Tag Archives: education

#MathsRocks Round Up! 05/02/18

Welcome again to another #MathsRocks Round Up – where you can find useful ideas for teaching Primary Maths! Let’s jump straight in – and guess what, one more week until another break. You can do it!

1. Books to inspire Maths

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Recently on #PrimaryRocks there was a wonderful focus on Maths. It was a magical, mathematical evening! One of the questions was a great one – what books do teachers use to inspire and generate discussion on Maths? It was incredible but a little overwhelming to see the replies flowing in. Fortunately @Mister_Hubbard who led the discussion has collected the suggestions and they can be found here on an editable document – link here

2. Visual fraction games

Spring term is a wonderful time of year where Fractions are often on the agenda for a number of year groups. The question is – how do we make fractions engaging, purposeful and give the children a wide variety of models to interact with? @MissSDoherty shared a wonderful, eye-catching activity where children had to sort a variety of 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4 models as a group. This allows them to see how one example of a 1/3 can look different to another but still indicate a 1/3 also!3

In a similar vein to this, at our school (@Mroberts90Matt) to round off our Fractions unit in Year 6, we created a fraction game. This game was based on the @nrichmaths activity found here: https://nrich.maths.org/8283

The game requires children to understand different ways of representing fractions and matching equivalent proportions. They were then able to go to various Year 3 and 4 classes to have to explain and teach how to play this game. Not only does this requite a secure grasp of equivalent fractions but also explain it to younger children.

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3. Curriculum Mapping Tools (nRich and NCETM)

You may or may not already know about this incredibly useful tool but nonetheless it is absolutely worth a share!

@goulds_mr drew attention to the @nrichmaths one first on #MathsRocks but whilst we mention it we may as well draw attention to the @NCETM version also. @nrichmaths and @NCETM are absolute gifts to any Primary Maths teacher. They take the concepts and provide deeper problem solving challenges which will stretch and challenge all children of any ability. However, the difficulty in using these sites is that it can sometimes be a challenge finding the right activity. These guides that nRich and NCETM provide solve that issue, allowing teachers to pinpoint the activities they need.

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The links to the interactive pages can be found here:

nRich: https://nrich.maths.org/12662

NCETM: https://www.ncetm.org.uk/resources/41211

I really encourage you to save these documents/links as they will save many hours of your time. Have a great (final for most of you before a well-deserved week off) week! And remember – #MathsRocks!

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#MathsRocks Round Up 22/01/18

Already we are flying through January! Some more wonderful Maths resources and  ideas have been shared again and I can’t wait to direct you to them!

1. Teaching Mathematical Problem Solving

Bit of a longer read here so set a little time aside but I felt this was worth the share and a read. @thatboycanteach exemplifying  guidance on teaching mathematical problem solving with a problem on Christmas trees (it was festively relevant when he posted it…). This article (click here) breaks down the process of problem solving and how this can be seen in the class. Problem solving can often be seen as

2. Corbettmaths Videos and Worksheets

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@RosemaryBurke pointed this one out for me. It is an excellent site created by @Corbettmaths. It breaks the curriculum down into topics listed in alphabetical order. Not only does it give a set of practice questions which impressively offer a variety of ways to apply the concept, but then gives a ‘textbook exercise’ which gives a large number of questions which learners can sink their teeth into and again have a variety of ways to apply the concept. If this wasn’t enough there is an instructional video with each topic which explains the maths visually and can be used in lessons. The best way you can see how this will be useful will be just to click this link and have a look – it is excellent! I will be sharing this with my staff and I encourage you to do the same!

3. Presentation Display

As we all know, presentation in Maths is very important to us Maths teachers. The reason for this…well obviously in case someone else comes to look at our Maths books. To be fair though, poor presentation in Maths learning can lead to some errors being made so all the “one number per square” phrases can be very important. @_MissieBee shared a wonderful display which reminds her children about how work should be presented (not only in Maths but in English also so this has double use). A quick visual reminder can help you reinforce the expectations to the class and serves as a useful tool to ensure you remember to reinforce it also!

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That’s your lot for this week – remember to share on the #MathsRocks thread to share excellent Maths ideas!

#MathsRocks Round Up! 08/01/18

Wasn’t the most intelligent idea to try starting a #MathsRocks Round Up routine before Christmas holidays but here we are – the first Monday back for some, a few days in for others – and we have a new round up of Maths ideas and resources for you to peruse. Again, any ideas or resources you have for Primary Maths please use the #MathsRocks thread to share it and it may feature in the next fortnightly(ish) round up!

