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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. I would like to see more students coming to me at A-level who've not just been taught to the GCSE exam (In the longer term I'd like to see the Higher tier GCSE become more of a challenge, eg basic calculus, logarithms, and modelling data with simple general equations so they can see the useful application of these topics). More algebra is needed to enable students to solve more complex problems. Surely teaching them beyond the syllabus is also going to have the effect that grades improve as they then find the GCSE exam easy? I disagree that it's primarily a numeracy issue - I still struggle with recalling my 7 and 8 times tables and I have a PhD in Maths. Numeracy is less relevant at higher levels than the ability to solve problems. Problem solving is also the point where students often get turned off - if they don't have the skill or algebra to solve a problem it can be incredibly frustrating. Equally, giving them too much information and not letting them get that sense of satisfaction at completing it, will also turn them off to maths. Problem solving is what makes students employable - not the numeracy.
  2. When we had a 3-tier system, the Higher level exam seemed a far better route to A level. There was more emphasis on algebra than in the current system. For instance, in the OCR Linear non-calc this year there was a questions intended (no doubt) to have the pupils create a pair of simultaneous equation, but was more easily solved by simple trial and error. In fact, a couple of teachers at my school barely recognised that it should be solved algebraically.
    At the same time, with the drive towards more pupils gaining A* to C in Maths, the old 3-tier system wasn't conducive to easy methods of improving results.
    IMHO we have yet to find a happy medium.
  3. Florapost - re arithmetic lessons
    Lose fractions at KS2 - how can they understand them until basic number work is in place (- ideally fractions shouldn't be taught till KS3) - this doesn't mean being able to recite x tables on one leg. I once had a yr 7 who appeared proud of this fact BUT he couldn't tell me 6x7 without going through the whole table from 1x7! teach them to find tables from a place they know. eg. if you know 5.7 is 35 ....6x7 must be 7 more. I spend almost half of my year with yr 7 maths classes teaching simple numeracy strategies like this.
    I plan in a numeracy lesson for each class (KS3 and KS4) once a fortnight where the focus is plain maths - no chanting, no gimmicks -no 3 part perfect lesson. Word questions, division, tables etc. whether they use a numberline, repeated addition/subtraction (ok let them use their fingers!) as long as the concept's there and embedded. To keep it moving I decide on the focus and have 3 activities/worksheets/investigations etc all linked to it. The students spend a set amount of time on each activity with 5 mins at start and finish for discussion. H/w is usually an extension - 'go find out' type of thing.
    My main thing to improve uk maths achievement would be to make KS2 assessment levels accurate - how many times have we seen a student arrive at secondary school with "I've got a level 5" only to assess and find they're actually a low level 4 - or worse. sorry, my personal bugbear!

  4. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    Actually I think I must that I disagree totally with this one. I would like the idea of division and ideas associated with and from division to better understood in KS2.
    Ideas about sharing and partitioning underpin all sorts of ideas later.
    What's wrong with chanting? I think there is a lack of rote learning.
  5. grumbleweed

