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Running an After School Mental Maths Club

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Every year I run an after school mental maths club for children in year 6. It started off as part of our intervention in the lead up to SATs and proved to be really successful. As a result, we've done it every year since. Although this year we've got a smaller group than usual, in the past we've had between 20 and 30 children staying behind after school for an hour to practice mental maths. So how have we managed to keep them there? I'd say there are three main reasons: make it fun, keep it fast paced and of course, include sweets!

Here are some top tips if you're thinking about starting an after school club:

1) Make it feel different to a normal lesson

Although the club is held in my classroom, we do everything possible to make it more comfortable and relaxed. My class are well-drilled now at pushing the tables and chairs to the edge of the room and putting our collection of bean bags and cushions in the middle. Immediately the children see this more like a wet play or a youth club than a maths lesson. As a result, they're keen to come back week after week. I sourced the beanbags free of charge through FreeCycle.

2) Keep it pacy

One of the downsides of being more informal and sitting on beanbags is that the children can find it harder to stay on task; it's funny how sitting rigidly at a desk can help keep some children focussed. To help, we keep the pace of the club really high. I plan beforehand what activities I want the children to play (see point 5) and have often already created 'Homework' activities for these in Studyzone. As a result, we very quickly move from activity to activity, with minimal time between. Last week alone the children answered over 1400 questions in Studyzone as well as playing other games on the whiteboard! Although it's exhausting, the children gain more from it.

One child working so quickly their fingers are blurred!

3) Make it competitive

We have lots of challenges, either individually or working as a team. One of our favourite team challenges is 'Stop The Clock' (see link below) where the children work in twos or threes to match the analogue and digital times. By playing lots of short, quick fire challenges, everyone has a chance to be a winner. With Studyzone games, the 'Student Activity' page also makes it very easy to instantly view a leaderboard for any activity for any group of children (I have student group for the after school club). I award sweets to the winners of each challenge which of course they enjoy!

Use the student activity page to create an instant leader board. Great for adding a spot of competition!


One challenge I have used more recently is to challenge each child to improve their previous average percentage correct. This shows clear progress for the children which they love, as well as opening up interesting conversations about what percentages are and how they can be used.

4) Add variety

Sitting in one place and playing mental maths games for an hour would be hard work for anyone, even in a beanbag! To keep the children focussed we regularly move back and forth between activities, including:

  • games on the iPad
  • games on the whiteboard
  • board games
  • homework help
  • very short teaching slots

I'd avoid spending much more than 10 minutes on a single activity; keep the children moving.

Playing Billy Bug coordinates game at the whiteboard.

5) Know what you want to achieve as a teacher

Have a clear idea in your mind of what skills you wish the children to develop. We individually invite all our children based upon prior mental maths scores, targeting those we feel we can have a real impact for. We also look closely at any gap analysis we have available but the gaps are usually fairly common. We focus on:

Times tables
Number bonds
Doubling and halving
Place value
Using known facts

Our favourite games and activities

We've added links to most of our favourite games and activities on the links page of our school website. Check them out.

Have you ever run an after school maths club? What success stories have you got to share?


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