1. Quick practical activity

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First up is a quick activity shared by @MissSDoherty a little while ago which is a great activity for KS2 in particular. It’s especially useful with Year 6 beginning Algebra in the next few weeks if other Y6 teachers are following the new @WhiteRoseMaths scheme of work. Only numbers 0-12 may be used. The rest is up to you/your class to work out!

2. Setting for Maths Issues

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This topic has been at the forefront of my mind for the past few months as I have taken on the role of Maths Lead in my school. We currently are setting in year groups for Maths but I am becoming more and more against this practice. @MaryMyatt summaries my concerns brilliantly in this thought-provoking article. A must-read for all those responsible for teaching and learning of Maths in their school and the best way to proceed in considering how to provide access to the Maths curriculum for all children. Follow the link below:

https://t.co/9KblHzgzjD

3. Super Resource – MathsBot

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For the final entry this week I went with a resource which hasn’t been necessarily mentioned on #MathsRocks (yet!) but it’s a website which EVERY teacher of Maths should have in their weaponry. Mathsbot is a Maths-specific site where you will find many things from manipulatives, worksheets, question generators, starters and tools. I really could spend a lot of time and I may dedicate a Mathsbot-specific blog post in future but I really just suggest you go NOW to the site Mathsbot and follow @StudyMaths to be given a lot of quick tools and visuals for the teaching of Maths. Dienes blocks, bar models, counters, counting stick, differentiated questions, worksheet generator, number of the day, fraction wall, sieve of Eratosthenes and much, much more! Go now and enhance your practice!

Please keep following and sharing to #MathsRocks for more Primary Maths gems!

#Nurture1718 by @Mroberts90Matt

2017 has been a great year! It has represented a number of developments for me in many areas and seeing the usual #Nuture posts has caused me to try and reflect over the year. So without further ado – here is 2017:

Family:

It’s been quite a routine year for my family. There have been very difficult moments with health scares and other things but we’re all here ready for a New Year. Our two children will become 6 and 4 – with our oldest beginning Year 2 at school! Time is certainly moving very fast and I’m hoping to make the most of it! We have made a tentative plan to travel to Disneyland in 2020 so we’re hopeful to create many exciting memories in the time that we have together. Birthday parties, trip to Chessington, Legoland and other things have made this year one to look back on.

NPQML:

So in terms of school there have been a number of great developments which I’m very pleased about. In the year I ended my 3rd year of teaching I have completed the work for my NPQML and will receive the result in around 13 days! There was something extremely satisfying in creating a whole-school development project, leading the educational change, trying to make it effective, long-lasting change and creating a 20 page pdf about it. Looking at the work that has gone into it, I feel a good sense of pride in the fact I’ve played some part in providing some change hopefully for the better at my school. The project was focused on developing an approach based on mathematical talk and vocabulary across the school and I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues.

Maths Lead:

This was the year that I was also given a new opportunity within my school. I was previously the PE and Sports Lead and we had great and exciting things happen in the school. It’s ironic actually because when I was originally asked to be the PE Lead I wasn’t sure at first. It was never something I had considered. However, I was asked to move to be the Maths Lead in the school and pass the PE Lead on and I was extremely excited (but a little sad to see the PE go). However, since it’s begun I’ve really enjoyed it. There’s been a lot of opportunities for development from it and I’m excited with a few ideas that we’ve had in place – including using Times Tables Rock Stars and considering how to include a mastery approach to teaching and learning in Maths looking at Shanghai and Singapore models.

NCETM PD Lead:

On top of the Maths Lead, a potential opportunity came up from the local Maths Hubs – to become a Professional Development Lead. It was promoted early November from the NCETM and Maths Hubs and I was really interested but thought I wouldn’t be in the right position to apply. It requires you being sponsored by a Maths Hub and it allows you to be accredited to lead professional development courses. I was encouraged to apply by my Head and my previous KS Lead…and I got it! This was a big highlight in December to find out and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes!

Assistant Head Interview:

This was a very interesting experience! In our school I applied for an AHT position and didn’t get it. Despite this, I was grateful for it! It was useful for the future and I received great feedback. It has given me a huge confidence boost for future opportunities.

