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Top 3 Things To Improve UK Maths Achievement in < 3 years

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mature_maths_trainee, May 2, 2012.

  1. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Everyone wants to 'improve achievement' in Maths, and there's a plethora of ideas & initiatives as to how to do so.
    What are the top things you believe could be quickly done to in order to achieve a sustainable, solid, and practical improvement in achievement up to KS4?

    Mine would tentatively be:
    1. more explicit communication with parents in Year 7 as to student's currently projected GCSE grade, together with explicitly labelled 'catch up' or 'intervention' programs started in Year 7. [That's certain not to say that exam results are the be all and end all, but at least use that metric to trigger some action].
    2. Greater recording (by teachers) of what has actually been taught, and achieved by students each year (so that teachers plan not just based on initial AfL, but by a knowledge of what the student has previously achieved (albeit for a short period of time). The next time the topic is taught, the student *must* at least exceed that level.
    3. Much more explicit focus on individual student weaknesses, rather than a continous emphasis on 'pushing forward onto higher level work'. Perhaps allocate 20 mins / week to 'self-study', specifically aimed at students focussing on their own weakness. Ideally this would be 'extra' curriculum time, but if we want to keep the implementation costs to essentially zero, then take this 20 mins off normal Maths teaching time and have only 5 mins of the 20 mins formally supervised by Maths teachers. The rest supervised by non-teaching / supervisor staff. This would re-enforce the 'self study' emphasis.
    Interestingly, all of them are well within the control of individual schools, and none require massive investment or change in cultural attitude towards Maths (a longer term goal).
    I'm a fan of great teaching methods, making greater use of ICT etc. etc, but it's the above initiative that I feel could have the easiest, most significant impact on student achievement.
    But I'm nowhere near as widely experienced as many of you, so what's your more informed view?
    MMT

     
  2. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Everyone wants to 'improve achievement' in Maths, and there's a plethora of ideas & initiatives as to how to do so.
    What are the top things you believe could be quickly done to in order to achieve a sustainable, solid, and practical improvement in achievement up to KS4?

    Mine would tentatively be:
    1. more explicit communication with parents in Year 7 as to student's currently projected GCSE grade, together with explicitly labelled 'catch up' or 'intervention' programs started in Year 7. [That's certain not to say that exam results are the be all and end all, but at least use that metric to trigger some action].
    2. Greater recording (by teachers) of what has actually been taught, and achieved by students each year (so that teachers plan not just based on initial AfL, but by a knowledge of what the student has previously achieved (albeit for a short period of time). The next time the topic is taught, the student *must* at least exceed that level.
    3. Much more explicit focus on individual student weaknesses, rather than a continous emphasis on 'pushing forward onto higher level work'. Perhaps allocate 20 mins / week to 'self-study', specifically aimed at students focussing on their own weakness. Ideally this would be 'extra' curriculum time, but if we want to keep the implementation costs to essentially zero, then take this 20 mins off normal Maths teaching time and have only 5 mins of the 20 mins formally supervised by Maths teachers. The rest supervised by non-teaching / supervisor staff. This would re-enforce the 'self study' emphasis.
    Interestingly, all of them are well within the control of individual schools, and none require massive investment or change in cultural attitude towards Maths (a longer term goal).
    I'm a fan of great teaching methods, making greater use of ICT etc. etc, but it's the above initiative that I feel could have the easiest, most significant impact on student achievement.
    But I'm nowhere near as widely experienced as many of you, so what's your more informed view?
    MMT

     
  3. 1. good basic numeracy skills - underpins everything in Maths, so often "good pupils" who are able to "do the maths" are not keeping up with the pace of delivery, or make silly mistakes because of their numeracy
    2. improved monitoring and recording on an individual pupil basis, on a daily basis - this could be best achieved by technology
    3. pupils taking responsibility (along with teachers and parents) for their own education - adopting a positive attitude to learning and the education system
     
  4. Couldn't agree more. I left the UK two years ago to work in a school/culture in which students assume responsibility. They want to do well, and will take the steps in order to improve. It makes a HUGE difference.
     
