Getting started

If you see the patterns in numbers, arithmetic is never a chore again. Here's how:

  • 4 Colours
  • Numbers as Colours
  • Extend the System

Start with just 4 colours

Prime Colours focuses on the patterns rather than learning all the numbers. So we start by learning to recall just 4 colours and start building up the numbers system from there.

Numbers as colours

Start to learn how these colours combine to make numbers. This is usually done with a pack of cards but you can see how it works by using online cards.

Extend the system

Once you are fluent with these 4 colours and the numbers up to 100, you have a system that you can build on. From this basis, the patterns in numbers come alive and you can understand maths as a pattern expert

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The Story of Numbers

How you see, play, work with and feel about numbers makes all the difference

Why are numbers important?

On the surface, it seems like we all understand the importance of numbers. We know maths classes and qualifications are important. We use numbers for shopping and see numbers invading our lives at every level. We understand that money makes the world go round and that we need to be able to work with numbers to use money.

And these are all true and all reasons to have a functional grasp on numbers. These are uses of numbers as a communication tool and it is an important part of communication.

There is a hidden opportunity with numbers though. They offer a way to work with patterns that we just don't get from anywhere else. Patterns are the fundamental idea behind all knowledge. They are about connections, asking questions, alternative representations (diagrams, lists etc.), logic and unexpected similarities and differences. These are ways of thinking that transform the possibilities in your life much more than a qualification will do.

In short, the benefit is not in becoming good at working with numbers but using the opportunity to practice these ways of thinking. Just as reading gives us access to a vocabulary that we would never get in functional conversation, maths challenges us to develop ways of thinking that cannot be developed easily by other means.

One way that this challenge will change how you think about numbers, is by changing the focus from addition and subtraction to multiplication and division. This does not mean learning techniques for multiplication but rather seeing numbers in a way that supports these concepts. This will make more sense after the challenge so more on that then.

The cards and the system

The cards are your introduction to the system and the first puzzle.

On one side, you'll see the numbers you know and love. Hindu-Arabic digits that are used in a place value system to represent the numbers it is possible to represent.

Prime Colours is an entirely different system, not meant to replace this system but to allow you to see behind it to some of the other important patterns. It also gives you the opportunity to learn numbers again and so ask more questions about how they work.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of doing this programme?

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You will have a language and a practice that your family can engage in that will support the development of enhanced ways of thinking.

What do we do once we've completed the challenge?

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If you've found it valuable, sign up for the Prime Colours Programme. It costs

How will we see the results?

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The 5-day challenge is a glimpse of the system. You will see that there is a different more mindful way of working with numbers and that will hopefully convince you to continue the practice.

The main results of the practice are about building a habit. It's a habit to do with regular thinking about how numbers work including asking questions and making new observations that you share with others. It's our habits, those that we have as individuals, as families and communities, that will bring other types of results. Initially, you will see a change in the way you think. Teachers and tutors are likely to notice this (many have commented on this after children have started using the cards). This quite naturally and obviously leads on to changes in ability to use numbers and flexibility with calculation.

When will we see these changes?

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Prime Colours is a long term practice (though it takes only a few minutes work each day). The idea is that it builds an alternative structure for numbers in your mind over time. You are most likely to see the benefits when children start to encounter topics such as fractions and ratio. The experience of having used Prime Colours regularly will allow them to see behind the techniques they learn to the real patterns in numbers.

The analogy we use is that of bamboo. Bamboo is planted and watered everyday. It is watered for years and nothing is seen to happen. Then one day it starts to grow and shoots up 30 metres in the space of a few months.

It is similar with Prime Colours. The practice builds the roots and so children can grow once the system is ready for the growth. This is in contrast to learning to parrot back facts that have little meaning for a child (other than the pride of getting answers right).

What age group is it aimed at?

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A range of people from trainee teachers to teenagers studying for GCSE Maths to 6 year olds starting to learn multiplication have found a lot of benefit in practising with Prime Colours. This is because Prime Colours is just about developing practices that are important to really learning about numbers and their patterns and connections. It's a way of seeing that can help at A level as well as in year 2 because it means that you ask a deeper level of question about numbers. It's not about gaining specific knowledge based on a level in the curriculum so it can work for people at any age.

We are currently recommending this programme for families who have primary aged children. We think that this will support children at a crucial point that can make a lot of difference to their future maths education.

This is for you if...

You see maths as an important life skill and not just for exams. You would like your children to experience the whole journey in as positive a way possible. You understand that it will take time to build the connections that makes it possible to work with patterns in maths. You probably believe more in nurturing your children's curiosity than seeing how they compare to their peers.

If this is the case, this programme is designed for you.