Exercise:

In July I began using the gym…and I still am. Well, I say the gym – my parents have a garage which they’ve converted with a treadmill, exercise bike and weight benchpress (and a TV and portable fridge)! On top of this,  they live about a 2 minute drive away! I’m managing to get out twice a week and work at it so I’m feeling very good. I have to say I’ve noticed a difference in my health levels and resistance to illnesses so will hope to keep that going.

So now is the time to look into the New Year – as I have successfully been able to keep at tweeting and blogging for a whole year now I’m hoping that I will now be able to look back at this in 12 months time and see how I’ve managed to achieve things this year in 2018:

Family:

This next year with the family I hope to spend even more quality time with my family. The areas to improve on are the days where there isn’t anything particularly happening and the day slips away – I want to get out to the park more and such things like that.

Next Step…:

This is a bit of an unknown for me. Originally I wanted to try and be in a Senior Leadership position in September and I do think I still would like that. The ideal scenario is that I will be able to attain a position in my current school but of course that would require other things to happen. However, with my new Maths Lead position and the exciting opportunity of taking on the PD Lead Accreditation I might be happy to continue working on this a little more but then as well – Year 6 or not? I think I would definitely like to step away from Year 6 as it’s the only year I’ve known for 4 years now…I guess I’ll have a clearer picture in April time…

NCETM PD Lead Begins!:

Mentioned this already so won’t go into a lot of detail but I am very interested to see how this will go!

Reading:

So, I am a little ashamed to say this but since I began teaching in 2014 I think I have read…1 book maybe? Not even sure as I sit here!! I know I will not be the only one but I want to get into reading more. So, 6 books for Christmas and I’m ready to go – I’m determined to start anew. My birthday is in April and (whilst I know only 6 books in 3 and a bit months isn’t necessarily impressive) I’m hoping to get some more then! Already read ‘Who Let the Gods Out?’ so a great start!

Films:

Well, the year ended with the epic ‘The Last Jedi’ and a surprisingly very enjoyable ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ and I’m looking forward to 2018’s offering of films. ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, ‘Incredibles 2’, ‘Black Panther’, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, ”Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’, ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald’, ‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’…even Hotel Transylvania 3! Lots to look forward to!

Journal:

I have always tried to start a meaningful journal – not necessarily based on school matters but general. The most difficult thing I always found to keep it going was having to write by hand at night and keeping it interesting to read back. I found a brilliant app called ‘365 Journals’ which gives a simple question a day and I can use the ‘Speech-to-Text’ function on my phone to input it in! Easy! 🙂

Exercise:

Very simply – keep this going. And as it’s easily accessible, private and I get occasional treats from my parents on my way through (and a wonderful power shower) – I’m likely to!

2018 – here I come!

#MathsRocks Round Up! 18/12/17

In the past few weeks I have resumed my attempt to have a dedicated Primary Maths platform on Twitter. I have a passion for Maths in the primary sector and it was mentioned by @etaknipsa that there should be a #MathsRocks group where Primary Maths can be promoted. Having set something like this up in June but then losing track of it with events at the time, I took the prompt to resume this idea. The response has been much better and gives me great hope for what can be shared over time.

In fact, the suggestions, ideas and advice given by the teachers on Twitter so far have gotten me really enthused. I have learnt some useful things myself already and so #MathsRocks is becoming almost a selfish venture where, if anything else, I will learn a lot from doing it!

One thought I’ve had is to share a brief overview of a handful of the best things that have popped up on the thread every couple of weeks or so. Hopefully then we can make Maths rock more! So onto this week’s edition of #MathsRocks Roundup!

1. Great Maths Display

@crisp_aholic posted this a couple of weeks ago and I loved it! It allows children of all abilities to have an accessible stimulus to consider how many ways just one number can be investigated. You can also see some challenges are more challenging than others to enable deeper thinking for those children who need stretching. As well as this, you can see a space at the bottom for entries to be posted which is very easy for the children for submit at any time. And finally (one of my favourite features of this) it looks very easy to manage, maintain and vary! Simple, effective idea for a space in your room.

