensory steps, while the Targets/Progression of Skills form outlines the order in which the number concepts are taught.
Also supplied are individual recording booklets, which are great for making comments and recording progress over time, and other maths topics can be supported to dovetail with whatever you are covering in class.
Whether you use the resources in a literal manner or adapt them to suit your needs, it’s a good idea to get children managing the resources themselves to give them ownership. You could use it for five-minute support, or much longer if required, and take it beyond Y1 if need be. I’ve used it for Y6 children before.
The Number Box would be especially good to use with dyslexic children who find sequential skills, organisation and spatial operations more challenging. Dyscalculic children will naturally benefit too, as will learners with receptive and expressive language difficulties. The amount of vocabulary teaching you could do with the Number Box is enormous, making it perfect for children who need more time to acquire and use mathematical words as well as concepts. A separate group pack can be purchased too, which you can use it with up to four students.
I think this resource would easily slot into the new maths curriculum, in fact you could use it within any maths curriculum – it really is that flexible. You can open the box up and use it with very little preparation, so it’s a time-saver that’s ready for action whenever you need it.
The Number Box is priced just shy of £100, which might seem like a fair whack, but I think it represents good value. After all you’re paying for expert guidance as well as the resources. It’s a clever programme, because it allows children to progress at different rates in different areas of maths, helping to build their maths confidence and self-esteem through regular small steps so that strengths are built up and weaknesses erased.
VERDICT: Box of tricks
If you are looking for a highly personalised, positive and supportive ‘Hear, see, say and write’ resource that fits in with class provision, then The Number Box is a must. Research is united in the belief that early detection and remedy of maths difficulties eliminates future struggles with the increasingly complex and abstract mathematical concepts studied throughout secondary years.
The Number Box has a very valuable role to play in supporting children to progress their skills and fill the gaps in their understanding. This unique resource ticks all the right boxes for content, curriculum coverage, ease of use, functionality and value for money. Physical resources like this act as a real spanner in the works for any vicious cycles, and help kids to get out of that loop.
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