As regular readers will know, we like to work closely with our local primary school, and this has mainly taken the form of projects around healthy eating and exercise. However, before Christmas I had a conversation with a teacher who mentioned that she had been given a project for the year, around numeracy. My ears pricked up immediately; numeracy and shops, a perfect partnership.

I told her we would like to be involved in some way, and we came up with what we have called the Pebble Challenge. Every primary school-aged child who comes into the shop is ‘challenged’ at the till; the littlest ones have to tell the staff how much their item costs, reading the numbers from the shelf-edge label; older children have to add up their purchases and ‘beat the till’; additional points are available for those who can work out their change, or tell us how much an individual item costs as part of a multi-buy. Correct answers get a pebble from a box we keep under the counter; the kids take the pebble back to their classrooms, where each class has a jar to fill on the teacher’s desk.

At the end of the year the class with the most pebbles is the winner, and each class member will receive a £5 voucher to spend in the store.

This has really captured the kids’ imaginations, and the competition is fierce. They are coming in more often, dragging in mums and dads who don’t normally use the store, and we can really see the improvement in their mental arithmetic. Parents are really appreciative of our efforts.

All it takes is a bit of staff participation and time, but the reaction has been fantastic; I would urge you to give it a go!