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2. Manipulative Pies

It’s difficult to pick a favourite idea out of #MathsRocks looking over the past two weeks but this is certainly up there! @Rosemarycalm began the discussion about attempting pie chart construction at the end of this term. I have always struggled to get this concept effectively across to the children so I wondered how best to introduce and deepen the understanding of pie charts. There was some ideas shared and @Elsie2110 shared this nugget:

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She suggested created bar charts out of multilink cubes and then using these on a string to create a circle. What you get is then a proportionally accurate pie chart! Whilst it does not assist in the children drawing the sectors accurately themselves, it does assist hugely in their understanding of where these sectors come from and what they should represent. This is a great introduction into the concept and something I will certainly be incorporating in my lessons this year.

3. Maths Tricks or Maths Traps?

One of the greatest disservices we can give to children in their Maths learning is teaching them methods without having conceptual understanding. “Borrow the 1”, “divide by the bottom, times by the top”, “multiply the denominator by the whole number”, “move the digits 1 place to the left”, “add the numerators only” and the list could go on and on. All of these are perfectly valid and do work – but when a question comes requiring them to have conceptual understanding rather than just procedural fluency then they will fall into a trap. Often, the questions given the children in  test situations or other settings are designed to either get them to think about adjusting their method or fall into a trap. I shared @thatboycanteach’s article on @thirdspacetweet on #MathsRocks as to why these tricks can be detrimental to children’s core understanding of Maths. Follow the link here – bit.ly/2nznjG2

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Well, that’s your lot! Look out for more great Maths discussion on #MathsRocks and look at the #MathsRocks profile for a pinned post with a link to a Google Form where you can post suggested discussion topics. Who knows, you may see a #MathsRocks chat in future!

Behaviour – Shifting the Paradigm in my Classroom by @Mroberts90Matt

Behaviour – Shifting the Paradigm in my Classroom

Since beginning teaching in 2014, I have always considered myself to be a fairly positive teacher. I definitely feel that working with children, helping them to understand the reason behind choices in the classroom and empowering them to take responsibility for their actions. Then the last academic year happened and I was confronted with the most challenging class I had encountered…

At first I felt I had guided the more challenging members in my class to make good choices. Things were positive, and then low-level disruption crept in more and more. Positive mentoring and feedback followed and no change. As such, I began to take action in a more negative manner. Sanctions and discipline in line with the school behaviour management system followed. However, the problem that began was not issuing sanctions – they are an important part of any school behaviour management system – but rather in my mentality.

The Trap

As days turned into weeks of dealing with consistent incidents outside my classroom and then some appearing in my classroom, I subconsciously began to take a more negative stance. My thinking behind this was to supress any poor behaviour that could take place. External influences such as the upcoming SATs, imminent Ofsted inspection and the most responsibility I had taken on thus far (leading the middle leadership team, PE and Sport Coordinator, Maths Lead Team and completing an NPQML whole school project) meant that I felt less and less patience for the children that I was ultimately working myself to the bone so that they could make progress in their education. I was developing a class that responded instantly to threat of sanction for short-term engagement rather than a class who were creating a love for learning and who responded because they wanted to do well.

Of course, I did not want this. However, the day-to-day flow of teaching and pressure in many areas created this environment and mindset.

The Escape

As things were developing in this negative culture, I found myself following the thread of #PrimaryRocksLive and the first keynote speaker was @pivotalpaul (or Paul Dix in the non-virtual world). I wasn’t there in person however the EduTwitterverse exploded with quotes from his comments. One thing in particular stood out to me – we should not praise poor behaviour. Obvious right? However, he made this point which was very poignant for me at the time – why do teachers insist on writing the names of the children who make the wrong choices on the board? Why not write the children’s names on who make the right choices? Reading this was almost like a revelation. I had fallen into the practice of routinely writing names on the board in an attempt to visualise to the children the wrong choices they were making – but ultimately all that was doing was giving them promotion to their actions.

Another major factor on this path back to positivity was a twilight given by @ArtOfBrillAndyW (Andy Whitaker – The Art of Being Brilliant). This motivational speaker really eneergised and enthused the staff with positivity and the mindset that we can aim to be our top 2% and ways to overcome challenges to that positive outlook. When we can maintain that positive outlook that positivity will leak into our teaching into our classroom, into the children we teach.

The Change

So, what did I do? From the following Monday the usual space where I wrote perpetrators’ names was changed to our #BestSeatsintheHouse space (inspired by Ant and Dec’s SNT and @chrisdyson and the wonderful work at Parklands Primary School, Leeds). I moved away from jumping straight to negative reinforcement to try and subdue behaviour problems but tried to overload the class with a better mindset. Did it work completely? No. No matter how much of a positive approach you take in teaching it would be foolish to expect there to be no behaviour problems. However, slowly but surely things started to improve.