  5. Where?
    Do most of your pupils have TVs, game consoles and computers in their bedrooms? Do they "play" outside or at least undertake outside activities?
    Our system is undermined by the simple fact that children are often left to their own devices at home rather than communicated with.
    Who hasn't seen a mother texting constantly whilst an infant basically pleads for her attention?
     
  6. Brambo... I'm in Latin America. The students I teach certainly have TVs, games consoles, laptops, cellphones, etc. But the key difference, to which you alluded, is that parents here actually like their children and want to spend time with them. The parents also, by and large, set a good example.
    I have been here two years now and I have never seen a mother ignore their infant to obsess over their text messages. Mind you I have also never seen a mother smack their child in the supermarket, or all the other horrible things I remember from the UK.
    It also has to be said that the education system in the country I work in is similar to that in the US: classwork, homework, tests, exams all count towards the final grade. This has its disadvantages, but it is a far better system, when applied appropriately, than in the UK.
     
  7. Personally, I've never understood the "need" to be in perpetual contact as some people seem to require. They are fixated by their mobile phones, texting constantly. It is like an addiction - maybe in a few years we'll accept it as another addiction?
    I was struck by a TV programme about the Philippines recently where there were often 3 to a bed in a maternity ward. Almost every mother was seen almost constantly texting on their phones rather than communicating with other women nearby.
    This phenomenon I call anti-social in nature.
    There is very little actually being said in these texts I'm sure and often they would be better said in person, yet the whole enterprise has duped women in particular into feeling the need to correspond constantly.
    In schools we see it in pupils that communicate less well...and young teachers are often as bad if no worse.
     
  8. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    agree, without thius the rest is a compelte waste of time. We can fill in and analyse as many data sheets as we like (or hate) but if the individual will not work to gain understanding it is all pointless.
    horses, water and drink
     
  9. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    I had hoped this would be a constructive thread, with constructive suggestions for actually how we might improve things but... :))

    In response to post 2 (Alex)...
    Your suggestion #2 ties quite well with my point #2, I feel.
    Your suggestions #1 and #3 are 'ambitious' (as in, probably overly ambitious IMO within 3 years). Whilst they are undoubtedly hugely desirable outcomes, I would have thought, how - in concrete terms - do you actually think they could be achieved? I repeatedly hear these as the 'goals' of what needs to change (and I share those goals myself) but I've yet to hear of any really decent, practical, credible plans to achieve them. But if you've some ideas...? :)
    MMT


     
  10. Constructive?
    I only need one thing.
    Better basics. Stop the idea that learning the basics to a good level is boring and turns off children. Make pupils learn their times tables and number bonds. Help them gain a strong understanding of fractions and how they relate to each other.
    The rest is gravy.
     
  11. OK, constructive...
    1.) Better training for primary teachers, and with their curriculum reduced, so that skills can be better consolidated and more time spent exploring and enjoying Math.
    2.) Better wages to attract more teachers into the profession, and then maybe we can get rid off the weaker teachers. I'm sorry, they exist.
    3.) A big national advertising campaign which says that people who struggle at Maths shouldn't be proud of the fact; and parents should be spreading positive attitudes towards Maths towards their offspring.
     
  12. lovely - if only -- but this is not something over which teachers or curriculum setters have the slightest control. it's like we all know behaviour would be amazingly imporved by an extra hours sleep and a decent breakfast...
    at primary level:
    1. what someone else said about reducing the basic curriculum, but i would add more do-it-yourself, check-it-yourself material available for top groups (who get very bored with both the standard curriculum as it is now, and with challenge maths as the usual alternative)
    2. if we must have y6 tests, judge schools on average results not % achieving level 4, which means kids who ain't gonna get level 4 being abandoned. if i were dictator i'd go for some grid of basic skills (same in english too) which kids have to be ticked off on, with some random audits of the ferocity of the irs- strictly on the honesty of the assessmant, not teaching skills etc
    3. and i know robyn will say this does happen, but i haven't seen it, and you secondary school teachers often say it hasn't happened by the time your pupils arrive in y7 - proper number bond and times tables learning - use all the games and tricks you like, but at some point, totally forbidding use of fingers. for times tables, going back to 'one seven is seven, two sevens are fouteen...' instead of counting/adding on '7, 14, 21.....'
     
