Friday, August 16, 2013

Loving Learning - Maths

It was a lucky moment for me when classes were being divided up at the start of the year that I ended up teaching not only Class 2 English but also Maths.
I really enjoy the breadth that gives me here - and for my Class 2s means they are immersed in English for four hours a day with me, like it or not!

Its also been a blessing that the school could not find a curriculum guide for me, so I have been able to use my experience with teaching year 2 maths at home as a guide, while really responding to the needs of my students and teaching them where they are at.

This meant for the first half of the year we concentrated on consolidating number concepts for numbers up to 100. At the start of the year it appeared that they had never learned counting patterns, nor had any knowledge of basic number facts to 20. We started right back at the beginning, learning to count, add and subtract.

Add to this, at the time, many of them had very limited (if any) English, and so my style of teaching maths in a hands-on way was all the more necessary. Teaching abstract maths concepts using a language kids don't have a good grasp of could be a nightmare, but I feel that the kids have made enormous progress and I like to think it is because as much as possible I have used engaging, hands on methods of teaching (just as we do in Australia) and I've never been so certain of how important this is.

Also, we do not have access to photocopying, so for all the practise work involved in mastering algorithms, I have made countless little cards so that a) I can group students according to ability and b) I know students are working independently on their own questions, not copying. (which is rife here, with students eager to please and fearful of the consequences of getting questions wrong).

Grouping students has been possible as I make use of the library where we have room to spread out. I have room to teach a group of students on the floor using manipulatives while a group of more capable students works independently on a task at the tables. My groups are fluid and depend on the task at hand. It is awesome to see that the group with higher needs is developing so much more confidence in their abilities in maths, and are really not too far behind now. In a classroom which didn't allow for this catering to difference this group of children would be left behind. I just hope I have given them enough skills, knowledge and belief in themselves to carry them forward.

To perhaps inspire other teachers in developing world settings I have lots of photos to show what we do with very limited resources. And friends and family who donated supplies will see what we've been able to do with all your bits and pieces!


We began with using 10s frames (I made by hand with cardboard and a pen) to develop counting, grouping numbers by 10, addition and subtraction number facts to 20.

The children really took to the hands-on way of learning - and for many using manipulatives has helped them grasp concepts that otherwise would have been very difficult in an ESL environment.

My handy collection of recycled bottletops again comes in handy learning 'missing addends'.

Before my paddlepop sticks arrived from Australia, we continued to use 10s frames to begin working with numbers beyond 20 (up to 100).

I brought my maths mat from home - a 100s chart (hard to see in the photo, but it has all the numbers from 1-100 in a grid). We have used this in many ways to develop number awareness to 100 and addition and subtraction skills.

We rolled a number on the maths mat and then kids raced to make the number on the tens frames.

By the time my paddlepop sticks and rubber bands arrived, the kids had a good grasp of place value and we used them to practise bundling numbers, again using the maths mat. This was Remy's birthday and he popped in to visit us!

In Australia we commonly use paddlepop sticks, bundled into groups of 10 to build an awareness of place value.

 We had fun learning 'rainbow facts' - all the combinations of facts that add to ten.

I've used my number cards (and another set of similar ordinal number cards) in many ways for kids to learn how to read the and write the number words.

 Xavier and Yeshi work on putting numbers in ascending order (my little number cards come in handy for lots of different activities).

More ascending order, the numbers getting more challenging.
Exploring three digit numbers using playing cards - making the highest/lowest number possible with your three cards.

Looks like fun!

I was very lucky to find a few boxes of 'MAB' blocks that are the next step along from paddlepop sticks and teach numbers to 1000 and beyond in a concrete way. Here the girls are playing a game with dice to learn about 'trading' in addition.

I made cardboard dice with 1, 2, 10, 20 and 100 on the sides. Kids roll the dice and add it to a number card. Some chose to use the MABs to help. Working in groups allows for conversation around the topic and more capable kids helping their friends.

Another pic of the game.

We've now progressed to adding and subtracting double digit numbers up to 1000 with trading. How far we've come!

I made number expanders to develop awareness of the different representations of numbers to 1000.


Folding and chopping coloured paper to learn common fraction.

Luckily the kids love pizza here, so they enjoyed making pizzas and...

chopping them up to share with their family members!

Bottletops came in handy again when we were looking at fractions of a group.


Rolling dice to explore the probability of each number being rolled.

We used recycled cereal packets, and put 5 bottle tops inside - 2 of one colour and the other 3 different colours to explore more complex probability. They really got it!

The kids had fun flipping Australian coins (Bhutan doesn't have any coins) and seeing whether heads or tails came up more often.


Learning the days of the week, months of the year and seasons has been a big challenge. Here I have a group game - each group gets a little ziplock bag of words to put in the correct order - first team finished is the winner. Lots of repetition seems to be working!

 Northern hemisphere seasons - still trick me, and I told Xavier not to bother memorising these!

I made a large teaching clock out of cardboard and its as good as any fancy plastic one I've used at home!
We made paper plate clocks (thanks to some split pins sent from home) and they have been so useful to help teach kids to tell the time.  A big hit!

I brought in a bag of ordinary household items to measure.
Even measuring beans!
We used colourful streamers to measure parts of our body...
and then measured the streamers to find the exact length.

We've made air-propelled rockets with paper, matchsticks, straws and streamers and tomorrow will measure how far they fly. On Monday we'll write a procedure! Its all coming together!
Looking through this selection of the hours of maths time we've had this year,  I feel really happy with how far we've come. I'm happy to document what we've achieved and I look forward to an opportunity to share all this good stuff with my teaching colleagues here before I leave.


  1. Great work, Andrea! Extremely delighted to see encouragement for our teachers on the possibility of student engagement...

  2. Thank you Tshering! It's a pleasure! I love working with these students and love seeing how much they've learned.

  3. Its a pleasure to see all you wonderful foreign teachers attending to our young Learners. Cheers! Go through my blog too. Would be glad..,

    1. Thank you Sonam Dorji, we're hopeful to have a positive influence on the future of Bhutan. I checked out your blog too and am following it, I enjoy hearing the different voices of Bhutan.

  4. Thanks Namgyel! Are you a maths teacher?