 

After this reflection I have learnt very important lessons:

Positivity trumps negativity – every time

If anyone can come and prove to me that a negative, suppressing approach to behaviour has a better impact on a child’s ability to consider their own behaviour then I would readily receive it. However, I am yet to find a circumstance where that is the case.

What you promote in the classroom is what you’ll receive

If you consistently are on the lookout for poor behaviour and that is the commentary in your teaching (e.g. I am looking to see who needs to receive (insert sanction), whoever is talking will…, make sure you are not making the wrong choice) then that will probably be what you find. If you consistently promote good choices (e.g. proximinal praise, I am noticing a lot of good choices being made… and do on) then that will be found more often. Again, nothing is fool proof but it certainly has an impact.

 Positive and promotional approaches must be in place early on to be effective

I found that as we approached the end of the school year whilst I had certainly turned things around in my classroom, things were probably not as positive as they could have been. And this leads to the most difficult lesson – positivity must be persistent. Even in the cold, dark, wet months of November to February. Carry optimistic approaches from October through to March and things will be more positive. It will be difficult to maintain but well worth it!

Observing Shanghai Teaching by @Mroberts90Matt

Since becoming Maths Coordinator, I’ve taken the opportunity to align our school with our local Maths Hub. I feel this is a valuable link as not only does it mean we can learn from other school’s and their good practice but we are given the chance to observe and learn about current advances in Maths education.

 

Two of these unique experiences have taken place in the past couple of weeks. One was an opportunity to observe a lesson from an educator from Shanghai. This was an incredible experience.  Shanghai is one of the top performers in Mathematics according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and I was fascinated to see what all the fuss was about!

Me and my colleague entered the school hall and found around 70 chairs set out for teachers to observe and sets of tables set out in a classroom layout. This surprised me already. I had heard of lesson studies and observation opportunities like this but had never seen one. I was very intrigued to see how this would work. As the lesson commenced there were clear differences between this approach and the usual starter-main-plenary approach that we have become used to in the UK, with plenty of differentiation and limited teacher-talk. This is what I noticed:

1)    Use of language and vocabulary
I was particularly pleased to notice this straight away. The Shanghai teacher repeated the key mathematical vocabulary and sentence structures throughout the lesson. Whenever a question was asked, the children were always expected to answer in full sentences and in clear response. The class that I was observing were trained in this style of instruction for almost 4 years so they were very adept at this. However, it does not necessarily take that long to implement. I mentioned I was pleased because we have begun to implement the same value of mathematical talk and vocabulary in our school using our TalkMaths approach. It also encourages staff to use stem sentences, similar to the Shanghai lesson that I saw. Interestingly, the teacher deliberately chose a higher attaining pupil to model the correct use of vocabulary in full sentences. This provided a good role model and other pupils then followed suit. This practice therefore requires a mixed ability class. The practice of setting or streaming Maths classes would frustrate the efficacy of this approach.

2)     Conceptual Understanding 
I was watching a lesson where the objective was to compare fractions with the same numerator to a class of Year 5 children. The progression from previous lessons was laid out for us by the Shanghai teacher and they had been using a fraction wall to enable the children to work through the concepts step by step.

Fractions

Although the children did not move completely into the abstract without the pictorial representation in the majority, they were beginning to solve problems at the end of the lesson without the pictorial aid.

3)     Focus on the objective
In this lesson I observed the objective was to compare fractions with the same numerator. The children had previously learnt about comparing fractions with different denominators but, after a brief review of that objective at the beginning, this wasn’t mentioned again. This was not the only thing though that showed a complete focus on the learning objective. The teacher planned a game at the end where the children had to create the largest fraction when given a numerator. For example, they were given the numerator ‘5’ and had to make the largest fraction. Now, me and my competitive self, wondered how long it would be before some clever child realised all they had to do was write the number ‘1’ as the denominator and win every time. However, one child tried ‘4’ and the teacher simply addressed this by requesting  the denominator be greater than or equal to the numerator to create a proper fraction. Evidently this year group had not yet dealt with improper fractions and they were required to focus on the objective at hand. If any of my children had done this I would have applauded them and said they had indeed found the larger fraction. This made me question which was the better approach.
However, on reflection, I realised the genius behind staying on the objective. If the Shanghai teacher had gone in a different direction to explain the improper fraction concept then some children would have become confused and question their understanding of the concept at hand.

