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Maths Around the Kitchen Table

Solving mathematical problems together, using concrete materials and talking about the challenges involved as a family, can support the development of the student's problem solving skills, mathematical skills and literacy skills. It is also a reflection of how mathematicians work.

All you need to do is set up borrowing system similar to the way books are loaned from a library. The articles below suggest that multiple benefits flow from adding this component to your curriculum.

At home with The Monkey
These sisters from Holland are working together on
Who Owns The Monkey? at Oma's house.
Their solution is in the Primary Kit solutions below.

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Any task can be used in a home lending program. Adding computer technology options such as the school web site, email, blogs or social networking to connect students and families through investigations further enriches the curriculum.

In the past, the Mathematics Task Centre Project suggested 20 tasks for each of primary and secondary schools that could be used in this way and packaged them into kits with an extra parent card providing hints. These kits have been discontinued, but the tasks that were included are listed below, with solutions, as possible starting points for your Maths Around the Kitchen Table program.

Possible Tasks


Home/School Lending Problem Solving eBuddies

One secondary teacher in Britain, has shown that the concept of using tasks to encourage 'maths around the kitchen table' can be very successful. The work he and his staff developed, can be easily adapted to all school levels to achieve similar outcomes.

Andy Martin was granted government funding to establish an email problem solving network based around tasks and home/school lending. The network linked students and families across the world. There is more about Andy Martin's program and eBuddies in the Home School Lending link.

We received the following email from Andy Martin in February 2004.

I now have 90 students across several schools using the Task Centre tasks for Home Lending. All are compiling a journal of their findings and need WORLDWIDE E-MAIL BUDDIES to share experiences, problems, solutions etc.

Would anyone out there who wants to try this mode of working please get in touch!!! You contact me at:

At the time, Andy was probably the most experienced user of tasks and Maths300 in the UK and his work connecting parents and students through 'maths around the kitchen table' has been formally recognised as outstanding by the British Government. You can read Andy's formal presentation of the project in the Thorne Grammar link in Research & Stories.

Maths Around the Kitchen Table

In 2010 Andy reflected on how Home School Lending has influenced his teaching practice. He wrote:
Wow! Parents writing in journals? Yes, it happens, frequently followed by a curiosity to see if their answers were right.

Home Lending was a real eye-opener to me as a teacher and showed me where we have a great untapped resource. Generally my experience has been that many parents did not engage with traditional mathematics homework. However, tasks combined with a journal that included comments and hints, rather than a mark out of 10, and an email buddy in another country was a winner.

In my experience students really enjoyed taking tasks home. Parents particularly enjoyed those where more than one answer was possible. I had reports of solutions posted on the 'fridge door by dad before he went to work to show he could do it! Naming solutions after the student who first 'discovered' them generated a wealth of solutions to both Dominoes and Eureka. Parent evenings became longer as conversations turned to problem solving as well as their child.

It is one of those moments in my career that seemed to be a real launch pad. Finding students across the world using the same materials as my class provided huge motivation to my students. The possibility of the work continuing out of school time was a real challenge to me as a teacher. Having to 'let go' and face my students bringing questions, answers, challenges, requests for more was daunting but a significant step in engaging their minds. Problems such as Sphinx became class favourites and allowed students identified on the Task Centre web site as 'mathematicians' to return to lessons to inspire others.

This is one of those professional practices that I would always try to repeat!


Andy wrote this in conjunction with a piece we prepared on Maths Around The Kitchen Table, which includes background to the development of the Library Kit. This link leads to the combined article on the site of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics. NCETM supports the professional development of teachers of mathematics through an extensive online learning community and a network of regional coordinators. It is funded by the Department for Education and is managed by Tribal Education Ltd.
(Note: You will be asked to 'join' the site, but access is free.)

As a result of this article, Peter Hubble, regional co-ordinator based at Robert Napier School, Gillingham, Kent, prepared video case studies of parents working at home with students on Mathematics Centre tasks. You can view these videos from the NCETM site.

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More from the Mathematics Task Centre