Many who have never had the occasion to discover more about mathematics consider it a dry and arid science. In reality, however, it is a science which demands the greatest imagination.
Tonight I have been working with newly appointed heads (within their first or second year) on the content of the new maths curriculum. One of the heads was a maths consultant and stood up to explain ‘conceptual’ maths and using resources to ensure that children ‘understand’ what they are learning.
It is always very inspiring to see other heads leading professional development – especially one, like I, who has only recently taken up headship. I have always believed that schools have not been using resources enough for maths and we take tangible learning aids away from children too early in their schooling careers. At my previous school, I was always campaigning for the KS2 teachers up to year 6 to have resources out for children to use to solve mathematical questions. In fact, when I did math observations (as the math coordinator) I would be looking for what resources the teacher made available to the children.
We are at a point, where with the implementation of the new curriculum, where we can really mould the curriculum to our school, making it fit with our school context and the pupils that we have. We have been discussing the use of schemes that we might use as well as thinking about how we would deliver math without a scheme.
The teachers have been used to using Abacus as a scheme, therefore, to take away their basis for math planning would be unfair, but if we were to do it, now would be the most sensible time. I suppose having a scheme gives your teachers a foundation on which they can build, so long as they don’t rely solely on the set plans that are given to them, but adapt them and tailor them for their class. It is always one of the pitfalls of using a scheme – the over-reliability or the tendency to just pull out a plan and use it, without first thinking through evaluations of previous lessons or considering where each pupil is in the set objectives.
We have also been researching Singapore Maths. If anyone has any experience of using it in their schools I would be extremely interested as to how it is being used and how it has been implemented across the school. Talking of Singapore Maths – the Bar Model was one of the concepts that was referred to this evening. We will be looking at it in more detail tomorrow morning, however I find it interesting that we are beginning to use a wide variety of methods that enable the learners to visualise mathematical concepts. This eventually allows the children to ‘understand’ what they are learning rather than just to ‘know’ what they are learning.
There is a very big difference between the two.