4)     Differentiation and Teacher Talk
This was a stark difference, noticeable instantly as the lesson progressed. The teacher spoke to the class, modelling language and demonstrating concept knowledge, for the majority of the lesson. This is where external watchdogs and validators such as Ofsted have had a real influence on teaching practice. Around 10 years ago it wouldn’t be uncommon to see, where teaching had been graded as less than outstanding, that there may have been too much talk by the teacher. This led to a wave of dislike over too much teacher talk in internal observations and a culture of no teacher talk ensued for many years. However, in the past few years Ofsted have shifted and have stated that they will favour no particular teaching style, so long as there is progress in the lesson. As such, this means that teaching approaches, such as Shanghai Maths, are now becoming more accepted in the classroom.

The other noticeable difference was the distinct lack of differentiation. All children in the class engaged, all children in the class aimed for the same goal and all children in the class completed the same activities. This again would be condemned by the previous Ofsted regimes. It still would be frowned upon in most schools. However, if the approach is to work this is clear, all must take part in the same language and same learning opportunities. From the staff that I spoke to who had taken this approach on board at the school this observation took place, they felt very strongly that the Shanghai approach had contributed to the gap between the lower ability and the higher ability reducing, whilst still pushing on the higher ability children. This was a question that came up, how are the gifted and talented stretched and challenged if they encounter the same challenges as their peers. There were many responses: peer coaching, finding more methods to solve the problems, creating their own similar problems and explaining their methods in numerous ways.

Next Step

For me, the week later I was able to network with a number of schools that had implemented the Singapore Maths approach to their schools through the ‘Maths – No Problem!’ textbook and principles. These principles of the Singapore Maths I found to be very similar to Shanghai – teacher-led, no differentiation, subject knowledge focused, focus on small steps and specific learning objectives. And of course, the ‘Maths – No Problem!’ textbook is the only textbook approved by the DfE. All of this has definitely caught my interest…

As Maths Lead my focus is the well-being of Maths at the school and so far I see two issues to be addressed: subject knowledge of staff and the workload on our staff to plan sessions. We follow the White Rose scheme which breaks down the content well and has good questions to use with the children but not really enough activities to deepen understanding fully. As such, staff are required to look in different places such as nRich, NCETM and other sites. These are sufficient however it is a huge drain on staff time when they could be sharpening up subject knowledge on what they will be teaching instead.

There is a long way to go but all of this is food for thought for the weeks, months and years to come…

Times Tables Rock Stars by @Mroberts90Matt

It’s been a few years now that a mandatory times tables assessment as been banded about. Snap general elections, changes in Education Secretaries and basically the fact that other more important things had to be sorted meant that this took a while to come into force. However, the time has come and we have an answer. From the 2019-2020 academic year, every Year 4 child across the country will undertake a mandatory, online assessment of their times tables.​​​​​​ Whether this is required or not is another debate – however I am personally pleased with the way in which the format and timing of the assessment was decided – namely through an open online consultation for education professionals. It’s a shame that just under a thousand teachers responded (if we want decision-makers in education to listen to teaching staff then we need to take the chance to have our voice heard) but it is still a positive step I feel.

One thing that this announcement has done for me as a new Maths Coordinator is take action – I suppose if that’s the case for others then the new times tables assessment may already be successful?…

Anyway, as a school we decided to improve our mastery of our children’s times tables by investing in Times Tables Rock Stars. And was it worth every penny! What I will aim to do here is explain how we have trialled this programme in my Year 6 class, how the school is buzzing about it and the impact we are already seeing from our two-prong approach:

Paper Challenges

One feature of TTRS is the worksheet challenges they offer. In the past our school would do times tables mental starters every now and then, followed by a main times tables challenge at the end of the week. These would take the form of times tables grids with randomised numbers. Older year groups would take on a big grid and the younger year groups some smaller ones. However, we wanted to integrate times tables challenges more throughout the week and drive more purpose into the challenges. Times Tables Rock Stars does this very effectively with a number of banks of challenges. Teachers can personalise these schedules of challenges to certain times tables, whether they do 3, 4 or 5 challenges a week and whether they include division.

