Consider a math project in the math classroom. School Improvement NetworkJanuary. Assessment to the Core:
Share via Email As a nation we underperform in maths.
To improve, we have to start from basics at primary level. As a nation we underperform in maths. The UK was recently ranked 28th out of 70 countries in terms of maths attainment in secondary schools and, in comparison with other countries, fewer students opt to continue maths beyond the age of Last month Michael Gove announced proposals for shaking up the primary curriculumand unsurprisingly maths was singled out for some of the most ambitious changes.
The new proposals call for clearer, more specific key tasks, tougher targets on learning times tables, mental arithmetic and fractions; including a return to an approach described as 'memorising'.
It is right that if we are to improve our performance in maths and ensure that our students are equipped with the maths skills needed to succeed in a global marketplace, we have to start from the basics at primary level. However, the question remains as to whether a return to rote learning will achieve this?
Our new report Enhancing Primary Mathematics Teaching and Learning looks at one innovative primary maths programme which has been achieving some impressive results based on the Hungarian style of teaching mathematics.
This programme is named the Mathematics Enhancement Programme MEP and some of the lessons from this programme are highly relevant to the review of the maths curriculum.
The MEP is a friendly and non-confrontational style of learning that encourages classes to engage in pupil-led discussions to find solutions to maths problems, so the teacher orchestrates the activities but does not lead the lesson in the traditional way. The innovative structure ensures that pre-prepared lesson plans and resources support varied, fast-paced class work.
The "spiral" curriculum is a comprehensive programme ensuring continual revision and progression through small and logical steps but with key aims of mastery each year. Rather than simply reviewing the same material until all pupils have it memorised, this spiral process allows for continual development to challenge the most able learners, while also continuing to revisit earlier areas of knowledge for those who may struggle with maths.
As part of the evaluation of the programme's success we identified four key elements for good practice in teaching primary maths, which are transferable to other schools using the MEP or any other innovative maths programme.
The first thing is that the process of enhancing teaching and learning in the primary years may require a change of hearts and minds about what constitutes good maths teaching and quite often the suspension of prior beliefs.
Schools need to experiment with new ways of doing things to re-engage pupils in maths, and as a result teachers shouldn't be afraid to take risks. Secondly, the report recommends that primary maths programmes should move away from the focus on numeracy and instead look at developing a stronger mathematical foundation by exploring ideas and concepts.
From international research studies it is clear that countries that are the strongest in the field of mathematics implement strong mathematical foundations in the primary years.
They encourage and enable their pupils to think mathematically and be creative and confident in using maths from an early age. Rather than simply memorising facts and figures, pupils will then have the ability to adapt their mathematical understanding depending on the required application.
The third recommendation is that teachers should focus on the design of great lessons.
The report looks at the structure of Japanese lesson study, where teachers develop professionally through the sharing of their practice through 'research' lessons.
This form of professional development is crucial to successfully change teaching approaches as it is important to get all teachers on board and engaged.
Here are the key steps involved in the use of lesson study: Finally, mathematics teaching will not improve without leadership. The headteacher or maths co-ordinator needs to take on leadership of the initiative to enhance maths teaching and learning and it will be the responsibility of this person to encourage and support colleagues, monitor and discuss progress, and intervene when problems or uncertainties arise.
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To support this, Learning study group of secondary school teachers had been set in Brunei to improve teaching and learning of science and mathematics. Learning Study is a process where teachers work collaboratively to plan teaching strategies by focusing on the students’ needs.