Archive: April 2024

Beyond Numbers to 10 - The Expansion of Number Skills!

Something HUGE is happening here at Teach Your Monster - Number Skills is expanding! The team have been working very hard to bring you the next stage of Number Skills, set to expand into the UK Key Stage 1 Year 1 curriculum and US standards for Kindergarten curriculum.

Number Skills has been a huge success so far, with over 20 million plays and thousands of five star reviews. Since the launch, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response from teachers and parents, but we also have had literally hundreds of you ask us for harder levels for older kids.

Well finally... IT'S COMING!

As ever, backed by our Maths expert Bernie Westacott, we have ensured that the game is aligned with all US common core standards and the UK national curriculum, so you can be certain that your kids are making the right progress at the right time with their numbers.

There will be loads of brand new mini games, a whole new set of islands to explore, new stories and a few surprises in store too...

Be the first to play the game

If you can't wait for the new school year to play the game, click here to join our Number Skill Testers Club and play an exclusive, early version of the game for free!

New Number Skills stages


In our upcoming 'Experienced' stage, we’ll be covering concepts like:

  • Numbers to 100
  • Place value
  • Composition/Decomposition
  • More advanced addition/subtraction
  • Number bonds
  • The foundations of multiplication.

Things to do before end of term:

  • Access Monster Trucks and Volcano in class now via Practice Mode to warm up the kids for next year!
  • Transfer your current students to their new teacher quickly and easily. All you need is their email address and this helpful 1 minute tutorial!

Can't Wait? You can already play two brand new mini games right now!

Simply go to Practice Mode and you'll see two new games under the "Games" section. If you're not sure how to access Practice Mode, watch this video to find out.

Monster Trucks

Number Skills Monster Trucks Higher Numbers game

‘Bumper Cars’ has expanded to ‘Monster Trucks’ where children can recognise and bump numbers up to 20, with a clever use of 2 ten frames. Skills: Composition/Decomposition, Addition, Subtraction, Number Bonds.


Multiplication in Number Skills

The ‘Bouncy Castle’ has expanded to ‘Volcano’ where children can count up to 50, not only in ones but 5s too! This is a start to the foundations of multiplication.
Skills: Counting, Multiplication

These can be accessed via practice mode in the app and on desktop! Watch the video below to find out how to access them. 

For those covering the game in class, the game currently has counting, subitising and number bonds (reception/Pre-Kindergarten) up to 10 EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage). One of our core principles in mathematical learning is that repetition of concepts solidifies number knowledge, and moving on too quickly might hinder the building of basic number knowledge. So it’s important that kids have been allowed to play the first two stages in Number Skills before moving on. 

Once confident in numbers to 10 and 20, moving on to numbers to 100 and place value will be much easier for them and the next stage of Number Skills supports them on their journey. 

The full update to Number Skills will be out in time for the new school year, with many more brand-new mini games, and a whole new island adventure to explore. Keep an eye out for further news on this.

Leo Allen
Number Skills Product Manager

An Interview with our Number Skills Illustrator - Matt Oxborrow

(4 minute read)

We have loads of fantastic people here at Teach Your Monster contributing to all our wonderful games. So we thought we better introduce some to you! In this month’s edition, we interviewed Matt Oxborrow, the genius behind all the wacky and wonderful designs in our game Teach Your Monster Number Skills!

Matt Ox and the characters of Number Skills

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Matt… Matt Oxborrow, or just Matt Ox. I’m a freelance illustrator and art director and I’m responsible for all the artwork on Teach Your Monster Number Skills. All the monsters, rides, funny little things with eyes and the little bits of detail on things that no one else really notices.

How did you get started as an illustrator?
I illustrated my first book of animals when I was 5 years old. I started taking it a bit more seriously after school and got a degree in it before starting out working life as an animator. That led me to character design and art direction, then 25 years later to here.

When and how did you get started at Teach Your Monster?
A funny little Non-Player-Character called Darren Garrett got in touch after seeing my work for another highly successful app. I think it was about 4 years ago when we’d all been banished to our homes and not allowed out so a big project like this was just what I needed to stay relatively sane. 

How do you develop your ideas? What are your stages?
I like to start by going out and sketching monsters in the wild. They’re actually everywhere if you know where to look. Paredoilia (the phenomenon in which people see faces or other patterns in ambiguous images) definitely helps. The early sketches provide the wild silliness and humour then it’s a case of distilling it down into something that’s still fun but has the articulation and dexterity necessary to do its job on screen. I often rebuild a sketch using geometric shapes and strokes in Illustrator then when the composition is nice, I kind of bash them around and beat them up to make them look a bit more handmade again. 

What are important considerations when designing for young children?
They’re very stubborn and very honest critics so you have to revisit a design a few times with fresh eyes to make sure it looks like what it’s supposed to look like. Stylisation can sometimes come and kick you if you’ve drawn a monster that can be interpreted as a cat for example. Kids will never unsee the cat.

