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Flexible fractions, percentages and decimals…
The Flexitable Fraction Grid is an ingenious, easy-to-use, flexible PVC/soft plastic grid from Flexitable Limited, which enables children to continually fold and unfold vertical and horizontal channels, to find equivalent fractions, percentages and decimal values.
The Fraction Grid shows the relationship between fractions and percentages on the front face with the equivalents decimal values on the back. This simple learning tool supports the curriculum and gives children the opportunity to enjoy and explore maths kinaesthetically, make observations and record comments for group discussions.
Folding these durable grids again and again helps children to find the different ways of expressing the fractions, percentages and decimals of the same value that make up a whole whilst addressing all learning styles.
All pluses and no minuses
Special Children looks at ‘Flexitable’ – a simple way to help children develop four essential mathematical skills
‘Flexitable’ is an ingenious classroom resource that can help children develop four essential mathematical operations.
The tables are simplicity itself, comprising of a small grid, sized 20cm squared with vertical and horizontal channels moulded into soft, pliable plastic. The idea behind the tables is for them to be continually folded and unfolded again and again – allowing children to find the answers to mathematical problems requiring the use of addition/subtraction and multiplication/division.
The table was invented by a Yorkshire teaching assistant, Linda Mangles, who wanted to make the learning of multiplication tables more enjoyable for her classes. She wanted lessons to be more interactive with the pupils and to have them enjoy maths and explore numbers so that they could discover square roots, understand that division was the opposite of multiplication and realise the relationship between odd and even numbers.
How do the tables work?
Each grid has the numbers 1 to 10 running across the top and down the left side. For the multiplication/division table the numbers are in red and for the addition/subtraction table they are orange.
Multiplication & Division
The red numbers that run across the top of the grid and down the far left-hand side act as the multipliers and multiplicands in multiplication. In division they act as the divisors and quotients. For the multiplication/division table all the children have to do is fold the table under and alongside the two numbers they are working with. So, for example if the question was ‘what is 4 x 4?’ the children would fold the table under the number 4 running horizontally from the left and next to the number 4 running vertically from the top. The answer (16) is then shown in the bottom right-hand corner.
Addition & Subtraction
The orange numbers that run across the top of the grid and down the far left-hand side act as the addends in addition. In subtraction they act as the subtrahends and differences. As with the multiplication/division table, all the children have to do is fold the table under and alongside the two numbers they are working with. The addition/subtraction table can also be used to find number patterns.
Using the tables
To discover what practising teachers think of this resource, Special Children spoke to Elli Harrington. Elli Harrington is Centre Director of The Learnscape Learning Success Centre in Wombourne, South Staffordshire.
Elli is wholly enthusiastic about the tables. “Flexitable Maths Grids are a means of learning – a learning tool. When it comes to learning about multiplication and division or addition and subtraction these grids win hands down every time. This is true right across the ability-board, from gifted and talented children to those with learning difficulties.”
Elli continued: “Because the tables make mathematical processes concrete, they offer me a means to model mathematical processes and my pupils a means to externalise their thinking about them. This externalising isn’t just visual either; it’s tactile too. Children can physically manipulate the tables – a real boon, I’ve found, when teaching those with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. So you can see how these tables help me promote active learning. By externalising mathematical thinking (mine as well as my pupils), they provide a focus for my dialogue and interaction with the children. A genuinely multimedia interaction too: these tables help me to exploit the triad of learning styles – visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.”
“Of course the tables can only do all this because they posses the necessary material or technical properties. As well being visually attractive and pleasant to handle, these moulded plastic sheets are pliable, portable and very durable – my set has been in constant use for over two years now. Equally important, they are inexpensive to buy. I regularly sell copies to parents. After a brief introductory session, where the children explain how the tables work, parents actually enjoy helping them with mathematics at home. And because these tables fold easily into a pencil case or pocket, children happily take them into school as well.”
So what does Elli value most about the tables? “It’s the mathematical insight they help us to build, both with young children starting out on mathematics and with those of any age struggling with the basics. Similarly, in the process it’s the all-round confidence the tables help us to build as well. Insight and confidence are of course vital ingredients (and vital measures too) of independent learning.”
Is there a downside to the tables? “No. Well, nothing that I’ve found in two years anyway.”
Although the tables look very low tech, they work on a remarkably simple principle. This simplicity is what makes them so special. They are not expensive; they last a long time; are small enough to be taken easily from home to school and back again; and are incredibly easy to use.
Children of all abilities often struggle with the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and without an understanding of these four principles any mathematical problem will seem impossible. These four operations are the foundation stones of all mathematics so anything that can help children learn and develop them is a must-have.
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