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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Maths - A Whole School Approach

As educators we are constantly striving to improve not just the performance of our pupils but their engagement in their learning. This results in research,  CPD, discussion with other professionals both in person locally and via social media. Keeping in touch not just with changes to the curriculum but also with good practice is essential. 

As part of this process myself and our Deputy Head were lucky enough to be invited to observe 'maths' in an outstanding school. The format of the morning was a quick presentation followed by observation. It was interesting and in parts inspiring, so much so that we were keen to return to school to implement some of what we had witnessed in our own school, which we felt would have an immediate impact. 

Daily Calculations

The format - Every morning from 8.55 until 9.15 all pupils from years 1 to year 6 open up their calculation books which are on tables ready to go as soon as they enter the room. They begin by completing a 'strip' of 10 - 20 questions depending on their year group which consists of a mixed diet of questions ranging from time, to shape and number. These questions are assertive mentoring in style and take about 5 minutes to complete. They then move onto a selection of calculation questions using the four operations, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. 

Marking takes place immediately with pupils marking their own books using purple pen. If a question is wrong they mark it with a cross and put in the correct answer next to it. Whilst this is going on the register is taken, lunches counted. No time is wasted. Feedback from pupils has been very positive, they enjoy the fast pace, self marking, high success and no fear of failure culture. 

The result - end of year Arithmetic scores across the school improved massively. 

However, after analysis of  both KS1 and KS2 papers it was clear that problem solving was to be our next focus. 

Problem Solving - There has been much discussion in the press and on Social media about the merits of Singapore maths. So, intrigued, I researched, attended conferences, spoke to fellow professionals and finally both myself and the deputy again set off to observe the teaching of Singapore maths in several local schools. 

On return many discussions ensued and in brief we concluded that we loved the main principles of Singapore maths,  C.P.A, real life 'scenario' at the beginning, whole class together and the problem solving. What neither of us liked was the 'scheme', the textbooks but perhaps more importantly for us the scripted approach. We are as a school committed to both collaborative learning and active learning so from this and our research we developed a new maths lesson format. 

Daily Maths Lesson Format 

The lesson begins with a real life problem/ scenario, these can be linked to topics, Christmas, things going on around school such as the pond, our chickens the new library etc. 

Next some whole class discussion/teaching working towards solving the whole class problem. 

Then short group or paired exploration/discussion based on the teaching. 

Mini plenary check/sharing  of what has been discovered so far. 

Then it's time for the main group/paired problem solving with a link to the scenario. This may be conducted in differentiated or mixed ability groups and should include both collaborative learning and an Active Maths element which is taken from Maths of the Day which is a series of lessons linking maths and P.E. 

Mini plenary check - common misconceptions, discoveries, sharing. 

Finally whole class back together to discuss/solve whole class scenario problem using what they have learned. 

CPA runs throughout the lesson as well as keeping the whole class together, something I am particularly passionate about. 

The result - it is too early in the process to see any results in tests, though we should see some at the end of Autumn 2. However, the results in lesson observations is clear. The pupils are all engaged and enthusiastic about their learning. There is a mathematical vocabulary rich environment with pupils discussing ideas and solutions as well as pupils not afraid to make mistakes but learning from them. 

Maths has been reinvigorated and there truly is a buzz about the teaching and learning of maths. Result!