Follow me on my 5 Frames adventure in Mental Maths

Five frames are graphic organisers that help children to visualise what they need to make a set of 5 . Mental Maths is something that we have made a priority in my school. After mid-term I will be using my 5 frames as revision and consolidation of Junior Infant adding to help my class become competent and confident at picturing numbers in their head.  I can’t wait!

Children who count using their fingers are doing so because they do not have a good mental concept for number and are using something concrete, their fingers, to help them work out maths equations.

Our number system places a huge emphasis on “10”. Since  5 is half of 10 it is also an important bench mark and a very important step in the evolution of mathematical knowledge.

5  frames help children:

  • keep track of counting
  • develop one correspondence between oral counting and actual counters eg when I say “one” I place “one counter down”  or by adding up counters through touching one counter for each number you count out orally
  • learn to add to 5  in their head
  • when the frames are inverted to create two upright columns  the concept of odd and even numbers is very clear

How to use 5 :                  

Print out a set of 5 Frame Boards. Use coins or buttons as counters. What about Cheerios or smarties for some yummy, yummy counters!!!

Explain the following :

  • only one counter is allowed in each space
  • counters are placed on the mat in the ” reading & writing direction”(left to right)

Different ways to play & learn:

This is how it works!  Have a look at this frame.

 What number is depicted?!




It visually depicts the number 3.

What can we tell by looking at this number frame?

We can clearly and easily see that…

This is 3

That 3 and 2 more would give 5

When you show your child number frames ask the following:                                                                  

Number recognition or The 5 Frame Flash:                                                                         Flash 5 Frame Cards at your child in a random order and ask him/her to call out what number it is.                                                                                                                                            

Adding to 5:

  • What number is this? Encourage your child to answer this by visually counting rather than touching.
  • By just looking how many more counters would we need to make 5?
  • Now count this out using your counters and see if you get the same answer.

Adding on and Counting Back:

  • What would one more than this number make?
  • What would one less than this number make?
  • What would 2 more make?
  • What would 2 less make?

Adding to 5 with a blank 5 Frame Card:

Give your child a blank 5 Frame card.

  •  Call out a sum eg 2 + 2=.
  • Have your child place 2 counters on the board.
  • Ask him or her to work out the answer in his/her head
  • Check the answer using counters

After lots and lots and lots of practice you can encourage children to just glance at the card and to the rest in their heads. Show then a card eg 2 frame. Ask them to picture if in their heads.  Now ask the same kind of questions…How many more would make 5? What would one more make?

I have created a number of different format 5 frame cards for you to download and use!

Click here to download my mini 5 frame cards

I have also created large format cards with only one frame per page. I will upload this PDF to my Interactive Whiteboard to help demonstrate and discuss number.

Click here to download

If you are doing this with your child at home or your school allows you to print in colour you might prefer these ones! The cute clip art is from DJ Inkers.  I resisted the urge to make decorate it even more as we want children to focus on the number rather than anything else.

Click here to download

Join me for more 5 Frame adventures soon! Why not subscribe to my blog. It’s free and you won’t  miss out on the next lesson.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂


Counting Can Game for Oral Maths Fun

I just wanted to share with you this fun way to liven up oral maths lessons. The Counting Can is a concept that I saw at in-service training and had forgotten about until a few weeks ago.My class love it so much that they actually complain if we don’t play it every day at the moment!

The objective of the game is to give children practice at “counting  and counting on” in their heads. Children must keep their eyes closed for the game. No peaking! You drop some of your counters slowly into the tin, one at a time. The winner is the child who correctly guesses the number of counters that were dropped in.

Pre-school child:Use up to 10 counters for the game unless your child has a particularly well developed sense of number. Play with just 1-5 counters to begin with so that your child understands the concepts and experiences success.

Ask your child to close his/her eyes. Slowly drop pieces of Lego one at a time into the Counting Can.  Encourage your pre-schooler to count them out loud until he/she is able to count on this his/her head.” How many counters did you hear?”

Junior/Senior Infants- you can now use larger amounts of counters eg up to 20. Dried beans will be useful when you are dealing with larger numbers as the base of the can is small and the counter needs to hit it to resonate.

  •  asking children to start “counting on” from a specified number e.g  7 ” There are 7 counters in the Counting Can. Listen while I drop in my counters. How many counters are now in the Counting Can?
  • asking a child to count then number of counters you drop into the can. Ask them to “pause”. Drop in more counters and ask what the total number of counters is.

All you need is an empty tin and some counters. I used small pieces of Lego as they make a nice loud sound.

It’s hard to believe how much learning and fun can be encouraged from simple, everyday household materials.  I just love recycling objects into learning games 🙂

It is important to make your Counting Can look appealing and fun so I have shared my label templates with you.

