Why are the Cat Maths cards so amazing?
We were excited to take delivery of two packs of prototype Cat Maths cards. They look wonderful, and have given us the chance to try out various activities and games with children and teachers. This has confirmed our hopes that the cards are versatile, engaging and afford multiple learning opportunities in mathematics, including statistics. There are also a whole range of games you can play with them, appealing to different people. Children learn well in games, and these rich and varied cards allow for a wide range of games that teach concepts and skills through their mechanisms.
Cat Maths Cards
In a single set of Cat Maths cards there are 75 Cat cards with multiple elements. Each cat is one of six colours, tabby, white, tortoiseshell (or calico for our American friends), ginger, black and brown. There are male cats and female cats. Each cat lives mainly indoors or outdoors. They are different ages, between 1 and 20, and the birthday cake symbols are different colours for different age ranges. The cats can have one of four natures – playful, tough, sleepy and snooty. Each cat has between 0 and 4 toys, a combination of ball, mouse, post and wand. And each cat is named.
Along with the cat cards are twelve Attribute cards, which list the different things that the cats can be classified by. These are orange in colour, so I’m pretty sure they will be known as the orange cards. Similarly there are twenty-seven green Value cards that list the colours, habitats, natures, age ranges etc.
Ideas for activities
Organise and sort (individual, small groups, or whole class as groups)
Children love to organise, sort and order things. It is interesting that the first thing many children like to do is to put the cats in order of age. They can then be encouraged to think of other ways to sort or order – by colour, gender, number of toys etc. Ordering, looking for patterns and comparing are important mathematical skills. One five year old girl enjoyed turning over an orange card, arranging ten cat cards according to the attribute specified and then telling me what she had found out. She would happily have gone through all twelve orange cards if I hadn’t wanted to try out other activities.
A fun physical class activity is for each child to have one card, and they arrange themselves physically according the attributes on a turned over orange card. For example you turn over the Orange card and it says “Number of Toys” so the children organise themselves according to the number of toys their cat has.
This is the same as the Dragon Games event, Formations, which kids love. Each player starts with 3 cards, face down in front of them, hands off the table. Turn over an orange card and race to order your cats according to what the orange card says. You could be sorting by colour, age, name, nature etc. The first finished gets another cat to add to the herd. The winner is the first to nine cats. This appeals to older children, who are more competitive.
Children can count all of the different categories. Turn over a green card, and it might say “Playful”, so you count all the playful cats. Then turn over another green card – “Black” and you count the black cards. Children like to record their observations in sentences.
In a larger group, individual children or groups of children are given an equal number of cards. Turn over a green card and see which group has the most of that kind. For example the green card says “Mouse”, and the children count how many of their cats have a mouse, and decide who has the most.
Children or groups of children are given an equal number of cat cards. Turn over a green card, and they can choose one of their cats that has that characteristic to be “adopted”. Keep doing this until one child or group has managed to have all their cats adopted. Talk about how many you started with, how many have been placed, and how many are left. Discuss who has the most and fewest cats left. Children will start to work out a strategy to adopt out cats to maintain variety in the ones they keep, in order to increase their chance of winning.
At the early levels of school, the emphasis in statistical analysis is on answering statistical questions by sorting and counting. Each child can have their own investigation. Here is an example using the Statistical Enquiry Process:
Problem: I wonder if more of our cats are playful or snooty?
Plan: We will collect data on our twenty cats and see what natures they have.
Data: The children have twenty cat cards from which they can see what the nature is.
Analysis: The children count how many cats of each nature. They can put the information in a table or graph, or use the cards to make a picture graph.
Conclusion: We found that our cats are more likely to be playful than snooty. Seven of our cats were playful, whereas only three of our cats were snooty. There were also five sleepy cats and five tough cats.
This leads on to inference
Now this is what is really exciting: each group of children will have a different set of cards, and will get a different result. This helps them to get an intuitive understanding of variation and sampling at a young age. This does not happen if you only use one set of data, often generated from the children themselves, which is what commonly happens in Primary level statistical analysis.
Reading about these activities and games can be difficult, so we are making a set of really short videos to explain them all.
In the meantime, here is a video about the Cat Maths Kickstarter. We would love it if you could support us by pledging.