# “What on earth is a number line?!”

October 27, 2019

This very question appeared in a Facebook group recently albeit with a couple of words replaced to make it more palatable! As teachers, we assume that parents know what we are talking about when we use terms such as the number line but how would a parent know if it is their first child at school and they have never heard the term before?

If it’s just been introduced, their child may not be able to explain. So how can you help parents to be fully prepared to help their child at home?

Inform Parents

Tell parents what equipment they need for a particular homework and suggest alternatives. Also, explain what terms mean such as the following suggestion for a number line:

A number line is a straight line with each marked point representing a number. Initially, it can display zero, positive and negative numbers and later fractions and decimal fractions. Students use it as a visual aid for calculating and showing the relationship between numbers.

Suggest that a measuring tape can be used or even a ruler if working with smaller numbers. However, both can confuse young children because of the extra markings.

A printable number line can be found in the resources section if you would like to send a number line home with your pupils.

Useful Resources

Create a list of resources that pupils are likely to need during the year for maths homework.

Dice

Games are a great way to consolidate learning and can highlight misconceptions while keeping students engaged. However, when set for homework, the rules will often mention dice. Now some parents may be able to rustle up a six-sided die from a board game but a ten-sided die is often not something to be found in many homes.

The internet can help here again with a range of online multi-sided dice. Try https://mathsstarters.net/dice/ and https://www.transum.org/software/SW/Dice/

Alternatively, you can print digit cards in the resources section but use card or thick paper so you cannot see the digits when face down.

Counters

Some houses may have counters available but if not, anything will do such as raisins or even smarties. However, these can be rather sticky after lots of handling! Small pieces of Lego can also work.

Squared paper

This is often needed for drawing rectangles to provide visuals for arrays and factors as well as when exploring area. Large squares are helpful when working with arrays because they can place counters (or alternatives) in the squares which can be quicker for some pupils rather than drawing rectangles. You can find printable squared paper in the resources section.

Analog Clock

Students will need to interpret time on an analogue clock which is often unfamiliar since they see digital time everywhere on electronic devices. Most laptops have a clock in the bottom right corner if you click on the date and time.

The online version at https://www.online-stopwatch.com/large-online-clock/ is very simple and clear and can show roman numerals. For a clock that can be manipulated, they can visit https://www.visnos.com/demos/clock

100 Grid

You will use this frequently as students are getting to grips with place value and operations such as addition and subtraction. It is also useful for spotting patterns in the multiples of numbers.

Place Value Slider

This is a wonderful visual for showing students how the number is moving through place value columns to the left and right when we are multiplying and dividing by 10. Go to resources to download a place value slider.

Protractor

Whilst we can substitute for some resources, this is one that parents will need to purchase for use at home as students move into upper primary. They can be found within geometry sets containing a compass and ruler which will also be needed in secondary school.

Online maths dictionaries can be helpful such as those created by Mathisfun or Jenny Eather. Alternatively, an illustrated maths dictionary is a very useful book to have at home.

Sell Maths Packs

Parents are busy people so you could make homework a little easier for them by offering maths packs containing resources that they can purchase from school. Some items will need creating and laminating but you would need to do this anyway if you wanted to set homework involving that resource. See resources for a downloadable letter that you can amend and send to parents.