Students prefer printed books to e-books

In a new study conducted by American University linguistics professor Naomi Baron, researchers found that an overwhelming majority of students preferred printed books to e-books for serious reading.

Interestingly, however, the study also found that there’s no real difference in comprehension between the two reading devices.

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Finger tracing helps to solve maths problems

According to a research project published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology,  tracing over mathmatical problems with one’s finger helps develop mathematical understanding.

Tracing can help when learning not only spatial topics such as shapes and angle relationships, but also for non-spatial tasks such as learning the order of tasks in arithmetic problems.

For instance, pupils who traced over the addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and brackets symbols in problems such as 7 x (31 – 20) + 56 ÷ (5 – 3) = ? solved more problems correctly on a subsequent test.

The study also found that pupils who traced over key elements of maths problems were able to solve other questions that extended the initial maths problem further, showing that the tracing was helping them develop a deeper, more flexible understanding of the problem-solving methods.


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Who developed the grid method of multiplication?

Few people disagree on the importance of being able to multiply large numbers together. However, there is much debate on the best way to do so.

Some might argue that, now that calculators are so readily available, children don’t need to learn to do this on paper (or mentally).

On the other hand, the 2014 National Curriculum advocates a move back to ‘formal written methods’.

What people might not realise, however, is that the grid method, much maligned by some as a modern trendy method that ought to be stamped out, actually has its routes in the 13th century.  The lattice method of multiplication was introduced by Fibonacci. His 1202 treatise Liber Abacii (Book of the Abacus) was the most sophisticated work on arithmetic and number theory written in medieval Europe.

His lattice method of multiplication is incredibly simple.  Here’s how to multiply 534 x 42.

First write the numbers on your grid:


Then multiply each pair of digits. Put the tens number on top of the diagonal line and the ones number below it:


Then total the diagonals (adding in carried over numbers if necessary):


The answer to 534 x 42 = 22,428

Another great way resource for teaching children mathematics is a simple deck of cards. Deck Ahoy! contains over 100 activities and games to teach primary maths skills with a deck of cards. Topics covered are not only the main operations – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – but also fractions, statistics, time, ratios, squares and cubes and graphs.

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Ofsted can downgrade school for Islamic veils

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has told inspectors to mark down schools if they think the wearing of face veils is “acting as a barrier” to learning. The ruling applies to both pupils and staff.

How do you determine what is a “barrier to learning”? I feel there are some cases where it is important to see a person’s face – eg when teaching phonics and one wants a child to look at your mouth so they know how to form a sound correctly.

However, in other circumstances it is not always so clear cut– it is harder to pick up non-verbal cues if you can only see a person’s eyes. However, it isn’t impossible. I once worked with a lovely PhD research student from Pakistan who wore a veil so I could only see her eyes. However, her eyes were so expressive, I never felt I was missing non-verbal cues by not seeing the rest of her face.

My concern is that – if you come down too hard on Islamic female students, banning them from wearing the veil – are you going to drive them away from school?

If it comes down to a choice between allowing a student to wear a veil, thus keeping her in school, enabling her to get an education, or making her (and her parents) feel that she has no choice as the school has a strict no veil policy, so she drops out of school – I know which I would prefer.

Surely it is better for her, and for society as a whole, if she stays in school and get an education – even if the veil does cause some barriers to learning?

Here’s a link to a BBC article on this subject:

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Education in France

Teachers of French might find the attached article useful when comparing schools in France to those in the UK.

The author of the piece did not have a good experience with French schools, but there are lots of details that can be used when talking to children about what it is like to go to school in France.

There is further information on the French system of education in French Festivals and Traditions.


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Minecraft to launch educational edition

My son (and countless other children) will be pleased to hear that Minecraft are planning to launch an educational edition.

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Are educational publishers just in it for the money?

Let me start by saying that I, for one, am passionately concerned about education and schools. I want our books to have a positive influence on schools. For this reason all our resources are written by teachers and we won’t publish something if we don’t think it isn’t of good enough quality. This means that sometimes publication schedules slip, as we spend more time than initially allocated, ensuring that both teachers and pupils will find our resources easy to use and that children will enjoy doing the activities.

The same holds true for the majority of educational publishers who I meet. They genuinely care about what happens in schools. Therefore I was very saddened by an article in the Daily Mail saying that educational publishers are just in it for the money.

Most educational publishing companies are commercial organisations so, yes, they do want to make money – money to pay their staff, money to invest in developing new materials. However, that doesn’t mean that the people developing the material don’t care about education and the quality of the materials they produce.

The unfortunate (and rather silly) person interviewed on the video (who I understand has now lost her job) was not on the team developing the resources. She was a sales person. In my experience, most sales people, no matter what they are selling, are interested in making money.

The article then uses this as an argument against the Common Core (which, for those of you who don’t know, sets out the minimum standards that children in the USA should reach). The article’s argument goes as follows: publishers make money through publishing resources to enable teachers to teach the Common Core. A sales rep says she does it for the money and not to improve the quality of education. Therefore Common Core is bad and should be scrapped.

Altogether it is a very silly article, but it did make me annoyed!


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