 Click here to download

I hope that you enjoy this Counting Can game and my label. I always love to hear your comments and can’t wait to hear what you think about this one!

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Snakes and Ladders Fun!

When was the last time you played a board game? Was it when you were a child? I just love, love, love board games and am always surprised by how few people play them.

If you delve into the darkest recesses of your mind you may recognise this!

Snake & Ladders

I purchased it for only 5.99 Euro in Reddy’s Gift Shop, Thomastown a few weeks ago. 

Why should I play board games with my child?

  • It is lots of fun!
  • Sharing & taking turns-  most games call for 2-6 players so your child will learn to patiently wait his/her turn. It is a great way for young children to develop these important social skills necessary for school.
  • Pre-maths skills- Your child will learn to count by rolling the dice and moving his/her counter along the board according to the number rolled.Your child will also learn to count with “one-to-one correspondence” and to recognize numerals. “One-to-one correspondence” is where you point as you count eg. move your counter along 4 spaces while saying a numeral per space… 1, 2, 3, 4. This will consolidate the “4ness” of 4.
  • Learn to follow rules- board games all have pre-determined rules that players must follow. Again, learning to respect boundaries and to follow rules is important and requires practice. I always make a point of showing children the rules on the box and reading them out.  I also explain that if they want to play they must play by the rules or not at all. No negotiations…
  • Cheating  is not allowed or accepted by the group.
  • Learn how to win and lose- another very important and sometimes traumatic social skill to learn! With board games, as with life, there will be winners and losers. It can be upsetting and frustrating for young children but they must learn that they cannot always win. It is also a great joy for them when they do actually win! Board games such as Snakes and Ladders teach the balance of winning and losing as it is a game of chance. Your child has as much chance of winning as you do.
  • Inexpensive. Many traditional board games can be bought for much less than the cost of a computer game.There are lots of free downloadable games in the Maths section of my website. Click here for a link
  • Social Interaction and Quality Time- board games are a great way to spend some fun time with your child on a wet day or when you have some free time. They provide you with some quality time to relax, have fun and enjoy each others company. They are also great for entertaining children on play dates.
  • Language development- board games by their very nature encourage lots of talk, complaining, questioning all of which helps your child to improve his/her vocabulary and communication skills.

A bargain at 5.99, wouldn’t you say?!

What was your favourite board game as a child? What do you play with your child now? Is it the same one? I’d love to hear your comments 🙂

Top tips:

  1. Store counters/dice in the draw string bag that comes with some washing machine detergents.
  2. There is a simple, but important equation to remember:

“the smaller the child the larger the dice required”

               Your local school supply store will sell them for less than 2euro. It will be easier                     for your child to count the dots and also tonnes easier to find it when it rolls under                 the sofa! Older children who are quick to recognize the numbers might prefer one                 of these: Click here for a link on how to make your own.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Race to 12!

I am trying to make some “any time maths games” that my kids can just whip out and play. I occasionally get called out of my room for a meeting etc. and need to create some activities that can be organised at a moments notice. This is the first such game that I have created.

Click here to download

Click here to download

This game has received the official seal of approval from my class! They prefer not to go in numerical order, however, as you can win quicker by covering numbers as you roll them!

Whatever way you choose to play this game I hope that you enjoy it.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Lots of learning from a tub!

What can you teach your  child with just one tub of counters? This one was inspired by Fergal and his gorgeous twins. Have fun!

Get yourself to your local Teacher Supply Shop and see what they have.  I bought my tub year ago and have certainly got value from it.

Alternatively, use lego, unifix cubes, farm/zoo animal sets, or make your own”treasure box” by adding in small items that you find around the house, in the playroom or in kinder eggs. Try your local Euro Shop and see what small toys you can find.

How to sort & classify objects.

Sort by colour, shape, size, type of object eg. animal, food…Always ask your child to explain what rule he/she has used.

                                            This set is sorted by colour. 

The mix of different types of bugs doesn’t matter!

This set was sorted by “type”.

This is a set of caterpillars. The size or colour of the caterpillar doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are all caterpillars.

Identify the compliment of a set:

  • ask your child to close his/her eyes. Place an object in the set that doesn’t belong. Ask him/her to find the “odd-one-out” and to explain why it doesn’t belong.
  • Categorise objects such as “things I like” and “things I don’t like” or “blue things” and ” things that are not blue”

What is the odd-one-out in this set?

Did you spot the dragon fly?


What do you think of these funky Sorting Mats to get you started?

Click here to download all 5 sheets!


Use these cute sheets to help your child to identify, copy and extend patterns.

