Number Sense

← Back | Last updated on 20 Nov 2019

About Organisation

Number Sense is a charity that supports maths learning in primary schools.

What is the need?
Many children fall behind in maths, find it difficult to catch up, and then develop a dislike of the subject. This impacts their future learning and can even affect their prospects in life.

What do we do?
Number Sense provides one-to-one interventions in primary schools so that, through mathematical games and other fun activities with our trained in-school volunteers, children can build skills and confidence in maths.

What feedback have we received?
‘One of the best moments for me, as our school’s maths leader, was overhearing a child get called to his Number Sense intervention, and him cheering and saying that it was the best part of his day!’

Head of Maths at Number Sense partner school in London

‘We have thoroughly enjoyed welcoming Number Sense into our school this year. The volunteers have been very child-friendly – patient and understanding. The children have all really enjoyed it and have grown in confidence alongside the improvement in their skills. It has been a wonderful opportunity for some of our quieter children to have some really concentrated one-to-one adult attention.’

Catherine Gallimore, Head of School, Malorees Infants School

Which children do we support?
Teachers have told us that the most effective time to intervene is with children aged six to eight (school Year 2 and Year 3), so we are focusing on this age range. The teachers choose the children.

How long is each session?
A trained volunteer spends 20 to 30 minutes with each child once or twice a week during the school day for a full school year, usually seeing three children on each visit.

How much does it cost the school?
We have seed funding to run a pilot in twelve state primary schools from 2018-20. For this initial period, Number Sense is free to participating schools. After that, as we expand across London and nationwide, the majority of funding will be provided by donors, with the balance coming from a minimal cost per child charged to each school.

Which children do we support?
We work with children in school Years 2 and 3 since our initial research – and continuing feedback from our partner schools – indicates that there is already a strong need for help in maths at this age. By specialising, we can deliver better support.

The teachers select children who are keeping up in other subjects but are struggling with maths. These are the most likely to benefit from the intervention.

What time do the sessions take place?
Exact times depend on the school and on the volunteer, but will be at some point during the school day.

In the first year of our pilot, one school has asked us to take children out of morning maths class so that they do not miss out on other subjects, while another has asked for the sessions to start immediately after lunch so that children do not miss the core subjects. Other schools have been more flexible, but all schools generally want volunteers to commit to the same time each week.

We will do our best to twin ‘morning only’ volunteers with ‘morning’ schools and ‘afternoon only’ volunteers with ‘afternoon’ schools, but the feasibility of this will depend on how supply and demand works out over the pilot and beyond. If schools are able to be flexible on timing, this may make it easier to supply volunteers.

Where do the sessions take place?
The sessions always take place in school although the actual location will depend on the particular school. This might be in the library, the dining room, or perhaps in a corridor area.

The volunteer fetches the child from the classroom at the start of each session and accompanies them back to the classroom afterwards.

Who provides the materials for the sessions?
We equip our in-school volunteers with a set of ‘props’ including dice, counters, cards, snakes and ladders, and various printed sheets with number lines and number squares, etc.

We ask that schools assist by lending our volunteers other available teaching materials such as ‘Cuisenaire Rods’ and ‘Numicon’.

How many Number Sense volunteers will there be at the school?
We aim to have at least two volunteers at each school, although they may not necessarily volunteer on the same days. We will introduce the volunteers to each other so that they can share experiences and ideas and cooperate in their approach to the school.

How do our one-to-one sessions work?
Each session is usually 20-30 minutes although the school decides on the exact length.

The volunteer will tailor the sessions to help the child progress, but the sessions will be much more flexible than structured classroom lessons. Sessions typically involve discussions and mathematical games as well as more conventional ‘classroom’ exercises.

On the suggestion of the teacher, the in-school volunteer may also work through specific examples or activities.

What is a typical game?
The volunteer takes 18 playing cards made up of two suits of one to nine – and then places them face down. The first player turns over a pair of cards.

The aim is to find pairs adding to ten. If a pair does add to ten, the player keeps the pair and has another go. If the pair does not add to ten, the player replaces the cards face down – and both players try to remember the cards. Then the second player has a go. The winner is the player with the most pairs at the end.

The game gives the child the opportunity to reinforce ‘number bonds’ for ten, but equally importantly it gives a framework for talking through strategies for counting and adding and subtracting – and for having fun.

What is our relationship with the school?
We aim to establish good relationships in every school, at a personal level with teachers and staff and also through structured communication with the school management.

We ask that the school provides a single teaching contact, typically the Head of Maths or a member of the Senior Leadership Team. This allows our volunteers to liaise about issues without having to interrupt classroom teachers. We also request a single contact for administration.

Number Sense will also provide a single contact for administration and will assign one of our mentors to be available to our volunteers and to the school teaching contact.

Our standard agreement establishes legal terms in the areas of safeguarding, data protection, and insurance. It also includes two simple one-page forms designed to provide helpful communication between the school and Number Sense.

How do we know that our maths interventions succeed?
We have developed our intervention based on discussions with experienced teachers, incorporating ideas from existing literacy schemes which support children learning to read. We have also built on feedback from our first group of volunteers.

At the end of our first year, in July 2019, we asked the class teacher of each child we worked with to evaluate the child’s progress over the year compared to the rest of the class. This used a five point scale from ‘very much better’ to ‘worse’. (It turned out that nobody was evaluated ‘worse’!) The teachers rated 60% of the children ‘very much better’ or ‘noticeably better’.

Number Sense
6 Totnes Walk
London, N2 0AD

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We are hiring!

Volunteer Opportunity £/hour 28 Mar 2020

Our trained volunteers provide one-to-one support to children who have fallen behind in maths. If you’d enjoy volunteering regularly for 1½ hours once a week during the school day, and would find it rewarding to help 6 to 8 year-olds, you could be one of our in-school volunteers. As well as enthusiasm, you will need good numeracy. This means being competent with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – and also being confident in explaining them. By sharing your competence in numeracy, you will enable children to build key skills and confidence for their school years and beyond. Before you start in a school, we will provide training on how to interact with children in a school setting, on the early years maths syllabus, and on creative ways to engage young children with maths games and exercises. We have current and former teachers acting as mentors who deliver this training and provide on-going support to our volunteers. We also deliver training in safeguarding and arrange for DBS background checks for all our volunteers. If you are interested in being an in-school volunteer, please have a look at our FAQs below, and then contact us and we can discuss or send you more information as appropriate. We really value our in-school volunteers. We see them as a major source of ideas and advice, and listen to their suggestions for the wider development of the charity. Currently we are active only in North London. Our plan for the next few years is to expand across London, and after that into other major UK cities. So if we are not yet in an area close to you, we hope that we will be in the medium term. more