The National Curriculum for mathematics aims to ensure that all pupils:
- become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics, including through varied and frequent practice with increasingly complex problems over time, so that pupils develop conceptual understanding and the ability to recall and apply knowledge rapidly and accurately.
- reason mathematically by following a line of enquiry, conjecturing relationships and generalisations, and developing an argument, justification or proof using mathematical language
- can solve problems by applying their mathematics to a variety of routine and non-routine problems with increasing sophistication, including breaking down problems into a series of simpler steps and persevering in seeking solutions.
“The national curriculum for mathematics aims to ensure that all pupils become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics…reason mathematically by following a line of enquiry…can solve problems by applying their mathematics to a variety of routine and non-routine problems. “ DfE September 2013
At The Lea, we believe that every child can be successful in mathematics. We use Herts Essential Maths as our spine curriculum and combine this with the development of mastery through our involvement in Maths Mastery from the NCETM (National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics). We believe the best way to learn, and to retain that learning, is to plan for progression in daily and weekly learning using small, sequential steps. These small steps help to develop a secure understanding of the mathematics taught and ensures that children move forward at broadly the same pace; this means that most children will be working on the same area of mathematics at the same time. We understand that children come to school with a wide and varying set of experiences and ‘starting points’ and work to ensure all children make good progress and have equity in their learning. By the end of their time with us, we aim to have embedded the basic skills and foundations they need for future learning and fostered a desire to ‘find out more’.
In the classroom
At The Lea, children are taught rules and patterns within areas of maths rather than just a technique to find an answer. A ‘ping-pong’ style of teaching, where ideas and activities move regularly between the teacher and learners and back again, enables the children to practice at each stage of the learning sequence, drawing out questions and ’sticking points’ which adults are able to address ‘on the spot’. The opportunity to make deep connections are highlighted in each lesson, so children are able to link previous learning with new, and questions are carefully planned to develop children of all abilities and to extend children working at greater depth.
Practicing the concept through a variety of representations is important to ensure deep understanding and to make connections. We use the Concrete (apparatus and real-life contexts) Pictorial (images and models to represent the maths) and Abstract (working with numbers and symbols) approach in lessons (CPA) to support this. This supports their visualisation of the mathematics and how it can be applied.
Using the correct mathematical vocabulary is taught from the Early Years to Year 6; stem sentences are used to model ideas to the children, and they are encouraged to use these when explaining their thinking. For example, as the foundation for learning that a fraction is a part of a bigger group, the teacher might use many different representations of this, practising with the stem sentence: If __________ is the whole, then _______ is part of the whole.
If the group of counters is the whole, then the red counter is part of the whole.
This scaffolding gives them confidence whilst supporting their understanding, consolidating the main concept, and encouraging reasoning. Deliberately presenting children with mistakes and ‘non-examples’ also encourages them to use this mathematical vocabulary to identify why the examples given do not work, further deepening their understanding of the concept.
Practicing our learning
‘The best way to understanding is a few good examples’ Isaac Newton
Mathematics in the Early Years is woven richly into many different areas of the curriculum. Activities are planned and developed for children to access independently, or with an adult, during child-initiated learning times. This gives children the opportunity to practice concepts taught through play and investigation and encourages them to make their own discoveries about maths in the world around them.
In Key Stage 1 and 2, independent practice tasks are carefully planned with 2-3 stages, each short stage deepening the challenge as they move through them. We can then see that the mathematical concept has been understood and can be applied in a variety of contexts. Tasks are created with the intention that all children can reach the final stage, and then greater depth questions are available for those who are secure to explore the concept further.
How can you help?
Children learn key facts such as multiplication tables and addition facts within 10 to automaticity (instant recall) to avoid overload in the working memory; having key facts at their ‘fingertips’ enable them to focus on new concepts. Regular practice of these at home has a huge impact on how well the children remember them and can then apply them in school. To help support this practice at home, we subscribe to Times Tables Rockstars and Numbots. Your child’s class teacher will be able to offer ideas for other areas you could work on with your child, e.g. shape recognition, at consultations and informal catchups.