that the key to a child’s learning is engagement and that every child, irrespective of ability, preferred learning style or socio-economic background deserves to be seen, heard and recognized.
Our particular focus is on mathematics and by liaising with schools, parents, universities, education boards, curriculum authorities and the schools inspectorate, we identify specific areas of need in the teaching and learning of maths. We then work closely with the Creative Industries sector to design and create radical and innovative methods by which to engage all pupils, teachers and parents with this magnificent and most vital of subject areas.
If mathematics is the ability to think, then to encourage children to think mathematically we must open them up to a multifarious world of learning opportunities.
Izak9 provides such opportunities.
Children, in their formative years of Primary School, love learning through play. The learning here is rich, shared, open ended, investigative and most importantly, fun. So why, when children reach upper Primary and then into Secondary level, is the learning of mathematics in relative comparison, much less stimulating for them?
I believe we can give learning through play back to these children in a way that can challenge, encourage, support, stretch and nourish a confidence and competence in their learning of mathematics.
Not only should every child feel that they can enjoy and 'do' mathematics, but they should also be able to believe that they can excel at it.
But in relation to STEM, it is obvious that it is the "M" in the acronym that lays the essential foundations for Science, Technology and Engineering to flourish.
There is a very strong STEM agenda now from governments at home and abroad, each with their own particular set of priorities, at least one of which will focus on the requirement of STEM based industries to grow the economy, enabling that country to compete on a global scale.
As result of the high profile given to the necessity for growth in this sector, children are being exposed to events, competitions and exhibitions that wow them with the prospect of a bright future in robotics, gaming, biomedical sciences, coding, engineering etc
For this vision of children being able to move onto their career path of choice - be it STEM based or otherwise, children will need to access learning opportunities enabling them to be both confident and competent in the use of mathematics.
We provide such opportunities with Izak9, as ultimately what these children will need is confidence and self-belief.
A key yet vulnerable period of a child’s path through school life is the transition from Primary to Secondary. We work with Education Authorities and with Secondary Maths Departments together with their feeder Primary schools, looking at ways of developing a skills based continuum for children to help ease this transition process.
We also firmly believe that teachers in both sectors have a lot to gain from discussing how maths is taught in their respective schools and availing of opportunities to share best practice.
Professor Jo Boaler ("The Elephant in the Classroom") based in Stanford University, California is doing some amazing work in the US to address the need for a growth mindset in mathematics. The core beliefs that drive much of this work are analogous to what we are trying to achieve with Izak9 - increasing pupil resilience, number sense, skills vs knowledge, fluency in mathematics. Our approach is that we focus on creating physical resources and associated training that can support children and teachers in implementing a new pedagogical approach that can support existing practice in helping children and teachers to better engage with the teaching and learning of maths.
Many years later when he stopped by my stand at the BETT Show in London, in 2014 and was immediately beguiled by the potential of Izak9, I was overcome, especially when, just after being asked a question by a passer-by, I turned around to see Johnny in full flight - demonstrating how Izak9 worked to an immediately assembled enthusiastic audience - I was transported back to my childhood instantly, but this time he wasn’t on the television, he was using my cubes - live!
As a child, Johnny made me believe and my hope is that his continuing enthusiasm and involvement with Izak9 since that day in London will resonate with everybody of our generation to the extent whereby we can aspire to engage the youth of today with mathematics, in a similar fashion to how he inspired us.
Unfortunately there are also many parents and carers that have not had such positive experiences as children and find it challenging to provide support for their child or to raise any enthusiasm about the learning of mathematics in the home.
Many schools across Northern Ireland are using Izak9 to provide family maths events in their school, where children are invited into the school with their parents or carers, grandparents and siblings.
The Izak9 facility for shared learning provides an ideal, safe and risk-free environment where children and adults can participate in the tasks together. Children enjoy working with their family, showing how they engage with the activities. Adults can’t resist the tactile and visual interaction the cubes afford them, especially with the children on hand to join in as well.
The evening focuses on fun and engagement and results in everyone having benefitted in some way - from some adults realizing that they have more capabilities than they may have previously considered and that their ghosts and fears relating to mathematics have a lesser foundation, to a parent maybe having the confidence to say for the first time:
For a walk though exactly how Izak9 works and to view the extent to which it can help your children build a positive relationship with mathematics, please visit the teaching and learning page.