    grumbleweed Lead commenter

    When I was maths coordinator (primary), what I noticed very quickly was that children didnt have a 'sense' of number, quantity, measures etc. Even apparently confident year 2s didnt really know that if you were looking for 93 on a number line 1-100, you would find it near the end....they would still start at 1 and move their finger along untl they found it. We seemed to move too quickly to 'doing sums' and not spend enough time experiencing quanity, measures etc (my background is EYFS).They dont seem to know what a kilo feels like or a metre looks like. They dont have a sense of understanding that 'that' answer just doesnt look right (such as when they get the decimal point in the wrong place)
    Also, children dont seem to be taught or encouraged to find patterns, often that come from playing... I remember well when in reception, the children knew that 6 children could use the playhouse, and they spent quite some time working out what combinations of boys/girls they could have...they saw a pattern. I also remember using a counting stick and a hundred square in reception and getting children to count on from any number, and it didnt take long for them to predict the answer when you add 10 to a number. It wasnt rote learning, but it did involve enough repetition for children to see relationships and patterns.(and I got into trouble at the time for daring to use a 100 sqaure in my reception class)
    I will never forget the 5 year old who told me during a discussion on tessellation, that circles dont tessellate beacuse they 'dont have ay corners'. A small group investigated further to see if this was true or not.
    Too much maths is taught, by just learning rules, but with no understanding. When I taught in Africa, my students used to say 'ah maths is just magic', to them, just a load of rules with no meaning.
    Finally, mathematical language often consists of words that have everyday meanings....difference; volume; take away; right; odd etc. Not enough attention is given outside of the fundation stage on the importance of language and its mathematical meaning.
    well thats my two penneth anyway.
  6. chanting is precisely what enables amoat all children to know what 6 x7 is without going through the lot - if you chant the whole table that is- too many ks2 kids are taught to learn 7 - 14 - 21 - 28 by adding, so of course they can't pull 6 x 7 out without faffing
    a child who has learned tables properly but can't pull out one line is a
    bit of an oddity - like an actor who can only declare that 'a rose by
    any other name would smell as sweet' by starting at 'romeo, romeo.....' - or even can't say their own middle name without starting at their first name

  7. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    my year 5 set 2 maths have thoroughly enjoyed (and object strongly when it does not take place) having a tables test every week. I have used tables tests that test a set table at a time (or two). e.g. started them on x5 and x6 50 questions in five minutes.
    once they achieved 100% they moved on to x6 and x7, then x7 &x8 and so on.
    Those who maxed out x12, I wrote out the equivalent divsion tables tests.
    50 division questions starting with x2,3,4,5, 10; then sets of harder until x up to 12 (but the equivalent division sums)
    Finally some are now doing 50 questions of mixed x and divides.
    I've never had the time etc to try this before through a whole year, but felt strongly that the division equivalent sums are often the missing link.
    Given the opportunity i would never not test the divisions alongside the multiplys in future. It has made a huge difference to their arithmetic skills and confidence.
    For instance I chose to do absolutely no division until we had done a term of tables practice and testing.
    As a result they carried out an investigation into recurring decimals, using only the bus stop method, with confidence and to many decimal places.
    their level progress has been well above that expected (no thanks for achieving that though as you would expect these days!)
  8. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    Agree about the importance of divisions as well as multiplicatiions when learning tables - I think a lot of parents (I hope not primary teachers) think the job's done when they can do the multiplications.

    On fractions, I think that getting unitary fractions in early is probably a very good thing, building up the link with division. My daughter is far from knowing her tables, but flips very easily between "a third of" and "how many threes in". If we can get that understanding of fractions in early, maybe it will be less of a struggle later on. But that doesn't mean I think doing four rules with all fractions in primary is a good idea - stick to ones they can do by thinking (how many thirds are there in a ninth? what's a half plus a quarter), and leave the rest for secondary, by which time they'll maybe have a better feel for them to start with.
  9. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    O dear me! I didn't say nothing but chanting in sequence. Like anything else it is a means to an end.
    And the point of chanting was to link 6 x 7 with 42 after sufficient repetitions.
    Those children have have to add are avoiding actually learning the tables, which is the whole point.
    I did put rote learning. What exactly, was your point?
  10. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    I too have recently come to believe that 'reverse times table' assessment is a key, missing step in the development of most children's numeracy skills. I searched the web and was amazed at how few resources were available to help teach or assess it (which itself implies it is a rarely-used technique). So concerned was I, that I wrote a little application intended to motivationally test reverse times tables - random questions asked/presented in a variety of ways and using different subsets of the basic times tables (to allow for differentiation).
    It's one of my shared TES resources at: http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Visually-attractive-Reverse-Times-Table-quiz-sheet-6234063/.
    Leave me some feedback on how/whether it addresses the issue and how it could be improved?

  11. ach - the joys of multiple quotes - i was agreeing with you, and challenging isitfridayyet - sorry it didn't come across like that


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