Graffiti maths

Earlier this week, I felt inspired by a tweet from Geoff Barton and by Wednesday, I had decided to act on it. Geoff had tweeted some pictures of an outstanding maths lesson he had observed, which showed children working in groups on large whiteboards around the classroom. I loved this idea of ‘working big’ – the work out there for everyone to see.

Reality soon set in because I don’t have large whiteboards around my classroom and that wasn’t likely to be a possibility, but I came up with an alternative: I covered all the tables with large sheets of paper and stuck them down with sticky tape. Now, I could’ve just laid out large sheets of paper, but there was a reason as to why I decided to tape them down: I was hoping it would stop individuals taking ownership and control of the paper, while some hung back. The paper belonged to the table and the team, if that makes sense?  Also I had a suspicion that it might feel a bit ‘naughty’, almost like writing on the tables, which would could potentially hook some of the children in. As I was encouraging children to ‘work big’, I also decided that I should do the same and I blew up the task sheets. I also said I would only give each group the next task sheet if they could prove that everyone in their group understood how the current task had been solved because they were a team.

All in all it was a very interesting set-up and certainly something I’ll be developing in future. Some positives I have already observed are:

  • Some children were less afraid of showing working and making mistakes than they are in their books – something I am forever trying to help them get over
  • No one sat down all lesson; they moved around the table and huddled in groups as the space filled up, which created this lovely, ‘buzzy’ atmosphere
  • There was lots of maths talk going on
  • At the end of the lesson groups could walk around the classroom and take a look at how other groups had solved certain problems

How do you develop team work and problem solving in maths?


  • This sounds great! Will encourage colleagues to have a go, thanks for sharing!

  • I love this idea. So simple yet so engaging for the children. As someone who has collaborated with you before on maths planning Claire, I always look forward to reading your insightful and inspiring posts, and this certainly was one of those. I love providing children with ideas to collaborate together believing that children learn more from each other, whilst I am merely the facilitator. Ensuring that everyone is able to explain their learning is a great way of ensuring that all are involved. I am definitely going to try this in my classroom. Thanks for sharing.

  • What a great way for children to write jottings combined with a known strategy to solve problems. Like you, my class don’t like ‘messing’ up their books with their workings out BUT now I get them to do their jottings on post it notes which are then stuck into their books thereby allowing freedom. It has also been very helpful for me to see how they have worked out the problem as well as improve their strategies.

  • Love it. I used to get kids to write on tables with white board pen. Got round the “it must be right” cos it wasn’t permanent . Smt hated it so now use magic white board paper around room and on tables.

  • A really fantastic idea. I am off school tomorrow on a moderating course. I have left this excercise for my head to attempt.

  • Jackie Sippitt

    I love this idea and used graffiti maths for the first time on Friday. The class had to find percentages of amounts – they absolutely loved it! It proved a fascinating insight into the way children think and organise (or not) their thoughts! Thank you so much for sharing.

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