Daddy writes (Numberjacks and mathematics skill – update)

December 21, 2007 by

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!


A nativity card

December 21, 2007 by

2007 Christmas card.jpgThis year, I found a nativity play card. It has a star, and Mary holding Jesus, and the moon or sun behind her.

Daddy says it’s actually called a halo, which is a light round someone’s head.

The card is green and blue, and I’m a bit surprised that it has green and blue on it.

The first day of Christmas

December 1, 2007 by

Christmas Tree 2007.JPG

Today is the first day of Christmas. Every year on the first of December, we put up our Christmas tree.

We had forgotten that the lights broke last year, so we bought new ones. We bought an extra set to decorate my room.

I chose the holly lights, which we put on the Christmas tree, and the multicoloured ones which we are about to put in my bedroom.

Daddy took a picture of the Christmas tree. (His camera flashed right in my eyes right as I was trying to sleep under the tree like Clara in the story The Nutcracker.)

My map of the world

September 10, 2007 by

There are volcanos in the world. There is one in Italy (that kicked poor Sicily) and there is one in Sicily too.

My map of the world

I coloured deserts in Africa and South America and grasslands in North America, and Europe and Asia which are joined together. Australia is red because of the red rock in the middle (Mummy writes – Uluru).

I drew on the cable under the sea (Mummy writes – the Sea-Me-We 3 cable network – the longest undersea telecoms cable)

In September I will be in a new class at school

August 8, 2007 by

In September my new class is going to be Kingfishers. My teacher is called Mrs Tong. That is in Year 1.

In September I want to be better at jumping in the air and cartwheels. We do jumping in PE when the mat is near a bench but I don’t know about cartwheels. I want to do some drawing and sometimes going to Dragonflies which is the other Year 1 class. The Dragonfly teacher is my old teacher that I had in Reception (Ducklings). The Dragonfly Class were Goslings in Reception.

A father’s day card for daddy

June 17, 2007 by

The father’s day card for daddy that I gave him was the one I made at school.
On the front there is a picture of daddy and me in a hug together. I drew the picture on Friday, and brought it home, but it was a surprise for daddy.

And today is Sunday, it’s father’s day today. Me and Peter gave daddy a book. I helped wrap the books up – I made a mistake once and mummy helped.

Daddy Writes (Numbjeracks wins Royal Television Society Award)

June 17, 2007 by

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!)




June 16, 2007 by

Lazytown is really great. There is someone called Sportacus, who always saves the day.

Miss Busybody is always talking.

Stephanie’s uncle is the mayor of Lazytown. Ziggy loves eating lots and lots and lots of sweets. Pixel is alway playing computer games, even at night-time. Stingy wants everything. Trixie sometimes tells jokes. Robbie Rotten tries to get rid of Sportacus.

Stephanie is 8 years old, and has pink hair. I love pink, but I don’t have pink hair.

My Balamory DVD

May 12, 2007 by

My Balamory DVD has four titles but the extra bonus one is my favourite. It is The Tortoise and the Hare. They all have stories on them.

My favourite characters are the girls – Josie Jump, Edie McCreedie, Miss Hooley, Penny Pocket and Susie Sweet.

I like the sweet shop drop game on the Cbeebies website. I especially like the pink ones.

Daddy Writes (Numberjacks and mathematics skill)

April 26, 2007 by

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.