Shape and Number Board

Let’s think about writing and reading for a moment.

Neuro Dynamix focuses on the sensory-motor aspects of writing and reading, not the cognitive aspects thereof. The reason for the Mind Moves focus on the physical and mechanical aspects of writing and reading is because so many learners are reported to lack exactly that: the sensory-motor aspects of writing and reading.

If the muscles of the hands are not ready, how would a learner hold a pen or pencil in an economical and energy-saving grip, stay between the lines, write legibly and still write sense?

If the muscles of the eyes are not ready, how would a learner hold a book or screen while moving their eyes from left to right and from top to bottom on a page, skip over words to locate and retrieve information, make inferences or interpret and evaluate what was read?

Writing is about manipulating small muscles to make letter symbols that represent speech in a way that has meaning.


Writing originated to convert sounds into marks on stone or other mediums that others could decipher and find meaning in the marks. That is why writing is often referred to as mark making. Learners need to convert sound into marks on paper or screen and to do that the muscles in the hands have to develop. There are no muscles in the fingers, ligaments only and so fingers are managed by remote control.

Reading is about drawing sound from letter symbols in words and from words in sentences to give it meaning (comprehension).

We expect learners to read without first understanding that letter symbols represent speech.

Thoughts are silent speech.

At the Mind Moves Institute research (and common sense) leads us to believe that once a learner understands that letter symbols represent speech; and that writing means ‘putting sounds down’ on paper/screen; and that reading means to ‘listen to the sounds the words and sentences make’, teaching writing first speeds up reading.


Reading means a learner needs to convert marks on paper or screen to sound. To do that the small muscles of the eyes have to be exceptionally agile to work in tandem, dart from left to right, zoom in on a sound or a word and zoom out to a sentence, a paragraph or a page to place the marks and sounds within a context and be able to infer meaning.

Reading is not natural. Reading is an acquired skill that takes the eyes 7 years to mature and myelinate in readiness for the challenge. During these 7 years concrete learning reigns in the shape of PLAY, blowing bubbles, sorting toys while tidying up, climbing, throwing, catching, running the eyes over the content of the fridge or cupboard looking for a favourite something to eat and many other delightful activities to keep those eyes moving.

The eyes depend on all the other senses to make sense of what it sees.

It is input from the skin, nose, mouth, ears and especially the vestibular system that gives the eyes invaluable data to comprehend what it sees.

Without a mature vestibular system the shape and the direction in which a letter symbol is shaped, as well as the rhythm, sequence and timing of a word would be an insurmountable barrier to reading.

If reading wasn’t more about sound than vision, people with low or no vision would be reading disabled.

It takes time to develop and wire the nervous system and to strengthen the neuro pathways sufficiently for them to myelinate in readiness to develop writing skills and reading skills. The fatty coating that forms around the neuro pathways comes about through repetitive multi-sensory experiences. But repetition goes hand in hand with boredom due to the absence of new stimulation and the relatively low level of challenge. For that reason we continue to stimulate the fine motor muscles of the hands using a new resource to capture the learner’s elusive attention.

The wooden resources used in Neuro Dynamix support a learner to grasp abstract concepts with the help of concrete learning.

Concrete learning involves physically manipulating objects to solve a problem.

Representational (semi-concrete) learning involves using images to represent objects to solve a problem.

Abstract learning involves a quality or description of a real object and is not an object on its own.

Colour, shape, number, position in space, cause and effect, time, quantities, qualities and letter symbols are not objects on their own, they are abstract concepts.

learning real object (cat)
learning picture of the real object (cat)
learning the word symbols (letters)



The Shape and Number Board is a visual-motor sorter for shapes and numbers. It has a base, four shapes: circle, rectangle, triangle and square (5 of each) with holes in each shape to represent a number:

  • The circle has one hole
  • The rectangle has two holes
  • The triangle has three holes
  • The square has four holes.

What is the purpose of a Neuro Dynamix Shape and Number Board?

The purpose of the Neuro Dynamix Shape and Number Board is to offer a concrete resource to learners who are still mastering the fine motor control of their hands and abstract learning. Due to the weightiness of wood it makes it easier for the brain to comprehend the abstract concepts of shape and number, direction and sequence.

The shapes can also be used to build sequences and border patterns.

  • Suggested Mind Moves before you introduce the Neuro Dynamix Shape and Number Board:
Neck flexor
The learner needs to stand up straight, imagining that the neck and spine are a ‘string-of-beads’. The learner then pulls at the imaginary string above the head until the beads hang in a straight line. Ask the learner to maintain this posture throughout this exercise. He then needs to place the palm of the hand against the forehead, pushing firmly for a count of eight. Remind the learner to breathe. Alternate the position to the back of the head and the left and the right side of the head, repeating the process first with one hand and then the other. This movement strengthens and relaxes the neck and shoulder muscles to isolate head movement from body movement, and in so doing inhibits the TLR. It also improves posture, listening skills, balance and muscle tone.
>> Watch Video
Trunk rotator
Ask the learner to lie flat on his back and spread the arms wide and bend and raise the knees to hip level, with feet on or close to the floor. Slowly drop the knees to the left until the left knee touches the floor, and then to the right until the right knee touches the floor. The learner’s shoulders and lower back should stay glued to the floor and feet should remain down in the middle. This movement strengthens the core muscles while separating the shoulder action from the hip action to promote sitting, focus and concentration. It also forms the basis for crossing the lateral midline.
>> Watch Video