Start with a simple “ABAB” pattern eg. red, green, red, green…  or apple, orange, apple, orange…” “What comes next?”.

As your child gets more confident you can make them harder eg.

  • AAB eg. red, red, green, red, red, green..
  • ABB eg. red, green, green, red, green, green..
  • ABC eg. red, green, orange, red, green, orange…


 Click here to download Pattern Sheets

I just love this patterning game with Cookie Monster. You need to figure out what comes next in this supermarket food pattern. Then watch him eat the lot!! Check it out! Click here to play

I hope that you have found this post useful. I always love to hear your comments and suggestions.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Clipart by DJInkers

Double Trouble!

I have been working on the automatic recall of “doubles” as part of my mental maths programme.  Mental maths?! It sounds a bit  crazy, doesn’t it ?  So what is mental maths and why teach it?

Children ultimately need to be able to work out sums in their heads. This is a slow and gradual process which sees them moving from working out sums in a concrete sense,  or with counters, to adding up in their heads.  This process has 3 distinct stages 1)  using counters to create and add up a sum 2) using a number line to add up a sum 3) adding up a sum in your head.  You cannot bypass  or hurry any of these stages. Children need to have grasped a stage completely before you even contemplate moving to the next. I cannot stress how important this is!

A full and deep sense of what number is must be allowed to develop using counters. This can take longer for some children than others. Trust me, you move on at your peril. You will end up with a child who cannot see when things do not add up eg that 2 +5 could not possibly equals 1. Children with a good sense of number will see their mistakes and fix them. They can fix them because they understand. It is not some mechanical, robotic operation of moving mindlessly along a number line. Sorry, rant over! I have just seen so many children moved on too quickly and with terrible consequences.

Once a child completely understands number and number lines then you can encourage “mental maths” by learning tables, playing games, explaining the laws of number and teaching visualization strategies.

We learned our doubles as far as 12 by singing the little tune below. It isn’t amazing! It just “happened” when trying to liven up a lesson and now it’s too late to jazz it up any!! I have included it anyway. My class seem to like it and they are certainly A LOT quicker at remembering doubles 🙂

Please click here to download.

I wanted to find a board game that would make practicing a little more fun and interactive. I drew a blank after trawling the internet. Well, you know what they say if you want something… I did it myself ;). I “kid tested” this game today and it got thumbs up. They would love to play it again. Success! It was pretty cute to hear some of them quietly humming the song to figure out what number to colour. It just makes it all worthwhile…

I hope that your child/class enjoys it too. All you need is 2 dice and some crayons.

Please click here to download your game board.

Clipart by DJInkers

What do you think? Would you like more maths games? Have you any questions on how to help your child with maths? I love to hear your comments and questions!

If you would like to learn how to help your child to move from Step 1 (counters) to Step 2 ( number line) click on this link to my Cute Number Line post.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

A nifty device to trap that dice!

Have you ever found yourself on your hands and knees looking for a dice? I cannot count how many times I have found myself doing a spot of furniture removal in the hunt for a tiny, elusive dice.  I am sure that I am not alone in this!

I have the perfect plan to put this all behind you. Simply collect a small plastic water bottle. Make sure that the bottle is completely dry before you start. Pop your dice in along with some confetti shapes (they are pretty quite!) and close the lid. Done! Now you just shake the bottle instead to throwing the dice. Aaah… Now you only have to play referee 🙂

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

Cute number line for beginners

When teaching maths to children you always go from the concrete (counters in your hand) to the abstract (working it out on a numberline, no counters at all!).

I have been busy in my class trying to convince children that 3 counters in your hand is the same as pointing to the number 3 on the number line. Simple as this may sound to you and me, well it doesn’t always fly in my world!

Anyway, I have been trying so hard to wean my class off counters and take baby steps towards abstract knowledge of numbers. I have spent lots of time showing them  that 2+3 with counters and 2+3 with the number line is exactly the same!!!!

I have decided to ban all counters in my room starting tomorrow. Yikes!  This will encourage the mathematicians among us to use more “mental maths”, or work it out in their head/fingers. For those who are kinda stuck between concrete and abstract I have created a “cheat number line”!!!

Click on the picture below to download!

What do you think? The number line is underneath and corresponds to the cute pictures.

I am hoping that this middle step will make the connection between the numbers and objects a little clearer. At the very least, we will be using abstract pictures instead of concrete counters. Am I grasping at straws?!?!?

Perhaps some of you are teaching or parenting children who are at a similar stage. Perhaps your child is ready to count pictures instead of objects. Perhaps you have no number line and maths homework tonight. Whatever the reason, I hope that you find this number line and post useful.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂

 Clipart by DJInkers