Do you use your own kids as part of your process?
Absolutely. My daughter was 2 or 3 when we started Number Skills so is one of our earliest testers and has been my litmus test for whether something is fun or ‘boorwing’. A truly valued critic.

How do you design for games vs regular illustration jobs?
As I mentioned earlier it comes down to articulation. The rigs (the ‘skeleton’ of the characters that control it’s movements) are very rigid so you have to make sure every character has the physical ability to perform it’s job or it’s going to look weird. Imagine a T-Rex trying to stack a pile of crates… Nope. 

What do you use for inspiration and research at the start of a process?
It depends on the job but everything starts with an observation or an obscure reference. I look at nature, animals, people and their funny clothes and habits, loads of old cartoons and comic strips. The internet is a treasure trove for character designers. I also find myself looking at my own old work and reminding myself what worked and what didn’t.

What tools do you use?
Pen and paper for initial musings then Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop with my Cintiq Pro (drawing tablet). 

Out of all the things you've worked on at Teach Your Monster, what are you most proud of?

I love the player characters and the Monster Dressing up shop. It took so much work to get right but being able to build your character from all those sets of limbs and heads is pure joy.

If there was part of the TYM design process you'd like other clients to follow what would it be?
Creative freedom and belief in my decisions.

Is there anything you wanted to get in the game that didn't make it in?
I really wanted to make the magic mirrors actually reflect your monsters in weird distorted ways. Dawid (one of TYM’s game developers) has an idea of how it might work so maybe one day.

What's your favourite ride or character in Number Skills?
The rollercoaster is my favourite ride. I love its stupid grin and the little train that zooms around the track when you go near it. Brain in a Jar is officially the funniest head in the monster customiser. There’s also a new game and character in the pipes that I really like… (stay tuned for this in an upcoming update)

Has working on Number Skills helped you help your own kids?
Yes, even learning how to pronounce ‘pedagogy’ has been invaluable. It’s a fascinating field to work in.

Has working on Number Skills improved your maths?
Embarrassingly, yes. 


Check out Matt’s amazing illustrations by playing Number Skills here!

You can take a look at the rest of Matt Oxborrow’s great work on his website.

Social Stories to help with tricky emotions

(3 minute read)

Social stories have many different uses all focused on healthy social development. When used to depict and display challenging emotions, social stories give children the language to identify, speak about and develop emotional self-regulation strategies.

What is emotional regulation?
Also known as emotional self-regulation, this is the ability to manage our emotions. 

It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions, adjusting to changes in expectations, self-soothing strategies and handling frustrations without a tantrum! 

Regulating our emotions is a skill, just like learning to read, that can be taught and nurtured, so that children can direct their own behaviour responses as they grow towards goals that will benefit them, in the face of a rather unpredictable world and our feelings about it!

Regulating emotions is a pretty personal journey, as our reactions to certain events may be completely different from one another - one child starting a new school will feel excited, and another might be terrified. Although one feels like a positive emotional response, this might result in the child disrupting the class, being too rambunctious in the playground and ultimately result in a bit of a telling-off. So it’s the self-regulating strategies employed by BOTH children that will help them fit positively in their new environment. 

How do we develop it? 

Coaching kids through challenging situations with a supportive framework is the key to learning self-regulation skills. Rather than being impulsive and reactive, slowing them down and teaching them how to respond calmly really helps develop these strategies. Clinicians call it “scaffolding” the behaviour you want to encourage until they can handle these situations on their own.

In schools, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) schemes can help teachers scaffold these self-regulation skills in a more formal and structured way, helping children learn about their feelings, the feelings of others, and how to recognise and manage emotions.

The first two learning steps in SEL are self-awareness - identifying emotions, learning about feelings, and self-management - managing emotions, and coping with feelings.

Social Stories - how do they help teach emotional regulation?

For some children, understanding feelings is particularly challenging as ‘feelings’ aren’t tangible and children often lack the language to articulate them. Adults may be able to model feelings to children but not experience them in the same way, presenting a particularly difficult challenge when teaching self-awareness. 

Social stories present information in a literal, 'concrete' way, which may improve the understanding of a previously difficult or ambiguous situation or activity. So social stories can help us present emotions to kids and model the type of language that can be used to describe them. 

What forms can these stories take?

Picture Stories can be especially useful for all people, including those with learning difficulties, to model the language used to describe emotions and the associated bodily expressions of emotions.

Here at Teach Your Monster, we have developed social picture stories with our expert, Child Clinical Psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin! Bongo Blows His Top is the first in a series of beautifully illustrated comic strips addressing emotional regulation. In this story, we see ‘Bongo’ having some difficult feelings in response to environmental stressors and ‘Cuddles’ giving 3 useful strategies to deal with those emotions. Why not download a copy here and read it with the kids? Available in black and white too

If you’re interested to find out more about social stories click here for a helpful article from the National Autistic Society. 