Suggested activities for the Neuro Dynamix Shape and Number Board:

  • Ask the learner to tip out the shapes and place them to the left of the board. Set the alarm on your phone and time how long it takes the learner to complete the board. Note the time.
  • Repeat the activity. Compare the time and ask the learner if the experience was different to the previous time?
  • Ask the learner to use the tweezers to remove the shapes and move them to the left of the board. Use a clean blindfold to close the learner’s eyes. Set the alarm on your phone and time how long it takes the learner to complete the board. They need to use their fingers to feel the board and identify which shape they need to find and fit. They need to complete the shapes in the same sequence as they appear on the board – from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right-hand corner. Notice if there is any movement of the mouth while the learner uses the tweezers. If you notice mouth movement record it.
  • Repeat the activity. Compare the time and ask the learner if the experience was different to the previous time.
  • Repeat the activity but remove the blindfold. The learner needs to use the tweezers to remove the shapes and place them on the left. Once all the shapes have been removed use the tweezers to return the shapes to their places on the board.
  • Repeat the previous activity and use the alarm on your phone to time how long it takes to remove and fit the shapes using the tweezers. Compare the time and ask the learner if the experience was different to the previous time.
  • Focus on the number of holes in each shape. Touch and count how many holes are there when the learner adds all the holes in the circles together (1×5=5), rectangles (2×5=10), triangles (3×5=15) and squares (4×5=20).
  • Use the shapes to count in ones (circles), twos (rectangles), threes (triangles) and fours (squares). It is a simple introduction to the times tables. Always count rhythmically. Rhythm makes remembering easier.
  • Use the shapes to count backwards in ones from 5 (circles), twos from 10 (rectangles), threes from 15 (triangles) and fours (squares) from 20. Place the shapes back on the pegs as the learner counts.
  • Count how many shapes are there on each peg (5). Count how many blocks are there in total (4 heaps with 5 blocks each = 20). Following the direction of reading and touch-count each heap from the top left-hand corner of the board to the bottom right-hand corner.
  • Move the board away and only work with the shapes. Ask the learner to create a pattern (repetitive sequence) using all 20 shapes. Ask the learner to start on the left of their body and continue the pattern to the right until all the blocks are used. If the learner runs out of space ask the learner how the problem can be solved? (Start a new line on the left or go down on the right to create a border pattern).
  • Repeat the same activity but against time. The two clocks can be used and the static clock set 10 minutes ahead of the current time to allow 10 minutes for this activity. Note that the quality of their work stays the same by emphasising that the shapes must be positioned in the same way every time, with no rotation. This is to plant the seed that letter symbols cannot be turned around they must consistently be written in the same way.
  • Use the blindfold and repeat the activity. The learner is now using not only touch but visual memory to locate, position and sequence shapes. The sequence may never be the same twice in a row. Encourage the learner to come up with creative patterns. Acknowledge effort, it spurs on internal motivation and setting goals before an activity starts.
  • Encourage the learner to use a ribbon to thread the shapes to make a patterned necklace. Allow the learner to figure out how to get the ribbon through the holes. Creative problem solving is one of the skills of the future.
  • Always start with the blocks to the left of the learner irrespective of which hand is dominant. Repeat the activity and ask the learner to change the sequence.
  • Use the blindfold to enhance proprioception and a ribbon to thread the shapes to make a patterned necklace. Time how long it takes the learner to thread all the blocks.
  • Repeat the activity and encourage the learner to improve on their previous time.
  • Ask the learner to create 10 sums using the 20 shapes, two blocks per sum. Add up the number of holes of each of the two-block sums and write the answer on a sheet of paper. Ask the learner to reflect on the way the sums were organised and the way they organised the answers.
  • Set the static clock and allow ten minutes for this activity. Place the working clock above eye level on the left and the static clock above eye level and to the right to encourage left-right eye movements. Ask the learner to repeat the previous activity and make improvements to their previous plan. No two sums may have the same combination of blocks.
  • Set the static clock and allow 20 minutes for this activity. Use a blank page, a pencil and 4 blocks – one circle, one rectangle, one triangle and one square. Ask the learner to use these 4 blocks to create a border pattern around the edge of the page by tracing the shapes. The learner may turn the page, but it must remain in front of the learner and not moved to the side of their body. Remember to write the date and the time on the page. If the learner ran out of time indicate how many shapes were copied on the page and file as evidence.
  • Repeat this activity on another day. Set the static clock and allow 20 minutes for this activity. Encourage the learner to do a different pattern from the previous attempt. Compare the previous attempt with the present attempt and discuss the findings.


The role of the educator in Neuro Dynamix is to encourage and draw out the learner, not to instruct or to drill.

Tidying up after every activity is a concrete way of learning how to handle data and organise information.

Matching and sorting is the start of study skills.


What skills relate to the Neuro Dynamix Shape and Number Board?

  • Fine motor control
  • Laterality
  • Directionality
  • Left to right orientation
  • Crossing midlines
  • Eye movements
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual perception
  • Number concept
  • Critical thinking
  • Conceptual understanding
  • Concentration