Maths in School
Mathematics at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School
Our aim is to equip all pupils with the skills and confidence to solve a range of problems through fluency with numbers and mathematical reasoning. Children are encouraged to see the mathematics that surrounds them every day and enjoy developing vital life skills in this subject.
At St Patrick’s Primary School we have been on a journey over several years in order to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics. There are several elements which have influenced improvements in attainment and these are best discussed in person with me during your visit. If you are taking a look around the school however, it may be useful for you to have a little advance notice of things you will see in lessons – things that may look different to other schools, or the way lessons/books looked a few years ago.
The three aims of the NC should be addressed every day (not just in the maths lesson) – Fluency – Reasoning – Problem Solving.
In Years 1-6 we have introduced split lessons. This was initially a trial in Y1 and Yr5 and was so successful; we’ve extended it gradually.
- Whole class together – we teach mathematics to whole classes and do not label children (this includes within the classroom). Lessons are planned based on formative assessment of what students already know and we include all children in learning mathematical concepts. At the planning stage, teachers consider what scaffolding may be required for children who may struggle to grasp concepts in the lesson and suitable challenge questions for those who may grasp the concepts rapidly. Decisions are not made about who these children may be prior to the lesson.
- Longer and but deeper – in order to address the aims of the NC, our long/medium term plans have been adjusted to allow longer on topics. Each lesson focus is on one key conceptual idea and connections are made across mathematical topics. To outsiders it may appear that the pace of the lesson is slower, but progress and understanding is enhanced. Our assessment procedures recognise that the aims of the curriculum cannot be assessed through coverage (ticking many objectives off a list) but through depth within a topic.
- Key learning points are identified during planning (collaboratively in year groups) and a clear journey through the maths should be shown on Smartboard files (also reflected on working walls). Teachers do not produce separate paper plans for lessons as the flipchart clearly shows the plan for each lesson and we prefer teachers to spend time on collaborative lesson creation rather than creating paper plans for monitoring purposes.
Questions will probe pupil understanding throughout and responses are expected in full sentences, using precise mathematical vocabulary.
- ‘Tricky bits’ are identified during the planning process and children will be supported through these
- Fluency – We recognise that ‘fluency’ is not just about remembering facts and develop all aspects of fluency through lessons, this is clear to see when looking at Smartboard files. Fluency with basic facts - there is a whole school focus on developing an instant recall of key facts, such as number bonds, times tables and unit + unit addition facts. Regular homework, Numbergym activities and parent workshops support this.
- Exploration - instead of ‘Let me teach you…’ as a starting point, children are encouraged to explore a problem themselves to see what they already know. At the beginning of each lesson this exploration is referred to as the ‘anchor task’. Lesson objectives are not shared with the children at the beginning of the lesson, because we want the children to reason for themselves. At some point from the middle or even at the end of the lesson, the children will be asked what they’ve been learning that day. Children will write a ‘LO’ in their books, but this may not look like a NC learning objective (visitors wanting to see these should refer to the lesson Smartboard files).
- Develop reasoning and deep understanding (contexts and representations of mathematics) – problems are usually set in real life contexts - carefully chosen representations (manipulatives and images) are used by all to explore concepts. These representations will appear in books as children show their understanding, rather than answers to a series of calculations. The use of practical resources, pictorial representations and recording takes place in every lesson (the CPA approach).
- Structuring - the teacher will organise the findings of the exploration, compare/contrast strategies and guide toward the most efficient strategy (or the one being learnt that day).
- Step by step approach – journey through the mathematics (these steps may appear small, especially at the beginning of a lesson, there are points when suddenly a jump appears to have been made, or an extra challenge appears – this is normal). The Smartboard files clearly show this step by step approach – we recommend you look through a flipchart with a teacher/maths leader to discuss this.
Questions to challenge thinking – teachers use questioning throughout every lesson to check understanding – a variety of questions are used, but you will hear the same ones being repeated; How do you know? Can you prove it? Are you sure? Is that right? ‘What’s the value? What’s the same/different about? Can you explain that? What does your partner think? Can you imagine? Listen out for more common questions you hear. Questions are also used to challenge children who have grasped the concept. Children are expected to listen to each other’s responses and may be asked to explain someone else’s ideas in their own words, or if they agree/disagree etc.
NB: Due to the episodic style of the lessons with frequent questioning, lessons may appear to move slower than in the past. There will be more talking and less recording in books.
The recording that does take place however, shows greater depth of understanding and intelligent practice. We do not want children to attempt independent recording until we believe they are secure with the concept. We do not want them to practise errors, therefore teachers may decide to have a guided group working with them in a lesson (the TA may circulate).
- Discussion and feedback – pupils have opportunities to talk to their partners and explain/clarify their thinking throughout the lesson, but are expected to complete written work independently (unless working in a guided group with the teacher).
- Journal - recording the learning – not just pages of similar calculations – in Y1 – Y6 maths journals are used. Journals were introduced into Y5 last year and allows the children to reflect on their learning. They can also be used to record methods used. We are developing the use of journals and regularly compare our journals with those from other schools on the Mastery Specialist Programme.
- Reflecting - this may be linked to use of the textbook – images on the IWB may be from the textbooks – you are unlikely to see textbooks in use in the classroom, except with a guided group, but they are used by teachers during the planning and preparation stages.
- Practising - not drill and practice but practice characterised by variation – in year groups using Maths No Problem, this is done in the workbooks, in other year groups it will be recorded in maths books, supported by detailed medium term plans & ongoing CPD.
- Rapid intervention (same day catch up) – in mathematics new learning is built upon previous understanding, so in order for learning to progress and to keep the class together pupils need to be supported to keep up and areas of difficulty must be dealt with as and when they occur. We do this through same day interventions of 20 minutes in the afternoon (whilst others are completing independent work). In addition, we still run intervention sessions outside of the maths lesson for some targeted children.
- Marking – the marking policy for mathematics acknowledges the different style of teaching in maths, and follows the NCETM guidelines published April 2016. The policy requires that learning is ticked and a comment is only made if/when a teacher feels this is necessary to move learning forward. Highlighting some of the work shows if the learning objective has been achieved. Extension tasks may appear for individual children in their books, these may be marked, FIX IT, REVISIT IT and PUSH IT. The most valuable feedback is given during a lesson. Children are encouraged to use green pens for self/peer assessment.
- SEN pupils – may be supported by additional adults, different resources, differentiated activities. They will also complete additional activities outside of the mathematics lesson
Many thanks for showing an interest in our mathematics teaching, we do hope you find your visit useful and welcome any feedback.