Hannah Gosling, Teacher at Drapers’ Brookside Junior School in Romford, discusses her project which aims to raise attainment for children in maths. Hannah won the 2016 Let Teachers SHINE competition, which provided funding for the project.
What happens when you combine the elements of technology and music to engage children in maths? Whether it’s learning the times table or solving algebra equations, I wanted to give children with low engagement and attainment a helping hand by bringing programmable robots into the classroom.
I’d like to introduce you to ‘Musical Maths Robots’ – a project using a combination of Quirkbot robots, BBC Micro:Bits and Makey Makey boards, which allow children to code robots in a number of different ways.
Children use the Makey Makey boards or Quirkbots as a games controller or problem solving machine to help them with maths. Examples include using the controller to play a maths-based video game or setting up what we call a trading post, where children have to solve mathematical problems in order to receive the next bit of code or parts of the robot to build various models with.
The real fun comes when we write the code for the music on the Micro:Bits and play this using a homemade speaker. The Quirkbots can also be used to make music as they are touch sensitive and can be programmed so that each arm responds to a different musical note or key. The project itself is adaptable and schools can use one or all of these elements, but it’s great to see the children’s engagement when they make the robots dance!
With funding from the Let Teachers SHINE competition, the project has rapidly developed over the last few months and helped me to kick-start a total of 11 pilot sessions over the course of a year-long period.
A long-term vision for schools
The idea for the project came to me in 2015 when our school held a music workshop with a not-for-profit company called Conductive Music. The children were so engaged in the workshop that I decided to see if the company wanted to work on a joint project.
As working with small robots is not quite my forte, I use Conductive Music for many of the technical aspects to help with the coding, while I cover the lesson plans and attainment targets.
Currently, I’m working with 15 children in Year 6 at my school, running a session every few weeks, with the overall outcome to enhance an individual’s numeracy and maths skills. Although I’ve been working with primary school pupils on the project, it can also be used to help secondary school children between the ages of 11 and 13.
The plan is to create a ‘box of the technology’ that we use and enable other schools in our area to hire and plan out the 11 sessions by the end of the year. The long-term vision is to have the project written as a series of lessons that can be delivered in the classroom and published online, so teachers can easily download them.
Giving children self-confidence
With the project in its infancy, it’s still too early to see a direct improvement in maths, but what I have seen is the children flourishing in the school group environment, with a noticeable difference in their engagement, self-confidence and learning behaviours.
Not a day goes by when the children aren’t asking me when the next session is taking place. It’s because of this that we’ve discussed procedures to incentivise those children with excellent attendance to make sure they can attend the sessions.
Watch a live demonstration at Bett 2017
I’m pleased to say that I’ll be showcasing my project at the end of the month at Bett 2017. I’ll be presenting on the Capita SIMS stand (B190) on Friday 27 January and giving a live demonstration of Musical Maths Robots to showcase just how easy it is for children to code the robots.