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What is the best way to teach Maths?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by mrjoemaths, Jul 18, 2019.

  1. mrjoemaths

    mrjoemaths New commenter

    I'm a current Year 2 teacher and am aware that this is a bit of a vague question. I've been working abroad for the past 5 years and have just come back to the UK to teach in the state system again. During my time away, I've read some amazing blogs, articles and listened to some wonderful podcasts about Maths, but I've been unable to access a 'Hub' and have had limited access to directed CPD. I was just wondering if any of you lovely people on here would be able to help me sort in my head what Maths at Primary should look like?

    Curriculum structure - I've heard loads of different ideas about this: Using blocks is best to ensure they master one skill before moving on, some schemes use a spiral curriculum approach, each new guest on the Craig Barton podcast seems to have a new way they structure the 'learning journey; of children. What do others in Primary do? I love a bit of the White Rose MTP myself, but have seen this criticised too!

    Lesson structure - 3 part lesson, 'ping pong', everyone working on the same problem. This is a massive point for me. What should a lesson look like? At the beginning of my personal 'mastery' journey, I made the mistake of thinking I could 'differentiate by depth' (please don't hate, I know now why this is wrong), then I tried getting all the children to do some fluency, followed by reasoning and problem solving. My issue is: if we all do the same task, some children fly through it and some need a lot more time on it. If I start dividing this up into different tasks and assigning children to tasks, I limit their potential learning. If I give the children a choice of challenge, then they choose an inappropriate challenge. What is working for people out there?

    Assessment - Pre assess, post assess, tracking children for interventions, assessing children before a unit of work in order to differentiate work or respond to the needs of the children. How much assessment are people doing? What form does this assessment take and what have you found to be most useful? I love a bit of diagnostic questions by Craig Barton, I like to use them as a 'hinge' question to check learning at the beginning of the lesson. What do other people use?

    Differentiation - Some research suggests that setting children based on ability is harmful for their self esteem, but I've just listened to a podcast with Craig Barton and Mark McCourt where Mark suggests homogenous groups are important for mastery. I've heard mastery being described as 'the benefits of 1:1 tutoring but with the whole class' - how do you assess where the children are at and meet the individual needs of each child, if the attainment gap is high? I don't like setting, but I understand why people go down this route. I've tried offering different challenge levels and letting children have some choice (or linking it to starter hinge questions eg if you found this question hard, choose this activity etc). It's not a perfect system though and I'd be keen to see what other people do in this aspect.

    Resources - do you create your own or do you go with a scheme? I'm assuming of course we all all using CPA resources throughout, I'm asking more about where we get the starters and problems from. Lots of people are talking about websites where you type in the objective and get differentiated sheets with a powerpoint starter. The resources seem quality, but is it that simple, or should we be making bespoke? What are people's views on this?

    Textbooks - Should we go with a scheme? I was taught at uni that textbooks were lazy and too rigid. Now research papers are telling me they are the bee's knees! What do you think?

    I'd be really keen to hear from anyone who has any experiences here or who may share my confusion about the seemingly opposite ideas floating around. Please do get in touch, I'd love to hear ideas on these and any other maths problems.
  2. Sally006

    Sally006 Occasional commenter

    Don’t over complicate it. Remember that a lot of maths difficulties stem from the basic fact that it goes to a level of intellectual abstraction too soon for most primary school children. Ignore the comparisons to Shanghai and Singapore- in most of those countries Maths is ALL they do. Even there the concept of Fractions isn’t even approached until Y4. White Rose has a lot of free resources available on this site and has really tried hard to address “concrete to pictorial to abstract”. However, our current Maths curriculum expects too much too soon.

    My son struggled through primary in maths, constantly felt a failure and emerged with damaged self esteem- nothing to do with his ability. Thankfully his high school have done a great job in restoring that self esteem. Some concepts his brain can now handle and it’s all falling into place now. We have a system that pigeonholes kids when they are far too young and actually this does massive damage.
    nick909 and Wotton like this.
  3. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    You will need to speak to the head of maths in your school and ask them.
    There is no point you blocking the curriculum if they are dead set against it.
    Similarly no point keeping to a three part lesson if they believe it is outdated and must not be used.
    Differentiation can be different work or different ways of approaching the same work...but your school will probably have a clear view of what they think.

    There is no 'best way' to teach maths.
    Do whatever works for the children in front of you within the constrains of what your school allows.

    Like @Sally006 says, Don't over complicate it.
  4. JessicaRabbit1

    JessicaRabbit1 Senior commenter

    In our school, differentiation in maths is the teacher - the amount of support /scaffolding given.
  5. mrjoemaths

    mrjoemaths New commenter

    Thank you very much for your replies everyone! I agree with the comment about not over complicating it.

    I’m actually the incoming head of maths. I will of course go with what my school want and what teachers are used to, I was just asking from a curiosity point of view. I know there is no point going against the grain if a school wants maths taught a certain way.

    I just get so interested in all the approaches out there and was wondering if there was an approach which would be statistically more successful than others. I suppose then, you would have to define what was meant by ‘successful’ - test results? Attitudes towards maths? Etc. It’s all a bit of a minefield. I’d love it if there was one agreed upon ideal to aim for!
  6. bravenhill123

    bravenhill123 New commenter

    When I took over the role of Maths lead, something drastic needed changing in shcool as attainment and progress data were at all time lows.
    I introduced Same Day Intervention, having seen it at a network meeting, and over the course of 2 years, have completely changed the fortunes and stature of maths in school. It is clearly the standout strength of the school now, and children's attitudes towards it have risen dramatically.
    May be worth looking into?

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