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Mathematics Matters Lesson Accounts 39 - Finding and Describing Number Patterns in a Real Life Context

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Created on 28 May 2008 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 16 June 2008 by ncetm_administrator

Mathematics Matters Lesson Accounts
A collection of memorable mathematics lessons that conference and colloquia delegates had observed or taught which they felt were successful.  Each account refers to one or more of the values and principles in the report.

Lesson Account 39 - Finding and Describing Number Patterns in a Real Life Context

Written by Paula Stone
Organisation Canterbury Christ Church University
Age/Ability Range Mixed ability. KS2 Y4

How was the session/task introduced?
Mental oral starter. Looking for number patterns on 100 square. Eg 2x, 4x tables Main activity - Introduce this variant of the game of NIM using 20 counters in a single pile. Pupils can take one, two, three counters away in turn – pupils were asked to find a winning strategy where the loser is person to pick up the final counter.

How was the session/task sustained?
Round robin activity in which children played against each other ‘best of 3’ leading to a ‘final’. Children were asked to identify critical numbers (i.e. those numbers that would result in their partner losing) and write on board. (not aware they were sharing strategies for winning)

How was the session/task concluded?
In the plenary the class the class examined the critical numbers and how using this strategy could help them win. Used the ‘winning’ strategies to suggest a rule for the number of counters that should be left at each turn. Final play off’ – to see if the children were able to use the general statement identified in their game i.e. n=4x+1. 30 counters were given to the finalists. Once the final was played, the class discussed the general statement and applied the rule to any number of counters

What were the critical moments?
When children identified all critical numbers so knew whoever went first won! Activity extended so that children had to apply number pattern to any number of counters.

What mathematics was learnt? (on plan and off plan) and what is the evidence of learning?
Children were able to identify number pattern and use that as strategy for winning. Extended activity led onto applying that pattern for any number and writing a winning strategy. The children were having fun and learning through experimentation

How was that mathematics learnt?
Teacher facilitated learning using questions to encourage children to look for the pattern. (eg – if you know this number, what might be the next number? Learning took place without children noticing as pattern built up. Very active lesson.

Other memorable outcomes
All children were involved even if at a level of playing a game and winning and losing.

Carol Vorderman version of NIM (adapted).


Downloadable PDF

Click here to download this lesson account in PDF format.

Values & Principles

Fluency in recalling facts and performing skills
Strategies for investigation and problem solving
Builds on the knowledge learners already have
Uses higher-order questions
Makes appropriate use of whole class interactive teaching, individual work and cooperative small group work
Encourages reasoning rather than ‘answer getting’

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Lesson Accounts Introduction

Mathematics Matters - What constitutes the effective learning of mathematics? find out more


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