Archives For ipads in education

Here’s why:

  1. It’s difficult to integrate the use of laptops into everyday classroom practice (slow start-up, short battery life, cumbersome)
  2. The resources that have been developed so far (and I talk principally in terms of maths here) largely aim to replicate or replace the teach–practice–mark cycle that remains typical of most maths classrooms, rather than supplement the good work that teachers already do. In other words, a paper worksheet is replaced by an online worksheet. A teacher’s explanation is replaced by a video explanation.

The innovation of Apple in creating the iPad tackles the first issue, but we need true innovation on the part of educational publishers and resource developers if we are to address the second.



Pile of TextbooksHugely outdated. It seems almost bizarre that most schools still issue them.

  1. Text books are heavy
  2. Text books don’t motivate
  3. Text books can’t mark your work or analyse your performance
  4. Text books can’t give feedback to the user
  5. They are one-size fits all – use them as a resource with a class, and the only way you can differentiate is by question number
  6. They’re expensive
  7. They get damaged
  8. They are an administrative nightmare to issue and collect in. They often get lost and are not returned
  9. They are made from trees
  10. They are boring.

It’s time that schools are funded to move on from this limited, awkward and anachronistic learning resource.

We have a fantastic local village primary school right on our doorstep, and we are fortunate enough that they have taken a great deal of interest in what we are producing. So when it came to testing our product to try and see what kind of improvement it might offer a child with sustained use, it seemed natural to pair with them.

We asked the Headteacher, Mr Stone, to identify students that he felt would benefit from using DoodleMaths for 15 minutes per day over the course of a four week period. A group of six Year 6 students were quickly found and seemed delighted to be given the opportunity to use iPads at school.

Unfortunately for them, the first thing we did with them was administer a written test. To genuinely measure their level of improvement over the four week period we clearly had to use an assessment that was independent of DoodleMaths. We chose to use the Hodder Access Mathematics Tests: these have been standardised over a huge sample size and as well as returning a National Curriculum level, they also return a child’s maths age, much as DoodleMaths’ assessment does.

The children sat the Test A on Friday 28th September at 10.15am. The average Hodder maths age for the sample of six students was 8 years 7.7 months, which equates to a National Curriculum level of 2.9 according to the Hodder handbook.

On Monday 1st October the children did their DoodleMaths assessment. The average DoodleMaths age for the children was 8 years 5.4 months. On Tuesday, they finally started using the iPads for learning.
We are now almost two weeks into the trial. The children are working with so much energy and enthusiasm, they are a credit to themselves and their school. What I am most surprised about is that at the end of the session when they are allowed on games and personalise their pet character, they tend to opt to do another 7/8-a-day. They are enjoying maths now that it is personalised to their needs and ability.

We will be doing Hodder Test B on Friday 26th October with the children, and will post the results that afternoon.

We’re not the only ones who favour a little-and-often approach to teaching maths. In fact, part of the inspiration for DoodleMaths was the “a day” series of books written by A.L. Griffiths in the 1970’s.

I credit this series of books (along with some excellent teachers) with helping to give me a solid grounding in maths when attending Cherry Orchard Junior School, Birmingham, the same decade. These books formed part of the school day: between registration and assembly, every day, we would collect our book and work through the next set of questions. Users of DoodleMaths will see the parallels, I’m sure.

Of course, technology has made a huge difference not just to how these questions are delivered, but also to how they are chosen. When a child selects 7/8/9/10-a-day on DoodleMaths, their set of questions are chosen according to the following criteria:

– to reinforce topics that have been recently learnt
– to reinforce topic areas that the individual needs further practice in
– to review prerequisites to up-coming new topics to be learnt
– to help identify other weak areas.

This means that no two children will ever receive the same set of questions, which makes sense, since no two children are the same.

As a footnote, if any reader knows where we could find a copy of 7 and 8 a day, we’d love to complete our collection!

I heard of a CEO who has a golf lesson every fortnight with a top golf coach. He paid almost £200 for each lesson. He hasn’t improved his handicap at all over the last year. Why? Because between his lessons, he couldn’t find time to practice.

I know of countless kids who have piano lessons every week. The ones who move through the grades aren’t the ones who have the best teachers. It’s not necessarily even the most gifted. It’s the ones who put in their daily practice.

Maths is no different. We can tinker with the Framework and the National Strategy; we can try to employ the best graduates as teachers. But the simplest way to raise standards in maths would be to give children more opportunities to exercise the left side of their brain.

[To illustrate this, at our tuition centre last week we assessed a 14 year-old. She had previously attended our centre for 18 months up until she was 11. She performed worse in the standardised test last week than she did in the same test when she finished with us over three years ago. She knows her maths has got worse: behavioural problems in her class and a lack of confidence and motivation on her part have meant that she has barely practised her maths for years.]

A good teacher will be asking themselves, as they write a maths exercise, “What is the purpose of this question?”

There are, in my view, four types of maths question

  1. Questions that teach
  2. Questions that reinforce understanding
  3. Questions that test
  4. Questions that generate discussion

Questions that teach are rare. This is because they are difficult to write and traditionally, teachers have done the teaching. Examples of such questions can be found in my earlier blog about inductive learning: .  Children like doing these types of questions. They also don’t mind getting them wrong.

Questions that reinforce are very common. These are easy to write and extremely important when it comes to long-term understanding. Children like doing these questions – as long as they are getting them right.

Questions that test are, for many teachers, favourite questions to write. They are more interesting to write and help a teacher assess the ability of a child. For this reason they are often overused – with damaging consequences: if introduced too early they can damage a child’s confidence. Some children thrive on these questions, but for others, these questions lead them to a dread of maths.

Questions that generate discussion are created by skilled teachers who have the ability to control the direction of the ensuing discussion to reach the desired learning outcome. All children like participating in these discussions as long as it is conducted appropriately.

Before the advent of ICT, the learning process was typically: teacher teaches; child does questions of type 2 and 3; teacher marks questions to gauge level of understanding.

Tutoring websites have tried to replicate this with: video/animation teaches; child does questions of type 2 and 3; website marks questions to gauge level of understanding.

So far, we have missed the huge teaching opportunity that technology has presented to us: to get children involved in the learning process from step one. It is easy to generate questions of type 1 on the iPad, and children love doing them – this is the way children should be learning.


The DoodleMaths blog has been quiet for a while since we’ve been preparing for release. Now we are up-and-running, we’re finding a great deal of interest in people simply wanting to find out their “DoodleMaths Age”.

This is not a new concept and there are websites such as Maths Whizz that already assess children in this way. Parents have long-had their child’s ability in the literacy-related disciplines of reading, comprehension and spelling described in this way. This is simply a way simplifying the mysterious-sounding national curriculum levels, sub-levels, attainment targets, strands etc. etc…

Your DoodleMaths Age is a comparison to the maths ability to an average child of that age. This means that in a typical sample, about half the children will come out with a DoodleMaths Age of above their chronological age, and half below. Two interesting points came out of the testing process:

  • The range of DoodleMaths ages from a typical group of Year 4 children (aged 8 to 9) was from 7.1 to 12.1. This indicates the typical range of abilities that face a primary school classroom teacher (not a surprise to teachers but perhaps to parents)
  • Of the (rather smaller) sample of adults who were willing to do the assessment, the average DoodleMaths Age was 10.4 (not a surprise to parents but perhaps to teachers!)

As well as giving parents an idea of their child’s ability, this also allows us to benchmark progress through the use of the app.

**You can download DoodleMaths for free from the Apple App Store if you want to work out your own DoodleMaths Age.