Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a blog post originally published on September 26, 2018
Maths clubs are dedicated extra-curricular maths get-togethers that breathe new life into maths beyond the classroom. They come in all shapes and sizes and there is no one model that works for every school. However, they all focus on two things: having fun with maths and learning.
Maths clubs raise the profile of maths as a subject, they increase engagement and show children that maths can be playful, exciting and full of wonder. Holding a weekly maths club lets us take off our curriculum jacket and work more informally with children while engaging them in a variety of activities for mathematical sense-making.
Joining a maths club is voluntary, but pupils throughout your school should be encouraged to enrol so they can experience learning maths in different ways. Working with peers from other classes and year groups helps children develop their collaboration skills and cultivate their mathematical development.
Positive attitudes are associated with higher levels of maths achievement and maths clubs have the potential to really make a difference by feeding these attitudes back into regular lessons. An effective maths club can help interest in maths spread.
Your maths mission
If you’re thinking about setting up a maths club, be clear about what you want to achieve. You might find the following objectives helpful but feel free to edit them to suit the needs of your maths club.
- Encourage a positive attitude towards mathematics.
- Stimulate mathematical curiosity.
- Promote cross-curricular thinking and the holistic development of pupils.
- Study real-world maths beyond the classroom and allow pupils to see maths as an integral part of their lives.
- Develop a healthy interest in mathematics as a source of interest and achievement.
- Inspire thinking, challenge and collaboration.
Deciding what type of maths club to set for children is something that can be guided by pupils themselves and the specific context you are working in.
Easy-to-run maths club activities
General maths clubs are probably the most popular and least intense. A broad-brush approach works well in most settings and allows for a wide range of easy-to-run activities: from games, puzzles, quizzes and investigations to maths trails, problem solving, podcasting, making maths videos and video conferencing.
Open-ended activities that engage children in talk-rich learning conversations about maths are ideal because they unearth pupils’ thinking and contribute to fuller conceptual knowledge and understanding through mathematising. These activities work well because they place an emphasis on problem solving, logic and critical thinking and so promote reciprocity (willingness to engage), self-efficacy, experimentation and flexibility.
The activities you select are crucial to the success of your maths club and need to be researched and matched to your pupils accordingly. They have to be vibrant, inventive, energetic and fun, which means hands-on, hearts-on and minds-on.
Other activities you could try include a maths assembly, maths art, maths poems, maths songs, a magic maths show, maths jokes, maths treasure trails, maths games, puzzles and problems. A pot-pourri of activities is important over the term as this variety helps us show that a maths club isn’t just about numbers.
Activities that promote dialogue, debate and discussion can heavily influence children’s maths vocabulary, their maths register and their listening skills. They also help normalise ‘mistake making’ and can build maths confidence.
Extra training for maths competitions
Some teachers decide to set up their maths club as a training ground to get children ready for a maths competition. Various maths contests, challenges, awards and olympiads are held throughout the UK and internationally and maths clubs are a good way to rehearse and prepare.
‘High octane’ competitive maths clubs don’t meet the needs of everyone, which is why it’s important to establish more general clubs alongside them.
Find the magic of maths
I have run several maths clubs over many years and have found that recreational maths is a pupil favourite because they see maths from a completely different perspective. Combining maths with magic is always a winner and learning some practical and workable number tricks can challenge and entertain.
Performing maths magic helps children revise their maths skills, provides novel contexts for learning new skills and supports maths resilience. Informal recreational maths activities are wealthy sources of enhancement and enrichment. They’re a creative arm of mathematics, designed for amusement and enjoyment where tricks take centre stage to engage pupil’s imaginations. Some recreational maths activities are pure fun, while others are serious applications of maths.
Using novelty maths is a resourceful, enjoyable and exciting way to promote the magic of numbers. Maths tricks can play a significant role in promoting a positive attitude towards maths learning.
Start your maths club today
Maths clubs are social occasions and play an important role in building positive relationships between teachers and children. They are opportunities to showcase being a maths champion and help children become maths catalysts and maths ambassadors themselves.
Isn’t it about time your school had its own maths club?