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Times table sorting sticks

In this post I talked about how I use lolly (popsicle) sticks in my practice. They are cheap, practical and biodegradable and in my book that makes them a win-win.

Today I want to talk a bit more about those wonderful slices of wood, and consider other ways to make simple resources for your practice. I have tried and tested these techniques when I am in the classroom with my own class, when on supply (or subbing) as a back up game, and in my tutoring business too. I am only including the successful ideas. There have been many failures. Or First Attempts In Learning. Today, I focus on helping, not hindering, you.

As teachers we aren’t exactly paid 6 figure salaries, and we often buy extras for our classes too. That’s fine if you choose to which I do. I have talked about this before. But for me, the extras we buy need to be affordable, they need to last, and they need to work for their required purpose and more if possible!

Times table sorting sticks

When I bought my most recent haul, I discovered that not only can you buy coloured or natural sticks in both standard and jumbo size, but there are shaped ones too! Goodness me I was excited.

How do I make the times table sorting sticks?

To make the times table sorting stick game I picked the jumbo “wobbly” ones Hobbycraft call them “wavy” but to me they are wobbly and wrote the multiples of a times table on one side. Then I wrote one of the corresponding multiplications and one division sentences.

Times table sorting sticks  

What do I do with them now?

One of my current tutees is brilliant with reciting multiples in order, but less fluent with the factors that make it. To help him with this:

  • I “drop” them in a heap in front of him (only one set at a time) and say “oh no! can you sort them into order for me?”
  • He accepts that I am both accident prone and messy (much like my poor husband), and lays them out in order
  • BUT he only has one minute.
  • When it is completed, I ask questions such as “how many 4s in 16?” and he can count the number of sticks he needs to get to the number.



Sometimes I will add one stick that is NOT in the set (such as 35 from the 5s in the 3s set). It’s interesting to see how he approaches this. It’s an open investigation really. He will

  • set them in order (thus showing me some place value hurrah!),
  • but then I ask him to check by reciting the multiples in order
  • he’ll take a minute to check by working it out.
  • If he asks me if it belongs, I always reply “you tell me!” and if he says yes or no I’ll counter with “prove it!”

Thus getting some lovely reasoning and problem solving too. All from some lolly sticks! Amazing.

Have you got any amazing games you can share that use lolly sticks? Or any cheap and practical material really… If so let me know by liking this post, commenting below and signing up for regular updates and freebies!

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