Daddy writes (Numberjacks and mathematics skill – update)

This is a note from Pippy’s dad, again, in praise of Chris and the team at OpenMind for Numberjacks.

Some years ago (from 1989-1992), I had the good fortune to be accepted to Balliol College, Oxford, to do a degree in Mathematics and Computation.

Dr. Frances Kirwan (who later became president of the London Mathematical Society) was one of my tutors. While I was an undergraduate, Frances had one of her children, who is now at Cambridge (reading Mathematics.)

Anyway, I recently went to a mathematicians reunion dinner at Balliol, and met up with Frances again, and inevitably the subject of mathematical literacy in children came up. I mentioned Pippy’s comment at age 4 “A prime number that’s a square number? Ridiculous”, and Frances was both amused and highly impressed at a child that young being aware of the concepts, so I explained about Numberjacks.

FACT: Pippy learnt about square numbers from Numberjacks.

FACT: Pippy was motivated by Numberjacks to play with buddy blocks, and make square, and what she then dubbed “rectangular” and “tricky” numbers. “Rectangular numbers” is a term with an obvious meaning to anyone who understands “square numbers”. “Tricky numbers” turned out to mean “prime”, which is the word I then supplied to her.

I have no idea whether Pippy will be interested in mathematics by the time she gets to University age (or, for that matter, have no idea whether she’ll even want to go to University), but having a conceptual grounding at age 4 that good?

Thank you so much, Mr. Ellis!


Daddy Writes (Numbjeracks wins Royal Television Society Award)

In a comment on this blog late last night, Chris Ellis, writer of Numberjacks, wrote:

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.

The Royal Television Society have the following to say about it:

This winning programme is an innovative combination of live action and animation of great appeal for its audience, made with a thorough understanding of how young children learn and rehearse basic mathematical concepts.

We second that!

Congratulations to all at OpenMind from a raving fan (and his daughter!)



Daddy Writes (Numberjacks and mathematics skill)

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

So, we wrote the numbers from 1 to 10, vertically,ย  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.ย  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.

Numberjacks – more news about the DVD and Radio

Chris Ellis, who writes Numberjacks, posted the following as a comment:

Dear Pippy and All,The work on the DVD is going well. We also hope that there will be Numberjacks posters coming out at about the same time. We donโ€™t know about books and toys yet, and they take a lot longer to make anyway.

Numberjacks is also going on to the radio – BBC7 in the afternoon. These will be new 5 minute programmes and will start in March.

All the best

Chris and the Numberjacks