Primary School Maths Club Ideas And Activities: From Set Up To Running It
If you have always wanted to set up a maths club but haven’t been sure quite how to do it or what kind of maths club activities you could use then this blog should set you on the right path.
Packed with maths club ideas, tip and tricks from a teacher with over 20 years experience, after reading this post you will be in good stead to start your own club in no time at all.
I-spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘q’.
No, it’s ‘queue’.
I normally hate queues, but there’s one type of queue I don’t mind and that’s the line of children outside my classroom waiting to get into my maths club.
Every Wednesday it’s the same. Eager faces peering in like greyhounds in their traps waiting for the door to open.
So with this as your end goal…let’s dive in.
What is a maths club?
A Maths club is a chance for everybody (not just the highest or lowest attainers) to have fun with maths in an entirely non-judgemental, and ideally relatively free flowing environment. It can happen at any time of day outside timetabled lessons.
At primary school maths is a popular after school club, but you could equally hold it as lunchtime maths club or even before school. It should feel noticeably distinct from a maths lesson and the maths club activities you offer, should, wherever possible, be fun, or at the very least, engaging and possibly even surprising for children.
Why should your primary school have a maths club?
Maths clubs come in all shapes and sizes and there is no one model that works for every school. However, every school should have one.
This is because they help raise the profile of maths within the school, increase the engagement of children in maths and help show that maths is a playful and diverse subject full of surprises.
Other benefits of a maths club
Maths clubs will also
- develop children’s knowledge and understanding of maths
- strengthen the cross curricular links with maths and other subjects
- provide children with opportunities to try new things
- help children apply their maths skills to other ‘real-life’ maths investigations
- celebrate the achievement of children
- fuel a can-do approach to maths
- show children that maths is multidimensional
- develop children’s mathematical reasoning
- promote collaborative learning between different year groups
- develop maths resilience
- boost self-confidence
- cultivate creativity
- help to raise standards
- increase parental engagement with maths
Maths clubs allow you to take off your curriculum straitjacket and work flexibly and creatively.
What sort of maths club activities can you do?
When starting up a maths club you should aim for as wide an appeal as possible, ideally across the Key Stage. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas for maths club activities there are to choose from: maths games, puzzles, quizzes, codebreaking, maths investigations, maths trails, general problem solving, blogging, podcasting and videoconferencing.
We’ve listed more specific maths club ideas and activities and how to run them below.
12 Fun And Engaging Maths Club Games And Activities For Primary Schools
Download this amazing resource which is packed with 12 fun and active maths club games for you to use in your after school maths clubs!
Where should you hold a maths club?
A maths club offers opportunities for more flexible learning. In an ideal setting a classroom can be arranged in different ways to reflect different ways of learning. Children might work on their own, in pairs or small groups.
A room is needed where tables and chairs can be moved around freely and a maths club should take place in a classroom children can exercise a degree of control over and contribute to their learning environment.
Don’t just think ‘indoors’ either as every maths club worth its salt should be connecting with Mother Earth and the immediate environment outside.
Which pupils should attend a maths club?
Maths clubs are extra-curricular and off-piste sessions that can be held before school, at lunchtimes or after school hours. There are lots of types of clubs too and careful thought needs to be given as to whether they ‘fit your context’ or not in terms of your school’s vision and values.
A word of caution: some maths clubs can send out the wrong messages even if they are ‘well-meaning’.
Some are not my type and may, because they can, typecast who attends based on erroneous and faulty classroom labels or they push particular children to do well at the expense of others.
Some use their maths clubs a ‘training grounds’ for annual maths competitions and challenges but in reality these are more like specialised maths clinics. These clubs do little else but prepare children for the types of questions that may come up – I like these maths challenges and I think they do serve a valuable purpose but a maths club devoted to preparing for one?
I don’t think so.
Children have enough pressure without another layer of it added on top, and maths isn’t about preparing for tests. For many the reward is a photograph in a local rag with the headline ‘Maths genius top of the class’, and whilst this might be good window dressing for a school, I’m really not sure what some children get out of it other than being on a challenge treadmill.
There are some cracking competitions to enter and schools should enter them (see links) but devoting a maths club to the ‘big day’ isn’t for me.
Maths clubs should be accessible to everyone
Then there are maths clubs devoted to the ‘most able’, but the first thing to remember here is that maths talent is fluid. All children are ‘able’ to do maths, but if we create clubs for particular children we have labelled as more able then we are creating and perpetuating more exclusivity.
KS1 and KS2 maths clubs should never be the territory of a few bright children.
I’ve seen schools where certain children get ‘invited’ to join a maths club which immediately rings alarm bells.
Maths is not ‘by invitation only’.
