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Ever thought about what comes before counting? Pre-number learning in the Early Years.

Deborah Mulroney is a Teaching and Learning Adviser for Primary Mathematics at Herts for Learning.  She has been working alongside Early Years Advisers on the Early Years Fluency Project in several Hertfordshire schools.  In this blog she explains the practices and impact of the project – be prepared to grin. 

You know you’ve heard it when the proud parent turns up for his first day and boasts that Charlie knows all his numbers up to 50 and why not be proud? Of course we know that Charlie hasn’t got a clue what one more than 3 is, but hey it’s an amazing feat of memorisation. Continue reading “Ever thought about what comes before counting? Pre-number learning in the Early Years.”

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?”

RUCSAC pack your bags, let’s hit the bar instead

Charlie Harber is the Deputy Lead Adviser for Primary Mathematics at Herts for Learning.  She has  researched the positive impact bar modelling has on pupils’ access to worded problems.

Recent analysis in many schools and discussion with subject leaders confirmed what many teachers have long suspected, that many children have the procedural skills but they  seemed to abandon all reasoning  when they need to apply them once they are embedded in a word/story problem. Many schools in the UK use RUCSAC to help the children, but have you considered why that doesn’t work? Is there a better way, one which just doesn’t prepare them to answer questions in tests, but also deepens operational understanding, exposes misunderstandings and develops reasoning – empowering the children to discuss the mathematics?

Simply put, yes I think there is a better way – bar modelling. Continue reading “RUCSAC pack your bags, let’s hit the bar instead”

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?”

CPA: using Cuisenaire to support pupils to develop fractional understanding

Louisa Ingram is a primary mathematics adviser for HfL

Identifying Fractions

To begin with, pupils need to become familiar with assigning a value to a rod and finding the fractional value of the other rods. A good starting point is to find the value of the white rod as this then allows you to find the value of all other rods. When the brown rod equals 1; the white rod is one eighth. Compared to dark green, the white rod’s value is one sixth. Against blue, it is one ninth and against orange one tenths etc. You can then start to apply this such as assigning the brown rod a value of 2. Through this you can also draw attention to fractions such as which rod is one half, one quarter, one third the length of etc. Continue reading “CPA: using Cuisenaire to support pupils to develop fractional understanding”

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