Why do we teach this? Why do we teach it in the way we do? Mathematics is the only way we have of expressing the fundamental principles of the universe; it is logic, it is rationality, it is using your mind to solve the biggest mysteries we know. Yet, we use maths every day in the most mundane ways, to handle money, predict weather or tell the time. At Bredon Hancock’s C of E First School, we want our children to experience the beauty and grandeur of maths alongside having a firm grasp of the fundamentals. We want them to enjoy mathematics and explore mathematical concepts so that they leave us just as confident tackling large problems as they are using their fundamentals. We believe that all children should be fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics. By exposing them to a variety of different core concepts that are frequently practised, we hope to develop foundations in their understanding on which the children can build. From this, more instrumental/procedural approach, the children can then build a conceptual understanding allowing them to draw rich links between these core concepts. To further reinforce these core concepts all children are exposed to problem solving (Twist it, Deepen it). This daily problem solving is designed to encourage perseverance with mathematical problems as well as foster core aspects of logic and reasoning that the children will be able to apply more widely to their learning and life. Alongside the core concepts and problem solving, the children’s ability to reason mathematically is fostered, with a particular emphasis on the use of mathematical vocabulary. This is done so that, children are able to express their thought process fully and allows them to develop arguments, justifications and proof. The use of mathematical language and core concepts is particularly relevant given the effect that COVID lockdowns have had on some of our children’s attainment. Subject specific language has been linked to closing the gap with disadvantaged and advantaged children (Purves 2019) as well as the implementation of individualised technology to support those core concepts (Outhwaite et. Al. 2017).
What do we teach? What does this look like? At Bredon Hancock’s Church of England First School, we structure our Mathematics around the White Rose curriculum from EYFS to Year 5. This is to ensure that the distinct domains of mathematics are covered in sufficient depth and clarity. The White Rose curriculum structures the learning within these domains so that knowledge, concepts and procedures are carefully sequenced over time to build skills and knowledge systematically. We also ensure that we use the most up to date White Rose curriculum, which is revised each year based on research and teacher feedback. However, we do not use the White Rose resources exclusively as we want to ensure that teachers remain able to adapt and alter the learning to fit the needs of their pupils. This agency allows teachers to draw on Nrich, NCETM, I See Reasoning/Problem Solving resources, and Classroom Secrets, in order to ensure that the needs of the children in their class are being met.
We use a three-step approach to teaching mathematics, based on the ideas of Steve Lomax and the Glow MATHSHUBS. At Bredon Hancock’s C of E First School this takes the form of Flashback, I do-we do-you do, Twist it, Deepen it and underpinning all Prove it. (Lomax 2020) This approach allows children rich opportunities to develop their fundamental knowledge while still providing variation in which they can build their fluency, reasoning and problem solving. We take our exploration of mathematics further with our Big Think lessons where each year group explores an open ended game or problem, giving them the chance to really dig deep with a problem exploring all possible outcomes. Additionally, this gives all of our learners the opportunity to generalise from their understandings of the core concepts taught that week, something that is vital to their understanding of mathematics more widely (Mason and Johnston-Wilder 2004). In order to inspire the children to see maths with awe and wonder we also celebrate days throughout the year that look at how maths can be used more widely both for fun, science and solving problems around the world. The days are: STEM Day – 8th November Number Day—3rd February PI Day – 14th March World Maths Day – 5th May International Astronomy Day – 15th May Each of these days celebrates a different aspect of how maths can influence the world and the individual as well as providing opportunities for the children to employ their maths skills practically. The above discussion can be summarised in the diagram below:
To support those children who have a specific difficulty with their mathematics we use the Number Stacks programme as an intervention. Number Stacks is perfect as a whole-school intervention to help address gaps in understanding for pupils in all primary year groups. With its Initial Assessments and Fluency Activities at the end of each video tutorial, it is easy to evidence progress as pupils work their way through the Key Skills. Why use Number Stacks? A clear maths support programme with easy to follow, staged activities moving from concrete resources to mental and written methods of calculation Covers over 69 Key Skills from EYFS to Year 6 - Click here to view the Number Stacks Key skills Easy to use - no expensive training required Video tutorials explain and demonstrate activities so no complicated instructions to read and saves teachers having to plan and explain activities to supporting adults Everything required is in the Resource Kit so no time wasted gathering equipment Initial Assessments to identify gaps in learning, combined with Fluency Activities at the end of each video, can be used to evidence progress Over 50 practical game ideas to help consolidate learning
What will this look like? By the time the children leave Bredon Hancock’s Church of England First School we aim for each of them to be confident in the application of their fundamental maths skills in a variety of situations. They should be able to leverage this understanding to solve problems both mathematical and logical and use this to reason effectively. They will be able to then present a justification, argument or proof using mathematical language. We also want our children to have an appreciation for Maths more widely and how it is applied to a variety of real life contexts both mundane and wondrous. With this, they can discover, nurture and share their gifts wherever they take them.