Maths is for everyone and therefore elite clubs for the chosen few (who no doubt do display some maths talents) drive a wedge through the school. This explains why some children fall into the learning pit and never get out of because they doubt their maths abilities and never start the process of aiming for greater depth in maths.
Maths clubs should be inclusive places where everyone can make a contribution and develop their growth mindset.
Children of all ages and abilities should be encouraged to join a maths club in order to experience learning in different ways alongside children from different year groups. This helps children share ideas and strategies and cultivates their mathematical development.
A maths club should be of interest and open to children of different ages, take into account different ability levels, and reflect different motivations for attending.
Feedback to the other teachers in your primary school from your maths club
The activities I chose are formative in nature and so feedback is a big thing – I give it not just to the children but to their teachers as well.
This may sound onerous but it doesn’t have to be.
Feedback to different teachers doesn’t have to be formal – it might be as simple as quick chat in the staff room to say how a pupil is getting on. Besides which, my experience tells me that if children have enjoyed their time in maths club then they readily share what happened with their teacher.
Invite teachers to join the club!
It’s also important to invite class teachers to spend at least one session or part of a session to drop in and see what maths is taking place. Children love to see that their own teachers are taking an interest even for just a few snatched minutes.
Maths clubs are an opportunity to learn
Maths Clubs are like any other lesson – you’ve got to make every second count so they need some intelligent planning and careful thought.
They should provide opportunities for children to do work that:
- is high in challenge but low in anxiety
- allows children to control their own learning
- allows children to learn in different ways
- supports learning within and outside the school
Understanding is far too complex to be evaluated satisfactorily by any one type of activity, and this is why a range of techniques are needed to probe children’s understanding of maths.
Narrow strategies will only provide a limited measure of understanding and so to promote high quality learning miscellaneous activities are needed.
An emphasis on investigative, problem solving and exploratory approaches will allow pupils to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge, skills and understanding.
Successful maths clubs will ultimately depend on the types of activity you select.
Types of maths clubs
For me, maths clubs aren’t frivolous or pretentious but valuable opportunities to do some real active maths. I’ve created maths clubs with a heavy emphasis on problem-solving and investigations but clubs that I’ve set up with a wider maths curriculum that adopt a more broad brush approach tend to be more wide-ranging and creative.
I like to vary the input and use a range of assessment for learning activities that enable me to work responsively and help children upgrade their knowledge and understanding.
Favourite easy to run maths club activities
The variety of easy to run maths club activities you could introduce is endless. Here are some easy to run ideas to get you started; more specific ideas follow below and in the free resource.
- Maths puzzles
- Maths games
- Maths magic
- Maths art
- Maths card games
- Maths dice games
- Maths board games
- Maths tricks
- Video conferencing with a mathematician
- Making a maths video or podcast
- Maths songs (great for learning times tables)
- Maths poems
- Maths jokes
- Maths trails or treasure hunts (see outdoor maths)
- Maths competitions
Third Space have collected my favourite maths club activities into a free downloadable resource. These are all straightforward and easy to run, covering topics from times tables, division, percentages, and angles and provide more than enough to keep you busy for your first couple of maths club sessions.
For other maths club ideas and activities, read on.
1. Games should be central to your maths club
Maths club games are an integral part of children’s practical maths experience. They provide a motivating context for children to explore concepts, develop subject knowledge, improve problem-solving and enjoy maths.
Games are also ideal talking frames for you to formatively assess children’s mental strategies and general maths well-being. They provide children with opportunities to think creatively, interpret instructions, use maths vocabulary, develop social skills and develop confidence and self-esteem.
2. Offline maths games only if possible!
It’s easy to find some fizzy-whizzy game online and let children sit playing it for 30 minutes are more but this is lazy maths and ‘easy life’ clubbing that just fills the time. You should ensure that most of your maths club ideas are offline!
Download this free resource of maths club games and activities that can be done offline and require only a pen and paper, and sometimes a dice (but these are easy to make yourself.)
This enables the children who come to the club to be active and roll up their sleeves – maths in the form of computer games is sedentary maths. There are of course some superb maths activities to be found online and using these now and again is perfectly acceptable but there are plenty of low-tech options available that can make learning more tangible.
My maths maxim is: if it’s hands-on then it’s minds-on so I always aim for practical maths club ideas where possible.
Many maths clubs use novelty or recreational maths as a way of exciting and capturing the interest of children. Informal ‘playful’ maths activities are wealthy sources of enhancement and enrichment and provide excellent material for maths clubs.
3. Dazzling Maths Club Idea! A Head Full of Numbers
Challenges that promote the magic of numbers will encourage children to pursue maths as a fun activity, and number tricks are always an excellent way of inspiring children.
This number trick is quite a winner and when practised can be performed with real finesse and flair.
