Replacements for bread tags – the problems of being an educational publisher

We recently bought the UK rights to an excellent series of books called ‘Open-ended Maths Investigations’ from Blake Publishing in Australia. As always when we buy in a book, we need to check it carefully to ensure that it fits our curriculum and what happens in UK schools. This has been relatively easy for this series, but one thing has stumped us – bread tags.

Do you remember them? Those plastic tags that used to be used to seal loaves of sliced bread?


As I’m sure any primary school teacher will immediately realise, they have great potential as a maths manipulative: they’re free, small, come in different colours, are symmetrical on one axis but not the other, etc. It’s not surprising that the Australian authors suggested using them as a manipulative for one of the activities. Unfortunately, now in the UK, bags of sliced bread are usually sealed with that annoying tape which I find quite difficult to get off and which isn’t reusable. We are still struggling to think of what to suggest as a replacement manipulative. So if you have any ideas, please do let me know!

However, while trawling the Internet trying to find a replacement, I did come across the story of how the tags were invented. Apparently a man called Lloyd Paxton was flying home on an airliner in 1952 and opened the bag of peanuts that was given to him with his drink. He wanted a way of resealing the bag and looked for a solution. He found an expired credit card in his wallet and hand-carved his first bag clip with his small pen knife.  (This wouldn’t happen today, of course, as he wouldn’t have been allow to carry the pen knife on to the plane. Also they no longer serve peanuts due to nut allergies …) He went on to design a similar tag for Pacific Fruits who wanted a better solution than a rubber band for closing their plastic bags of fruit and sold millions.

Assuming, of course, that we can find a replacement for the bread tags, the Open-ended Maths Investigations series will be published at the end of October!

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