an overview of expectations and guidance from the government and other sources
Over the last 20 years, maths teaching hasn’t really changed in my eyes – has it? Yes – priorities and approaches have shifted (often quite dramatically) but, in a nutshell, teaching maths looks very similar to when I started in Year 2 all those years ago. The direct teaching remains at the heart of maths teaching going off on many tangents along the way and promoting mathematical discussion at every opportunity. I believe that this discreet teaching element of the lesson is imperative and when intertwined with discovery and mastery approaches, maths lessons really can be magnificent moments of fun and animation! Those times when you look around the room and think: Yes: This is why I teach!
Recent DfE changes have been a pleasant surprise really! Yes – It is still a statutory requirement that the whole of the curriculum is taught but the priority now seems to be those ‘connections’ that children make when progressing through the skills at their own pace and on their own journey. The DfE want to bring “A greater coherence by exposing core concepts in the NC and by demonstrating progress” from year group to year group. Greater coherence in any educational area is music to my ears. Children will make links between what they HAVE learnt, to what they ARE learning and will then hold on to those priceless ‘nuggets of knowledge’ and fundamental maths skills that they will (hopefully) keep with them when they revisit that same mathematical area next time. It’s kind of like a “Tips & Tricks” memory bank that is repeated and revisited. What is important? Exploration, explanation, mastery approaches, capturing those light bulb moments, fluency, internalising visual representations and practising mathematical processes along the way – before you move onto to the next step.
Resources on hand / available
Resources that support children’s learning should be on hand and available for children to access with great independence. This freedom to collect resources that will help them is important. Counters, tens frames, part, part whole mats, calculators to check answers, note pads and sugar paper to create visual representations of their learning and so on…. Have a table which will enable them to move their learning on at their own pace. Resources must be of a high quality too and must be looked after. A maths area is a great idea – especially if it is near a wall of evidence!
Review your calcualtion policy and new DfE guidance
Keep up to date with latest guidelines! Things change quite often! How many fads have their been over the years! Also keep in touch with your own school calculation policy and update is if necessary. Look at what children have been learning before reaching you and also where they go after! The new DfE Criteria is good for this! Have mathematical discussions about what works with colleagues!
Fluency is Key
Although we have said that learning by rote doesn’t work for everybody, there is an element of practise makes perfect when it comes to bonds and tables!! That absorption of facts gets better with daily practise and more connections are made when areas are visited frequently. Daily morning work revisiting tables, bonds, missing number calculations etc does improve ability! I have seen it for myself! This alongside challenges and filling spare moments and warmups with fluency activities gives children an abundance of opportunities to improve!
Play the game
Consolidate and enjoy online maths games as often as possible – or even board games! A Friday afternoon half an hour treat / an extension activity / or simple an end of lesson consolidation. Play games, take on board new challenges, play games involving quick recall and enjoy the process of improving personal bests. White Rose activities, snakes and ladders, boggle with numbers, countdown, beat the clock, Top Marks, Apps etc…… Let me know any great games that you know of!
Instant Feedback is Priceless! -‘Team’ approach
I love the ‘we are all in this together’ type approach! Workshops of progress, feedback Fridays, daily meetings where some children teach others, video tips created by the children, how can we best solve these dilemmas! Working as a class team brings a sense of comradery and promotes risk taking for all! An ethos of teamwork and a ‘Lets solve this’ approach! Feedback instantly and encourage children to do the same of they are stuck. Ask those questions and celebrate maths at every opportunity.
Let Me See
Watch others teach! Be nosy! Pop in! Not to judge or give feedback – but purely to see what works for other classes. Each cohort is different and the dynamics of one class can be SO different to another. Watch a Maths starter in Year 2 and then go and see differentiation in year 6. Praise each other and let someone know if you though something was GREAT! Try it in your room! Adapt and be flexible – you never know! It just might work.
Off you go / Pitstop Time / Pause the lesson
Children that already know your teaching content can go and start their own activity. Or as soon as you know they can access the task in hand, let them go! Maybe an TA can be there to oversee a lower ability group too. Make every second count for the whole class. What is the best thing for them to do at any one time? Small, differentiated groups work! Even with the same objective! We can stop the lesson at any time and ensure that children are progressing. Do they need the next challenge? Can they access this challenge themselves? Again, it all comes back to the staff knowing the children’s next steps. Pausing the lesson to measure progress and move learning on is my favourite part!
Problem Solving Opportunities / Vary Schemes
Consolidate maths skills through the many resources and schemes that are available. Following one scheme can get tedious. A pick and mix of different ideas and approaches is good. Some ‘scheme’ print outs are very ‘busy’ and some children prefer the more simplistic approach. There are so many free schemes and ideas on the internet too! Maybe even delve into free trials and see if a variety of ideas works for different learners. Add some open ended challenge into the mix as often as possible too!
Positivity Shift – What are the Hurdles?
If I think back to my own maths learning at school (and even now), I will argue that I am ‘hopeless’ at maths and can’t be bothered to work things out when there is a perfectly useful calculator on my phone! Of course, I would never ever say this in a classroom. In fact, I am the exact opposite! So, let’s put a stop to caution. Let’s unpick the reasons WHY we get stuck and think of brilliant ways of over coming our maths fears!
Talk the Talk
Talk ‘Maths’ at every opportunity. Packed lunches, attendance percentages, fractions of numbers, how many will we need, division problems! Bring maths into all lessons! Have real life context maths problems up your sleeve at all times to fill those 2-minute gaps and make use of a rainy play time! Giving change (always a tricky one), what time is it in 3 hours?, if three people are isolating how many groups of 5 are left….?
Resources I have Found Useful
Fluency in Five
Great for a morning work / fluency & consolidation. Focus on addition and multiplication.
Missing number problems:
I used this one for an interview and taught the lesson in a Year 1 and 2 mixed class. PowerPoint slides to teach the concept of finding the missing number in an addition or subtraction calculation. Then some activities to accompany this.