On the 6th of November our first Maths battle took place. We were quite nervous. Maths Battles have been quite popular in many countries, but not yet in the UK. We asked ourselves: will the children enjoy it? Will it not be too difficult?
A Maths Battle is a competition between two teams of students, where each team presents their solutions to the opposition who challenge their answers. The idea is similar to that of a sports team, competing regularly and training in between the competitions. A team can win by solving more problems and presenting their solutions successfully.
Preparing The First Maths Battle
Our very first Maths Battle took place at the Royal Grammar School for boys in High Wycombe. Sixteen boys from years 8 to 10 took part. Prior to the Maths Battle we gave the trial questions to determine what the level was. Then we gave the questions we were planning for the maths battle to our students from Brunel university to try. After the students had difficulty solving a particular question we replaced it with an easier one. We were finally ready for battle.
The First Phase – Solving The Problems
At last on the 6th of November at 16:00, after school, we all met up in the maths department of RGS. We, the founders of the We Solve Problems foundation and a team of master students from Brunel University, conducted the tournament. We divided the 16 children into 4 teams of 4 and gave them 35 minutes to solve the problems. We worried if they could manage, but all turned out well.
The Second Phase – Presenting The Solutions
After the 35 minutes of preparation the Maths Battle began. The children quickly got the hang of the rules. Firstly, the captains of each team competed in a quick mathematical game to determine who would present their first problem. The 4 teams were put into 2 groups to compete against each other in separate rooms. The teams took turns in putting forward one of their participants to present a solution while the opposing team looked for mistakes and inaccuracies.
In both groups of teams, at least one team in each group had solved almost all if not all the problems. We were relieved that our guess for the difficulty level of the problems was just right. They were challenging but not impossible for the children.
At the end we saw many beaming faces, happy with what they had achieved. The idea of maths battling was something completely new to them, but it worked!
Here is some of their feedback:
I think it is very social and it is better than classroom work
I love it, the best maths fun ever
I thoroughly enjoyed the Maths Battles
I really do think Maths Battles is fun and it definitely helps my maths skills
I like the Maths Battles concept, and the challenging problems
Pupils at the RGS have really enjoyed maths battles and numbers grow week on week.
The problems are fun and open questions give the boys further opportunity to work
collaboratively outside of the classroom as well as potentially considering mathematics
from a different perspective. It is defiantly something the boys look forward
to on a Monday evening, the battles even more so.
Mr. Jamie A. Rizk, Maths Teacher, The Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe
Were we right to be worried that this concept was too serious and difficult for children? No! The boys really loved it and the competitive edge motivated them to enjoy the more challenging problems. All of the boys said they wished to take part in yet another Maths Battle, so on the 7th of December we are organising another tournament in this school for these boys and newcomers!