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School Mathematics Project Cards

Posted by Big Boo on March 19th, 2009

blackboardI’m not ashamed to admit that I have always found a certain joy in numbers.  I’m certainly no mathematical wizard, but I still know my square roots from my cosine curves, things which I’m sure many of us (myself included) wondered why we needed to know when still at school.  Before I became a stay at home Dad, my chosen profession was as a games programmer, and so mathematics came in very useful for that, especially the aforementioned square roots and cosines!

My Mum first gave me an interest in maths, giving me simple sums to do before I even went to school, but it was at primary school that I really got hooked on maths.  Sure, reading, writing and art were fun, but my school taught mathematics using a series of exercise cards known as SMP cards which I loved to bits.

SMP stood for Schools Mathematics Project, although many kids made up their own ideas for what SMP stood for – Stupid Maths Problems for example.  My school issued us all with yellow covered exercise books containing paper covered in a grid of 1cm squares.  In the front cover was stapled your SMP worksheet, which listed all the SMP cards divided up into categories such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions and so on.

When you fancied doing some maths (or the teacher told you to do some) you took a look at your worksheet and got the next card you were supposed to do.  The cards were covered in plastic and stored in little boxes on a shelf.  After you completed the card you took your book to a teacher to mark it.  The teacher had a massive answer book which was kept away from the kids so you couldn’t cheat.  Assuming you got enough right the teacher would tick that card off on the sheet and you could then do the next card.

Once you had worked your way through each of the categories you started again with a harder set of cards.  Each card was given a number to identify it, and if I remember correctly this was prefixed by the number of the difficulty level, so the easiest set of cards were number 1-1, 1-2 etc. whilst the next set would be 2-1, 2-2 and so on.  A bit like progressing through the worlds on Super Mario Bros!

The cards were a fun way of working as each child progressed at their own pace, and for those that really enjoyed it (i.e. me) you tried as hard as you could to get onto the next set of cards before your friends did.  Perhaps they ought to bring this system back – it might improve the standard of mathematics are our kids have.