  13. Three solutions

    1) Forget this crazy idea of jumping between topics; two weeks on area, two weeks on graphs then two weeks on fractions. Spend weeks teaching the same topics until they KNOW it.

    2) Primary maths should only be about number work, let them learn the four rules and fractions, decimals and percentages till death in primary school. Everything else can be taught later if they have those skills.

    3) Cut the rubbish out the curriculum which is too broad. Stick to the maths. Depth not breadth raises standards and means they'll actually understand a topic instead of having a vague intro into everything.
     
  14. Exactly what our glorious leader Michael Gove stated back in June 2011 (though in a slightly different way).
     
  15. rob12 - there is a trade off between getting the basics in and putting kids off out of sheer boredom
    and you do have to design a syllabus that works for those who can do maths and those who are damn good at it
    presumably you would like primary children to learn about money and time, to be able to measure the length of a line, have a good idea of the difference between a cm and a km
    and wouldn't it be a little odd to have 11yo's who don't know basic shapes, or what area and perimeter mean
    i think i'd rather cut out fractions other than basics and all percentages at basic-level primary - they are fiddly and confusing to kids who aren't naturally good at maths
     
  16. 1) More rote learning and repeated practice of skills - 50 questions on times tables, not 20 minutes of an IWB game.
    2) Keeping kids down a year if they fail to meet the required standard (across all subjects, ut most obviously Maths and English).
    3) Put Gove and Wilsh(aw? ere?) in a hole and fill it with concrete.
    .
    cyolba, tough on kids, tough on the causes of kids :)
     
  17. Therein lies one of the main problems. What is the best way to teach some topics? It is not enough for me, or anyone, to dismiss the idea of rote-learning, as tempting as it may be. This needs a national debate, a full discussion, not just the mandates from government we have had for at least as long as I have been teaching.
     
  18. it is a fact universally acknowledged that every primary year group has a child 4 -6" taller than the others but academically challenged - often dangerous from thoughtlessness even when no malice is involved.
    oh, it would be such fun for the year group below when they're kept back a year
     
  19. Hmmm... The system I work in does, in theory, keep students back if they fail the year. Mind you the system is designed so that students have plenty of warning that they might be in danger, and they also have an opportunity, through re-sits,to keep in the year they should be in. The system has many advantages, in particular that students work hard to progress; but if they can't progress then, by repeating the year, they have the chance to master the topics, rather than just move on, year-after-year.
    Mind you I don't think the system would work in the UK, simply because it would need a huge change of culture, and in the first few years large numbers of children would have to repeat the year. This would lead to either chaos, or the way the system is allegedly used in certain US cities, where students from a poorer background, will have lower standards applied to them, to avoid the students repeating the year.
    To address the point made about the tall child kept back a year... I know of a student, one of the few who has repeated the year, who repeated very early in their school career (early primary). She turned out to be one of those girls who matured far more quickly than those in her age category, and so really stuck out with students younger than her. This did cause some problems when she was younger, there's no denying that. If only we had a time-machine and could turn back time and see what would have become of the same girl if she had simply kept with her original year group and struggled academically year-after-year having never mastered the basics...We'll never know.
    Having experienced the UK system for many, many years, and now working in my current system, I far prefer where I am. But, as I said, I don't think it would work in the UK.
     
  20. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    I've never really understood our fixation with teaching children of the same age together. It's obviously nonsense. In our home ed group all the children played and learnt together in different groupings at different times depending on what we were doing and how it fitted with their abilities and interests. A fourteen year old girl might hook up with an eight year old boy to do some Maths but then do a hoop making activity with a fifteen year old girl. There were no expectations amongst them about who should do what or be good at what and consequently they all got on really well and were able to choose who to do different things with. It showed me that it's just not true that children need to be stuck with other children of a similar age. When I was a child all the children in the street played together, from age three to early teens, because there were only a few of us and we only had each other. It would make huge sense to group children according to ability and aptitude rather than age. It would be really hard to organise, of course, but would make massively more sense.
     

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