How Numberblocks Supports School Maths

If you find yourself struggling to get your head around helping your children with their maths homework, never fear! Read on to find out how Numberblocks on CBeebies can help build your confidence with the new approaches to teaching maths.

How does Numberblocks help?

To put it simply, Numberblocks engages children in maths because the characters are the maths and they behave in mathematical ways. In the show, Numberblock Two combines with Numberblock Three and makes Numberblock Five. Try asking your child to explain why this happens. When we put two and three together, they make five - this is just natural logic. When children are able to make this connection, they are thinking in mathematical ways.

There are a number of ways that you and your child can get even more fun out of Numberblocks.

Talk about the show together

Talking about maths really helps a child’s development. Having watched an episode, ask your child to tell you about the episode – what did they notice? Allow them to lead the conversation and talk about the things that caught their attention. You don’t need to formalise the maths, but you might want to act out the story, or invite them to draw a picture, or even sing one of the songs.

Does your child have a favourite Numberblock? Talk to them about it. Can they draw the number or build it with blocks? What happens if it meets Numberblock One, and One jumps on top? What number will it turn into?

What is 'part-part-whole'?

'Part-part-whole' is a term used in schools to describe an important relationship in maths. A whole number can be split into two parts. For example, 4 is split into 3 and 1. The three and the one are parts of four. They can join back together again to make the whole of four.

The Numberblocks engage in this activity by splitting and joining all the time. A classic episode which is worth watching more than once is ‘The Whole of Me’, on BBC iPlayer, where the Numberblocks One to Five sing about their ‘wholes' and 'parts’. Try acting this out with your child, using some blocks or small objects and split and join them back together to make the ‘whole’.

What is 'subitising'?

'Subitising' is recognising ‘how many’ without counting. Your child will probably recognise the Numberblocks characters without needing to count the blocks.

Try encouraging them to see other quantities without counting. For instance, if you are on a walk and you come across two dogs, say to your child, “Look at those two dogs.”

You could also play a game with some objects and a tea towel. Put the tea towel over the objects and remove it for only a few seconds. See if your child can tell you how many objects there are without counting. Start with just one or two items and gradually build up to five items.

What do you mean by comparison?

Comparison in maths involves comparing two sets of objects and identifying which set is bigger or smaller. Where there is only a slight difference between the two sets of objects, you might need to encourage your child to count in order to tell which is bigger or smaller.

In the Blockzilla episode Numberblocks are compared to see which is bigger as Blockzilla likes big numbers. Blockzilla is foiled when the Numberblocks make the numbers the same. Making the numbers the same is the basis for how ‘sums’ such as 2 + 3 = 5 work. The equation is correct because there is 5 in total on both sides of the equal’s symbol.

Help with writing maths

There is no need to rush your child into writing ‘sums’ or symbols such as 2 + 3 = 5. What is more important is understanding the maths behind the symbols, such as the part-part-whole relationship described above. You may notice that when equations are written in Numberblocks episodes they are in the background and always linked to visuals of how the maths works. Children will pick up on them when they are ready.

Try encouraging your child to draw a picture so that they can record the maths in a way that makes sense to them.

You may also have noticed that the position of the equals symbol is varied in Numberblocks. Sometimes it is near the end in a more traditional arrangement, such as 2 + 3 = 5. Sometimes it is near the start, such as 5 = 2 + 3, or even in the middle, such as 2 + 3 = 4 + 1. This helps children to develop flexibility of seeing equations in different ways.

You can do it!

Many people believe that they are not good at maths and never will be because they just don’t have the ‘maths gene’. Don't worry, there is no such thing!

It's important to instil in children a positive attitude to maths and the belief that if they stick with it, they can do it. This is known as a ‘growth mindset’ and contrasts with a ‘fixed mindset’ where the child just gives up, because they believe they will never be able to do it. If your child is struggling, praise their efforts by saying something like, “I can see you are trying really hard with that.” They may not be able to do it yet but if they keep working hard then one day they will.

Engaging in maths with your child can encourage them to develop a growth mindset. You could play skittles and talk about how many skittles have been knocked down, how many are still standing and how many are there altogether?

The most important thing for children to develop is a positive attitude towards maths and engaging with the Numberblock characters, songs and stories in a fun and playful way will help them do that. Seeing how you react to maths will also have an impact, so join in with them to show that you enjoy it too.

All children are capable of being successful in maths. It may take time, and they shouldn’t be hurried, but just remember to try and look for opportunities to notice maths and talk about it with your child.

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