Maths Without Limits
Opening Young Minds to Endless Possibilities
Talking Games

Talking games, designed to build children’s confidence and accuracy in using correct mathematical language, are incorporated in many of the following slide show activities. 

Extended Explorations

These resources provide a wealth of material for both whole-class teaching and group working which can act as the backbone for a topic over a number of weeks.  There is a particular focus on exploration through mathematical talk.

Mini Explorations

These shorter explorations are ideal for home learning.  Each focuses on a single idea and encourages the child to explore it fully. 'Together time' slides at the start of each task encourage discussion with a parent before the child works alone.

Visual Skill Builders

To be really confident with Maths, children need to build up a bank of visual strategies which they can draw on to solve different problems.  These activities each focus on a single visualisation and explore how it can be used for a particular skill.

The basic idea for the talking games is as follows:

  • Groups of children are provided with a set of three or four questions and answer templates with blank spaces for numbers to be inserted
  • Children take turns in their group to ask one of the questions, inserting suitable numbers, and one of their team members has to answer it
  • The child who answers gets one mark for a correct answer, and a bonus mark for speaking it using the correct mathematical language following the template provided

Some of the games require particular equipment (e.g. metre stick, blue tac, counters, whiteboard etc) – others require none at all.  Some require the children to draw or build a diagram (e.g. array, rectangle diagram, number line, bar model etc) to use during the game.

Tips for success:

  • Group the children in threes or fours – two is not so much fun – five or more can be chaotic. Consider in advance if any child will be leaving the room during the game (eg to go to a music lesson) and make sure they are in a group of four.
  • Before they begin, direct the children to agree in their team whether they are going to play a slow game or a fast game.  
    • In the slow game, a child asks a question and then the child to their left is given the opportunity to answer.  If this child cannot answer, gets the question wrong or gives an incomplete answer (answers correctly but doesn’t use the correct sentence structure), the next player gets a chance to answer.  
    • In the fast game, anyone is allowed to answer and whoever gives the correct answer first gets the point(s).  
    • Emphasise that if there is even one person in the team who would prefer the slow game then this is how it should be played.  The fast game is only allowed if the whole team is happy with this at the start. 
  • Model the game first with one group playing it and everyone else gathered round to watch.  Make sure that everyone is clear about the rules.  Point out that, if one person answers correctly (without using the correct words) then they will get one point, but if a second person is then able to answer using the correct words then they will get two points in addition to the first person getting one point.  Pupils are therefore rewarded for careful thinking, not just for speed.
  • Circulate while the games are being played to pick up on children who are forgetting to use the correctly language and model this for them.

Like any game, it will be important for the children to have the opportunity to play these talking games frequently, to form the correct habits.  Games should initially be played in the context of the wider activity they are part of, but, once learned can be used as standalone activities for spaced practice (see below)