Making Numbers: #ESMathsConf16!

Last week saw the Educator Solutions Maths Conference take place at the PDC here in Norwich. It was a brilliant opportunity to network with like-minded professionals and one of our Library Assistants, Zoë, has written an account of her mathematical morning.


The theme of this year’s conference was number, exploring what works when teaching mathematics and including how the role of mathematics can shape children’s life chances.

I was keen to attend as I used a book by Dr Sue Gifford- one of the keynote speakers- whilst studying for my teaching degree which included mathematics as my specialism.

The PDC was festooned with some 1,500 salt dough hedgehogs (created by Leicester schools for a project modelling what a number looks like) to be used as manipulatives in various mathematical activities. Videos of the hedgehogs in action (and other manipulatives) can be viewed at (registration required).


Dr Sue Gifford and Professor Rose Griffiths led an enjoyable and interesting keynote session, which included several audience participation activities. They began by stating “(it is) hard to find out where research is” before moving on to their main focus, manipulatives, which they had researched with another colleague, Dr Jenni Back.

During their research, a range of international literature was read and a number of important concepts were drawn out in which children frequently have issues, such as number and quantity and this is where the salt dough hedgehogs came in: What does 1 look like? 10? 100? How about 1,000? 10,000? Visualising numbers is harder as the numbers get bigger, even for adults! One important point raised during the keynote, based on the gathered evidence, was that all pupils should have access to manipulatives, not just those who struggle with maths,

Alison Borthwick likes the hedgehog idea to visualise numbers and hopes Norfolk schools can rise to the challenge of completing their own version. Please get in touch with her on or 01603 303329 if you are interested.

Some of the maths-themed snacks available at the conference…!


Harriet (one of our ELS Librarians) and I were able to speak to a number of delegates during the day, many of whom were pleasantly surprised by the range of book titles available with a maths theme. Pop-up books, along with novels, picture books and non-fiction, were picked up throughout the day.

Linking with some of the key elements discovered from international literature during their research of number sense, Dr Sue Gifford and Professor Rose Griffiths drew out those that seemed the most important. Alongside some of these key elements are suggested titles from our stock which can support that particular number sense through a book.

 Relationship between number and quantity

  • How many jelly beans?  by Andrea Menotti
  • 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental
  •  I Spy under the sea…  by Edward Gibbs
  •  How Big is a Million? by Anna Milbourne

Systematic Counting (ordinality and cardinality)

  • Pop-up Numbers by Courtney Watson McCartney
  • Counting Birds by Alice Melvin
  • One Lonely Fish by Andy Mansfield

Different representations of number

  • We’ve got your number by  Mukul Patel
  • [A Maths] Journey around Planet Earth by Anne Rooney


  •  If… by David J. Smith

Thank you to Educator Solutions and the Maths Team for inviting us to be part of their day and don’t forget: we have a wide range of books that can support mathematics in the classroom as well as maths cafes. If you’re interested in borrowing a maths-themed project for your school, or you’d like to visit our office to see our brilliant stock, just get in touch.


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