Daddy Writes (Numberjacks and mathematics skill)

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Time for a post from Daddy again, in praise of Numberjacks.

The Numberjacks DVD arrived a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been running several times a day. Both Pippy (4) and Peter (2) love it.

However, quite apart from the entertainment value, the numeracy of both of them has taken a huge leap forward. Peter can (with help) count to 100 now, which isn’t bad going for a two year old. We tend to cheat, slightly, in that he and I will count alternately, with him doing the odd numbers, and me doing the evens, so the rollover from 29 to 30 is always daddy’s problem 🙂

With Pippy, however, is where it’s got a bit scarey.

A few weeks ago, she’d been watching the Numberjacks play with their “buddy blocks” (the little building block things they use to illustrate things like 3+3 = 6, and square numbers.)

Anyway, Pippy got out some of her building blocks, and decided they were buddy blocks, and brought them in to me one evening, announcing she wanted “Number Fun”. So I decided that we’d have a got at breaking down the numbers into prime factors (OK, I’m a pushy parent 🙂 ).

So, we wrote the numbers from 1 to 10, vertically,  on a piece of paper, and decided that we’d work out how to make up the numbers, by playing with the buddy blocks… 4 was 2 x 2, obviously, and 6 was then 2 x 3, but when we got to 8, she decided it was 2 x 4…

… so I pointed out that 4 was 2 x 2, and that meant that 8 was 2 x 2 x 2 – hence, prime factorisation.

She then noticed that 2, 3, 5 and 7 were, in her words, “tricky numbers”, so I explained that “tricky numbers” were called “prime numbers”.

I knew that Mary (aka mummy) had been carrying on the number fun with her, and that they’d prime factorised the numbers up to about 40… but nothing prepared me for what happened the other night, after she’d watched the Numberjacks use their buddy blocks for square and cube numbers.

Mary had said “A square number”, and I said “no, you mean a prime number”…

.. and Pippy, age 4, said “A square number that’s a prime number – ridiculous!”

Huh – a four year old who has independantly observed that square numbers cannot (by definition) be prime.  She’s in reception at school, for crying out loud, the target for this year is for her class to be able to count to 20!

Why aren’t Numberjacks mandatory viewing in schools? They seem to have got over some fairly sophisticated concepts very, very, early.

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5 Responses to “Daddy Writes (Numberjacks and mathematics skill)”

  1. Chris Ellis Says:

    Very very interesting – as the makers of the Numberjacks we’re fascinated and delighted to hear how Numberjacks is helping children to develop their maths skills. A list of the concepts the series deals with (on tv and radio) is on the http://www.numberjacks.com – but more fundamantally the series is about developing attitudes and “sensitivity” to maths concepts and enabling children to enjoy and “run with” maths (as well having some high adventure and good laughs). We would be delighted to read further thoughts, either here or direct to the Feedback at the Numberjacks website.
    Chris Ellis

  2. Chris Ellis Says:

    … and that should be “fundamentally” not “fundamantally”… we care about words too…

  3. Helen Says:

    It is a shame numberjacks don’t produce a series for schools – a little bit like the ‘badger girl’ series that i was forced to watch throughout my primary school.
    The children would benefit greatly, the staff wouldn’t complain and numberjacks merchandise would probably increase dramatically. Everyone’s a winner!

  4. Silver bells, and cockle shells Says:

    Role models for numerate children

    The Numberjacks are some of the few heros I’ve found, aimed at children, that are numerate. In a lot of writing the people who enjoy Maths are at best scatty and eccentric and at worst downright unsociable.
    Is this because most writers create her…

  5. Chris Ellis Says:

    For Pippy, her Dad and others who have said kind words – you might like to know that Numberjacks won the Royal Television Society’s Award for best pre-school educational programme, which of course we are delighted about.

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