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Working Mathematically

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”

So you have textbooks…so what?

Siobhan King is a Mathematics Adviser at Herts for Learning

I have been thinking about maths text books: what they add to lessons and how they can be used effectively.  I am a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel and know that teacher time is finite and exceptionally valuable.   Furthermore, I agree with Tim Oates’ assertion that “high quality textbooks support both teachers and pupils – they free teachers up to concentrate on refining pedagogy and developing engaging, effective learning.”  (Oates, 2014, p4) Continue reading “So you have textbooks…so what?”

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?”

KS2 SATs 2016 – Lessons Learned

Louise Racher is a Mathematics Adviser at HfL

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Confucius.

As many practitioners ponder over the “new” KS2 tests, this article picks out some of our “noble” reflections on what would make a pupil confident to tackle the KS2 test without fear and trepidation. Pupils who met Age Related Expectations in 2016 (just over half of year 6 pupils nationally) demonstrated that they had a flexibility which allowed them to manipulate not only the calculations to find solutions with ease within the constraints of the time limit – but also had a good grasp of problem solving strategies. This enabled them to access some complex multi-step problems using higher order thinking skills and demonstrate that they were able to reason with confidence. Continue reading “KS2 SATs 2016 – Lessons Learned”

My Trio of Messages – OfSTED tell us about the state of Primary Mathematics

Louise Racher is a Primary Mathematics Adviser for Herts for Learning


Having been lucky enough to be in the same room as the esteemed Jane Jones, Ofsted’s National Lead for Mathematics, I am going to attempt to order my thought succinctly. There were a lot of messages about Mathematics crammed into one day and many thoughts overlapped as is the tendency with this subject. At the end of the day when I looked back at my own scribbled notes I think I could see three general threads.  Overall, I was comforted that her messages aligned with my own and my colleagues therefore all of the training and subscription materials we are currently writing and producing to help and support teachers are steered towards the key messages. Continue reading “My Trio of Messages – OfSTED tell us about the state of Primary Mathematics”

Take One Resource: The Counting Stick

Deborah Mulroney is a Primary Mathematics Adviser for Herts for Learning

In this blog the resource that we are focusing on is the counting stick. It usually has ten intervals but the type with four faces and divided in several ways are most useful. The main use is that it can be thought of as representing a three-dimensional empty number line.

Numberline 1

Continue reading “Take One Resource: The Counting Stick”

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”

Maths across the curriculum (Pattern)

Nicola Randall is a primary maths adviser for HfL

In the aims of the new curriculum for mathematics, it states that a high quality mathematics education provides ‘an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics’. What better way to appreciate this beauty than to looking at nature? Continue reading “Maths across the curriculum (Pattern)”

Making Every Question Count

Charlie Harber is the Deputy Lead Adviser for the HfL Primary Mathematics Team.

Do pages and pages of repetitive questions deepen our children’s understanding?

Teaching to mastery requires a mind shift on many different levels and presents many challenges (differentiation, whole class teaching, culture and ethos to name but a few). It is underpinned by a range of theories… You can’t explore mastery for long without encountering ‘Variation’ theories. There are two distinct variation theories (conceptual and procedural) which develop symbiotically to grow deep conceptual understanding in learners. These theories are used widely in the high performing East and South East Asian countries. They are exploited skilfully by teachers to expose the underlying structures of mathematics and allow children to ‘self-discover’. Continue reading “Making Every Question Count”

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