How to impress the children with your memory and mind reading skills
- Give children a copy of the grid above and tell them that you have memorised every single number in the table.
- Point out that there are 49 key numbers that are in bold and under each bold number is a seven digit number.
- Without looking at a copy of the table yourself, ask one of the children to choose a number in bold and confidently declare that you will be able to recall the number underneath.
- For example, if the number 41 was chosen, slowly reveal each of the numbers but remember to add plenty of performance and theatricals such as, ‘The first number is coming to me, I can see it now, it’s a prime number, it’s an even number, it’s the number 2!’
- Then go on to say and write down the other numbers, ‘My mental powers are weak but I think the next number is also a prime number. I think it’s the square root of 25…It’s the number five!’ A hearty measure of stagecraft will add more impact to your routine!
- Repeat this for several other circled numbers as children try to work out how you can recall all the numbers so readily. Then it is time to tell the children how it’s done and let them have a go with a partner after they have learnt the trick…
How this magic maths works…
There is of course a way to work out that magic number.
- Add 11 to the chosen circled number.
- Reverse the result.
- Keep on adding the two previous numbers, leaving out the ‘tens’.
- Write down the number and say it aloud in true magician style!
For example, say the circled number 14 is selected, you want to make 5279651. To do that, follow the steps below:
• Add 11 to get 25.
• Reverse 25 to get 52.
• Add 5 and 2 to get 7,
• Add 2 and 7 to get 9,
• Add 7 and 9 to get 16 (ignore the 1 in 16 and just write down the 6 next),
• Add 9 and 6 to get 15 (again ignore the 1 in 15 and just write down the 5),
• Add 6 and 5 to get 11 (ignore one of the number 1s and write down the other 1)
• Say the number, 5279651
Teacher Hack – You will find this easier if you write it down on a whiteboard as you do it!
When you have tried a few of the tricks together, give children time to explore each one and practice. They can then prepare demonstrations of the tricks to perform to you and the rest of the class.
4. Practical Maths Club Idea: Get Crafty!
Beyond games, ‘anything goes’ in a maths club because you are not constrained by any specific curriculum. These are a few I like:
a) making a Mobius strip
b) trying the stepping through paper technique
c) Creating Andy Goldsworthy maths-art sculptures
5. Inspirational Maths Club Idea: Maths Heroes
One idea worth running with is using a session or two devoted to ‘Maths Maestroes’ and learning more about trailblazing mathematicians from the past. This year is the perfect time to look at the role women have played in maths and children can research female maths mathematicians such as Ada Lovelace, Emmy Noether and Sofia Kovalevskaya.
Finding out more about some of the finest maths figures from around the world make superb personal learning projects for children to get their teeth into.
Maths club ideas don’t always have to be based around the numbers. Worksheets and activities around popular celebrities are always going to be popular, so incorporate them in when you can!
Ideas for maths club resources
Collecting and inventing your own resources is something that takes time and over the years there will be plenty you can feed into a maths club. Keeping everything in one place is the biggest challenge!
If you don’t have many resources to hand or you don’t fancy reinventing the wheel then there are other ready resources that you can sign up for or buy into.
One initiative that offers free maths club materials is Count On Us from the Mayor’s Fund For London, a social mobility charity. It offers guidance for schools, sharing best practice from the participating schools, themed activity packages, session plans and managements resources.
There are also plenty of companies that offer paid-for after school maths club activities, and if you want to learn more about this you can see the links below for more details.
These clubs are certainly worth considering for short bursts of after-school maths over half a term but for me, you cannot beat having a school staff member lead their own club through the year.
A maths club is a fixture for the whole academic year and is best led by staff that know children who can chart their progress and development.
Fun fun fun, the most important part about a maths club
It’s tempting to say maths clubs are ‘fun’ – they should be but let children decide that for themselves. If they aren’t enjoying themselves then they aren’t having fun and you need to change direction and ‘gamble’ with new activities, some of which can be found below.
Maths clubs can be a fantastic way to help bring maths to life for some of the pupils in your school, so if you are looking for that magic bullet that could make the difference in your school, it might just be a maths club!
Maths club useful links
- The Primary Maths Challenge is organised by the Mathematical Association.
- The United Kingdom Mathematics Trust organise the Junior Mathematics Challenge.
- Maths in Motion Challenge – an exciting and motivating mathematics based project involving racing cars and Grands Prix type races throughout the year.
- Lots more fun games and activities suitable for maths clubs in the Third Space Learning Maths Hub.
- Additional free resources from the Mayor’s Fund.
Do you have pupils who need extra support in maths?
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of pupils across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons designed to plug gaps and boost progress. Since 2013 we’ve helped over 60,000 primary school pupils become more confident, able mathematicians. You can learn more about our interventions or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.