Mental Maths is one of the key challenges facing teachers today. If I were to ask you to tell me what 1287 dived by 29 was, most adults would wish they had a pen and paper in front of them (or a calculator!) What doesn’t come into our heads first is trying to mentally calculate a rough idea of the answer. We should probably be seeing that 29 is quite close to 30 and go from there. We need to give children these abilities, particularly in a world where rote learning is becoming less relevant.
Many teachers have come up with good Mental Maths starters in their classrooms. (I don’t mean an infamous book called “Mental Maths” which is anything but!) One such concept is called the Target Board. These have great opportunities in the classroom and the concept of competing with their classmates adds an extra dimension of fun to the whole affair. However, wouldn’t it be great if they could compete with other classrooms around the world?
From June 7th to 10th, we’ll be seeing if this can be done. Using Google Apps and their new discussions tool, we’ll be getting as many schools together to take on a targetboard. Google have recently added a new concept to their Google Docs, which I believe has very interesting educational value. The concept allows authors of a document to have discussions about that document to the side of the screen. Google’s own blog outlines how this works really well: http://googledocs.blogspot.com/2011/03/introducing-discussions-in-google-docs.html
This new concept works in all of Google Docs applications and I’ve thought of an idea, which I’d love to try out with other schools. Taking our Mental Maths approach, if I designed a slide with a targetboard and then shared it with everyone who wanted to join in, it opens the whole thing to a much wider audience. It could be used as a tool to get schools to compete with each other in Mental Maths. What child in Cork wouldn’t be motivated to kick the ass of a child in Kerry in some sport – be it football or mental maths!
If you’re interested in joining in with this project, you can visit the site,http://www.targetboard.net for more information. I intend to follow up this article with a reflection on its successes or challenges.