Kay Leathers
Freelance writer and designer.

TEACUPS - A Reading for Pleasure Acronym

(5 minute read)

What is the first book you can remember reading because you wanted to? The first one that drew you into a story that you can probably remember into adulthood? Maybe you picked it from the library or in a book shop. Maybe you still have a copy in the house.

Reading for pleasure is choosing to read what you want based on your own interests and preferences, without the pressures of being graded, assessed or marked on ability. Clearly teachers need to assess reading proficiency, but at the same time children can find being assessed quite stressful — potentially that can create some negative connotations when it comes to reading. Therefore it's really important to foster reading time where children aren’t assessed, where they can read what they want and as much as they want.

Angela Colvert, lecturer in English Education at Roehampton University and our Teach Your Monster resident Literacy advisor, describes 4 core principles for developing a joy of reading:

1. Skill and will - The skills for reading are phonics, word decoding etc and the will is the motivation to read. There’s no use in having the skill to read but no will to actually pick one up! So it’s important to develop both in tandem.

2. Achievement - Many studies have shown that if children read for pleasure over time, they will be more successful in their school career and achievement across a broad range of subjects. On a more personal level, more reading helps children to access more texts that they are interested in.

3. Cultural understanding - reading can be a doorway into another life. You live vicariously through stories, develop empathy, different perspectives. Non-fiction develops investigative skills.

4. Identity - the way in which children start to identify themselves as readers and develop preferences, having autonomy and ownership over their reading choices. 

After the success of Teach Your Monster to Read - a game where we introduce the skills and building blocks of reading, we wanted to create a game that would encourage the will to read. Together with Angela as the literacy advisor, our team developed the game ‘Teach Your Monster Reading for Fun’. In this game, kids teach their own little monster the joys of reading (while also vicariously learning it themselves) in a range of contexts. 

Ensuring the game was underpinned by literacy pedagogy, Angela and the team developed the acronym 'TEACUPS' to inform the design process and ensure that research and pedagogy were embedded throughout the game. This helped to keep the core principles of reading for pleasure in focus. This could draw some parallels with popular teaching or at-home reading for pleasure practises.

T is for…Trying new things
Providing a range of texts is a great way to encourage the development of identity and maintain the will to read. The game provides a range of texts, including magazines, recipes and free e-books, for children to enjoy and encourages them to extend their reading experiences. 
The librarian ‘Goldspear’ recommends books similar to the preferences that the child has shown to ensure that a sense of identity is being built, while also recommending new ones that are slightly removed, to extend the kid's knowledge. 

E is for…Enjoyment
One key element of will is enjoyment - after all if you don’t enjoy it, you don’t do it! In the game, there is an extensive map of places and characters to visit all wrapped up in this joyful and humorous world of reading adventures waiting to be explored. Those familiar with our other Teach Your Monster to Read games will recognise the engaging and exciting environment and the fun the children can have reading with their very own monster. 

A is for…Achievement
Achievements in reading can affirm a child’s reading identity. Put simply ‘I am being rewarded for reading’ = ‘I enjoy reading’. Completing reading adventures and missions within the game supports the children’s sense of achievement as they engage in reading across a range of authentic contexts. We’ve added badges that the kid can collect by completing certain missions, to help instil this sense of achievement. 

C is for… Community
Book talk and building reading communities is one of the pillars for teaching reading for pleasure. When children can talk with adults and their peers passionately about their books, this builds enjoyment and a sense of belonging (identity). When playing the game, the children are part of a community of virtual characters with whom they can read, talk about books and share reading adventures. When looking at how children interact with the game, it was found that they do actually read aloud to the characters in the game, building this love for reading. 

U is for… Understanding
Understanding the purpose of reading or ‘why do I read’ can motivate readers. In normal life, lots of reading can be done to fulfil a purpose, for example, reading a recipe to make a meal. When completing missions, children develop an understanding of the purpose of different types of text, for example, when following instructions or using a text to help a villager make a rock bun! And children can be creative around this, building that positive association of reading and enjoyment, rather than simply following an instructional text. 

Teach Your Monster Reading for Fun Recipe game

P is for…. Preferences
Crucial to reader identity is the sense that the child can start to have preferences and build a collection of books they enjoy. As the game develops, children will begin to evolve a preference for certain activities and books and can curate their very own collection of favourite texts on their monster’s virtual bookshelf. 

S is for… Stamina
Developing a regular reading habit can make a real difference in building that love of reading. The game supports children to develop the habit of regular reading and the option to listen to audio books can support their engagement. Characters encourage you to pick up and read a book from your bookshelf if it’s been a while.

These pillars can be applied outside the game too. Can you think of ways to help children read for fun in the classroom and at home using TEACUPS?

Alex Goss
Teach Your Monster to Read and Reading for Fun Product Manager

Click here if you’d like to see Angela Colvert talking more about this subject.

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