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An Inspector Calls – Advice for Leaders of Mathematics

Nicola Randall is a Primary Maths Adviser at Herts for Learning.  Here she sets out her advice for core subject leaders in surviving Ofsted inspections. 

All subject leaders know the anxiety caused by waiting for that call, looking for the tell-tale signs: the headteacher’s door closed with a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on, the mysterious and impromptu staff meeting to be held after school and the rushing around of office staff trying to get paperwork out to parents. I haven’t met anyone who enjoys an inspection, but in my experience, subject leaders tend to fall into 2 camps: those who feel the fear and those who say ‘bring it on!’ Continue reading “An Inspector Calls – Advice for Leaders of Mathematics”

The ‘Goldilocks Principle’ and Curriculum Design

Rachel Rayner is a Primary Mathematics Adviser at Herts for Learning.  The team are currently engaged in designing a mathematics curriculum for schools and teachers.  In this blog she considers how curriculum design impacts on learners.  This will be the first of a series of blogs on progression and design.

As a maths team we are currently writing every sequence of learning from Year 1 week 1 Autumn term to Year 6 final week Summer term. More on that later.  But I don’t mind telling you that it’s raised quite a few questions on the team about what a great curriculum for maths should look like.  Curriculum ‘14 for mathematics raised age-old debates – acceleration versus breadth and depth, knowledge versus engagement – let the twitter set debate. Furthermore, the new curriculum is being regularly referred to as a ‘mastery curriculum,’ heralding a bewildering array of products stamped with the ‘mastery’ brand all claiming to revolutionise your curriculum and behave rather like you might imagine a magic wand to work. And yet, and yet…still we battle to build a secure curriculum framework and schools are desperately seeking something (even after they have discovered concrete-pictorial-abstract).  One in which, age-related expectations become the norm for all pupils irrespective of their prior attainment – though we know there are a few children for whom added provision is ever needed irrespective of the curriculum. On top of that OfSTED are looking at how curriculum design supports learning for all pupils even beyond the mathematics lessons.  So where do we even begin? In this the first of a series of blogs I want to set out the current landscape as I see it (and sorry but no, I don’t possess even a modicum of fairy dust or a magic wand) before focusing in further in future blogs.  Continue reading “The ‘Goldilocks Principle’ and Curriculum Design”

KS2 SATs 2017 – Lessons Learned (The Sequel)

Louise Racher is a Mathematics Teaching and Learning Adviser at HfL, in this she gives her own interpretation of what priorities teachers might have had leading up to KS2 SATs, and what the priorities might be for next year following the second year of “New Curriculum” SATs.

Year 6 teachers had their game face on for the second year of the newly revised end of KS2 SATs.  Greater awareness of how the papers would be presented meant it was a slightly fairer fight and lessons learned from the previous year were taken on board and assimilated back into classrooms across the land.  Continue reading “KS2 SATs 2017 – Lessons Learned (The Sequel)”

Rebalancing sums – and the ripple effect

In the tried and tested articles, advisers will share some of their interesting tried and tested approaches to teaching mathematics.   In this sequence, the Rachel Rayner focuses on developing the skill of rebalancing as a mental strategy.

Rachel Rayner is a Primary Mathematics Adviser for Herts for Learning

Have you ever noticed how introducing a new drop in the mathematics ocean causes pupils to think differently about already learned concepts?  What follows is a sequence of learning, much loved by me, as it has caused all kinds of new links with number to be made for pupils as well as deeper understanding of core concepts such as conservation and sum from Year 2 to Year 6.  It also challenges pupils preference for working left to right in their calculations (I certainly found that my children’s favourite option) but instead attend to the numbers involved, allowing a far better informed decision about the strategy selected.   The strategy also focuses on the nearness of landmark numbers and the skill of rounding.  This supports estimation and a sense of what is reasonable for further development of number sense. Continue reading “Rebalancing sums – and the ripple effect”

When Mathematics Gets Political – Times Tables

Times tables have been a hot potato politically for a long time, there seems to be a slightly rose-tinted view that once upon a time every child in Britain learned them by heart and still remember every fact today. Yet clearly not, if the famous example of politicians such as Stephen Byers and George Osbourne are anything to go by then even the great and the mighty parliamentarians  have a wobble now and then.  Those halcyon days just did not exist; it has ever been true that some pupils find learning their tables harder than others – we can give you roomfuls of teachers, teaching assistants and parents from all walk of life who can bear testament to this, most of whom can name the fact that remained a blindspot. Last week Nick Gibb announced that there would after all be a times table test for Y6 pupils beginning in 2019.  Inevitably this is likely to increase the emphasis on the learning of these facts – no bad thing as recall of these facts reduces the cognitive load enabling the focus of learning to be attended to, but it pays to be mindful that we build in meaningful learning sequences before we introduce the low stakes tests that allow teachers and pupils to identify gaps in fact recall and teach for them.  

The following blog considers one such possible approach.

Kate Kellner-Dilks is a Primary Mathematics Adviser  at Herts for Learning

In many of the schools I have the opportunity to visit and work with, the age old questions of multiplication facts comes up. Lots of schools have a ‘times tables challenge’ or variation of, which usually equates to some level of weekly testing. In my last blog ‘Are the boys really better at mathematics?’ I questioned whether multiplication facts (times tables) needed to be tested before they are learned, particularly against the clock, because of the anxiety you see in those pupils who don’t (yet) know them. These children often end up using inefficient strategies based on counting, to figure them out, rather than the intended memory recall. The test does not necessarily help build their memory recall and often, in my experience, reinforces their counting strategies, (a child said to me her ‘mind goes blank’, so she panics and counts up rather than using memory). Continue reading “When Mathematics Gets Political – Times Tables”

SATs chat: Why did my children revert to written methods on Paper 1?

 

Rachel Rayner is a Primary Maths Adviser at Herts for Learning

It’s a good question. In my experience working with schools nationally, pupils default to the written method often unthinkingly.   See the lovely examples here of just that happening.

As teachers we value mental fluency and we want our pupils to have it.   But are we working in the right way to engage our pupils over a sustained period of time, out of unthinkingness and into causing pupils to think deeply enough about the facts and skills they are adept at and how they might use them to form a strategy?    Continue reading “SATs chat: Why did my children revert to written methods on Paper 1?”

Is mastery just a passing fad?

 

Nicola Randall, Mathematics Teaching and Learning Adviser at Herts for Learning

Before I even start to tackle this question, I think it is helpful to clarify what we mean by ‘fad’ and the best way I could think of doing this was to consider some examples.

  • Leg warmers worn anywhere other than inside a dance studio: fad
  • No make-up selfies: fad
  • Replacing actual laughing with the word “LOL”: fad
  • Dressing as clowns and scaring people: fad

Continue reading “Is mastery just a passing fad?”

Are you and your children playful with number?

Rachel Rayner is a Primary Mathematics Adviser for Herts for Learning

Yesterday was a bit of a surreal day. Charlie Harber and I were filmed talking about mental mathematics.  A day of feeling hugely embarrassed by presenting our thoughts to a camera;   I’m sorry to say, I don’t think I did too well. To fit in all we wanted to say in 5 minutes was somewhat of a challenge to say the least.  So this blog is an attempt to put that right …I’ll let you be the judge of how I get on!

Why the focus on mental mathematics?

Our work in research projects around this area has led us to see the gaps between those children entering school having had rich experiences of maths at home and those who have had very little. Continue reading “Are you and your children playful with number?”

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