How Do I develop Maths Thinking At Home Or In My Class?

Damon says joy

Recently my friend Damon Whitten has been posting some very cool ideas for encouraging kids to develop mathematical thinking at home. I think the same ideas and processes apply to adults and these can work in classroom situations as well.

I reposted his video here on my blog but you might want to head over to his place to watch in full or check out his Youtube channel.

Here’s the update: There are several whiteboard problems that Damon has posted as a follow up to his video. If you liked the video you might want to check these out:


New online ESOL Assessment: Starting Points Listening

The NZCER have just released the Starting Points Listening to the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Tool. Here’s the blurb:

Starting Points Listening is one of two online, adaptive assessment options designed for learners who are at or below koru/step one of the Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy.

Starting Points Listening assesses a learner’s ability to understand basic, everyday words in spoken English. The main focus is listening. It is suitable only for beginning English language learners (ESOL), particularly those new to Aotearoa New Zealand.

For more information on how to use Starting Points Listening, please see the attached PDF.

Click here for the PDF: Introducing Starting Points. First page of 6 pages is pasted in below. Starting Points Reading will follow shortly.

Introducing Starting Points

Swimming the River: Family Impact on Education

This is an Aboriginal perspective on education. It’s a great metaphor. And there are clear links to similar discussions we have here on the same topics.

It’s just over 5 minutes long and great food for thought. Hat tip: Rachel Bulliff.

Let me know any thoughts or comments.

How To Improve Your Writing Online: Use Grammarly


Awhile ago, I wrote about how I was using Hemingway App to improve the quality of my writing.

I don’t use it for everything, but still like to use it when I need to sit down and write something that is clear and concise.

Recently, I signed up for another product. It’s similar but different… Here’s the lowdown.

One of my problems is that I now write much more in online environments of every kind. And not much in Microsoft Word. Which I now hate with a passion.

For example, on any work day I might be writing in any of these online spaces:

  • Google Docs
  • Gmail
  • Basecamp
  • Evernote
  • WordPress

I switched to Google Docs a few years back, but I’ve always missed the spelling and grammar check that was built into Word. Google Docs is too lean for those kinds of frills

Google Docs is too lean for those frills. So that’s why Hemingway was a great discovery. However, you have to write and compose in Hemingway. This is fine when I want to do that.

But I don’t always want to and it’s not always practical. That’s where Grammarly comes in.


Grammarly is a Chrome extension that sits in my browser and acts as my spell checker and grammar checker for all of my online writing. It’s running as I write this post for example. And when I’m writing feedback for my students in Basecamp.

Grammarly helped me fix about five basic errors in this post.

Just a warning: it’s free, but they want you to sign up to the premium product. I currently only use the free version.

Every now and then they send me a very cool infographic. I’ve pasted it in below.

In any case, it’s free and adds value to my work by picking up mistakes and typos. I don’t think I need the premium product and if you find yourself missing a spell checker and online grammar helper you should check it out.

Screenshot 2016-02-04 16.59.25

We Have The First Graduates From Our New NCALNE (Voc) TESOL Option


Well done to the first graduates from English Language Partners who volunteered to take part in our trial…!

If you teach ESOL in a course funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, you may need this qualification. Email us for details:




How Do I Help My Kids Develop Maths Skills At Home

If you have kids and you want to help them with maths you need to watch this short video. Actually, if you know someone who has kids you probably need to watch this.

It’s 11 minutes long. You might have to watch it a couple of times. And you might need to share this with your significant other.

The idea is that family culture matters the most when it comes to encouraging and developing maths skills in your kids. Or any kids. So we all better get started now.

As someone who is really interested in my kids’ education, I think I’ve done a good job of encouraging them to read. We all love reading at my house.

However, I’ve done an average to crap job of this when it comes to maths. Damon has the solution.

Here’s a summary of Damon’s tips from the video:

  1. Get a whiteboard and put it in the kitchen or other family area. If you have to, use your nice white Fisher & Paykel refrigerator (my idea not Damon’s).
  2. Don’t do arithmetic. E.g. don’t put up a bunch of + – / x problems. That stuff is boring.
  3. Make it easy at first.
  4. Get them talking. If they’re not talking then they’re not learning.
  5. Learning happens in the process of solving the problem. Learning ends when the problem is solved. Keep it going.

There are a bunch of ideas for five different kinds of engaging maths and numeracy problems that you can use starting at about 5 minutes in. You need to watch and listen for these.

But check out the whole clip here or here for his blog post.






Why is my WiFi broken? Part 2: Mi-Fi

Failure INternets lolcat

Just an update to my earlier rant about my broken ultrafast broadband… After trying everything including:

  1. Two different technicians spending a day each at my house at my cost.
  2. Buying an Apple Airport Extreme to generate a wifi network independent to the one generated by the Spark Router.
  3. Moving the router and new Airport to different parts of the house with long cables in tow.
  4. Buying new cables.
  5. Tweeting the @spark technical team every hour for several weeks
  6. Ringing different Spark technicians every day.
  7. Progressively shutting everything down in the house and restarting one million times.
  8. Swearing and cursing the gods of the internet and offering up my first born child.

Spark finally agreed to just send me a new modem… Mostly, I think they did this to stop the campaign of harassment that I was mounting.

And guess what? Everything works now.

Mostly. I still get strange error messages from time to time telling me that another computer is using my IP address. So I guess I’ll have to sort that out at some stage.

But here is what worked for me to unbreak my internets:

  • Making my ISP send me a new router.
  • Powering down the router for 20 seconds when I have any issues of any kind immediately. This causes it to do something called power cycling which seems to reset most problems.

So there you go… As a side benefit I now have god-like control over my internets.

This includes knowing how to log into my modem and set up rules to turn the internet off on my children’s computers and devices at certain times. Like between 8pm and 6am.

Feels good…