Washi Tape Maths

It turns out that the humble roll of washi tape has more uses than just for artsy-crafty projects or for sticking posters up on walls – it’s a great tool for maths too.

Bod7 embarked a while back on the momentous task of committing times tables to memory. She gets the concept of course and can skip count through a few tables admirably, and can do the whole counting-on-and-working-out doo-dah. But this all takes time and can be quite frustrating for a quick-brained Bod who needs answers NOW, especially as we’re moving on to more fiddly division sums and, well, times tables are just so jolly useful. So somehow we needed to find a way to help her lodge these important number facts firmly inside her cranium. Bod10 just sort of made up her mind one day to learn them and learnt them by rote, every so often we would declare it to be “times table week” and after a short while they stuck. But Bod7 needs a more creative approach to her learning. We’ve tried singing them, we’ve tried dancing them, we needed another kinesthetic attack.


I hit upon the idea of popping times tables on the stairs so she can “walk” them multiple times a day, and also on the slats of her bunk bed, allowing for lovely, stretchy,  horizontal ‘walking’ at bedtime. She just needs to move to learn. We had this pack of pretty washi tapes from Tiger, and so we set to it. Bod7 spent a happy (seriously – she was utterly delighted with this idea, and could hardly contain her excitement) half hour writing out the tables she wanted to focus on and arranging them on the stairs and on her bed. As she did this she enjoyed exploring number patterns, and loved the fact that there is now a “2x step” and a “4x step” etc etc – which led to the idea of a “musical stairs” game. And we have plans to add to our stair decor soon with further bits of sticky tape showing related division facts!! Oh how thrilling!

We were having so much fun sticking washi tape everywhere we thought about some more maths we could explore with it – this time, angles. We chose a door and marked out a right angle, discussing as we went the number of  degrees in a full circle and a straight line, and linking this to fractions of course (might as well go for the double-whammy 😉 ). Again, Bod7 loves learning through movement so we sort of danced our way through various angles to get a good handle on the concept. Using a protractor we measured the widest angle the door could make and halved the right angle to work out the number of degrees in an 1/8 of a circle, using a protractor to check this. We also invented a nifty little game called Spin360 – the caller yells out a direction (North/South/East/West or Right/Left) and a number of degrees, and the “angler” has to leap and spin an approximation of the angle – for example “North, 180!”, “South, 220!”, “Right, 45!” – a great, dynamic way of cementing learning, that caused much hilarity. Totally engrossed by this Bod7 pottered off to measure angles in all the doorways…..

Washi tape turned out to be great for demonstrating displacement in the bath as well, and makes much less mess than the kohl pencil I tried one day which didn’t scrub off for weeks and weeks (this was actually used to show water rationing in WW2 but we got excited and did a bit of displacement too!).

I think maths has a reputation for being a tedious and dry subject, indeed this was certainly my experience at school. I am really not the best person to be talking about maths, so I won’t waffle on too much lest I expose my ineptitude. It was my most detested subject, apart from P.E 🙂 – I don’t really ‘get’ numbers and in fact, it’s only now as an adult that I can appreciate some of the beauty of maths through teaching my own children and witnessing their unfettered joy, satisfaction and enthusiasm when things click and fit together. Maths gets a lot of bad press but, thinking about it, I am yet to meet a home educated child who doesn’t like maths. Which leads me to the conclusion that it’s all in the presentation – understanding the individual and their personal style of learning and responding to this sensitively. Home ed not only gives you the freedom to cook up different ways to explore concepts but also the time to allow said concepts to sink in and be digested and explored fully, before building on them. If your child needs to spend a good while getting to grips with a particular task then so be it. There is no pressure to rush on to the next level, there are no time-limited targets to be met. There is also no judgement, no marking, no grades – we see mistakes as an essential part of the learning process – the question “what happened there?” leads to deeper understanding. (There is a raft of research out there supporting this, and plenty written by Carol Dweck on “growth mindset”). Similarly, if they get enthused there is nothing to stop them immersing themselves in the process and following it as far as they can go – no-one to tell them to stop because that’s not on the curriculum yet. But crucial in this process is thinking up different, fun and exciting ways to make maths come alive and feel “real”.

Enough said. I’ll shut up. For now we are off to think of some more ways to do maths with sticky washi tape 🙂 any ideas?


Cathy xxxxxx



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