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All challenges within these banks give the children three minutes to complete sixty questions. The children can then add up their scores and time over the entire week of challenges. This is where the magic really begins to happen…

There is a place on the website where you can fairly easily input this data onto the website. When each child’s score is put into the week (we do this on a Friday) the children can see their individual rock speed. They take great delight in trying to reach our target speed and trying to be the best class in the school (more on that in a minute). You can then see your classes progress on the website also:

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(Ignore week 5 – we have not yet added our fastest group’s time to the class average)

What we have done with this as a school is created a Weekly Times Tables Trophy and the class that does the best with their target speed wins this. This is calculated by the number of children who reach the target time for that class divided by the number of children. Of course, the target time is differentiated by year group and class as can be seen here:

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We have done this twice now and something very interesting has happened. Because the school challenge is far more fair as each class teacher is using their professional judgement to focus their times table challenges on what their class needs and the target speed is differentiated, the award is much more open. And who doesn’t love filling in a quick times tables challenge whilst listening to Living On a Prayer or We Built This City on Rock and Roll? 😉

However, this is not even the most exciting part of using Times Tables Rock Stars…

Online Challenges

On the website there are four engaging and exciting modes to play:

Festival – This mode allows all children across the world to play one minute challenges against each other with random times tables up to 12×12. This is the default mode that appears but must be used with care for younger children as it does include all times tables.
Studio – This is a single player mode that again includes all 12x tables. However, this is a particularly important mode. It allows you (once you’ve completed a minimum of 10 games) to set an online rock speed which you can compete against others in your school on a leaderboard to get the best rock speed. This really brings in a competitive edge to the online version and our children love looking at our class leaderboard in our room to see who’s moved up! You can even compare average rock speeds with other local schools! A must-use method!
Garage – Another vital mode. This is a single player mode where the children receive 10 coins for each correct answer (whereas the other modes reward a correct answer with only once coin). This encourages more children to try this mode which is important as it is the main mode where the teacher can set the times tables questioned. There are even 5 groups that you can put the children in and differentiate the questions that they will receive. This is what I would encourage most younger year groups to use before they have a firmer grasp on all times tables.
Rock Arena – Basically the same as the Garage but it is a multiplayer version for just the children in your class to compete against each other (with their differentiated tables). A good mode to use if you’re going online as a class.

We encourage our children across school to go on the website at home and we have purchased the app add-on which allows them to access it on our school iPads and most devices at home. We incentivise it using ‘Most Improved’ awards and ‘Highest Earner’ awards which are posted in each classroom and can be easily downloaded off the resource-rich website.

Impact

One half-term is usually too soon to note significant impacts on times table progress. However, two pieces of evidence seem to indicate with my two Year 6 groups that this two prong approach using Times Tables Rock Stars is already making a difference.

First, the percentage calculated in both our higher ability and lower ability maths sets has steadily increased each week. This is not a generalisation. I have recorded the percentage each week and (apart from one week right at the start for both groups) each group’s percentage of children reaching their target speed has increased steadily! Evidence that the paper challenges have had an impact in the Year 6 trial!

Secondly, within Year 6 there is a difference between the two classes. One class have a 0.75 quicker average rock speed than the other. This is might not sound like a lot but it is significant. Interestingly this gap has slightly increased over time. What is the difference between the two? The class with more minutes played online on Times Tables Rock Stars are the class with the fastest average speed which has steadily gained a faster speed than the other.

I would encourage all schools to seriously take this programme on. Not only will it help prepare their current Year 2s and future children for the new times tables assessments (which by the way will be typed online, which Times Tables Rock Stars will also prepare them for) but it will help the children gain a quicker ability on the recall of their times tables. Also, it is very affordably priced in a world where schools have to make more and more cuts.

Right – off I go to try and overtake that pesky Year 6 who has once again beaten my rock speed – this time with a 0.77 answers per second!

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Developing Deeper Understanding of Calculation Methods by @Mroberts90Matt

A word that seemed to be a buzz word when the new National Curriculum was published was ‘fluency’. The definition of fluent online is ‘smoothly graceful and effortless’. In looking at the aim in the National Curriculum, it seems to refer to bring able to understand why methods work in Maths (not just go through the motion of doing the method) and apply the method to appropriate questions and problems. So how do we develop Mathematical fluency in children? Do we give them a list of calculations? Or is there more required?
Recently our Year 6 began that wonderful journey of dividing by two digit numbers. Why doing this with an extra digit is such a great jump I’m not sure – maybe another focus for a future blog…
Anyway, as many Year 6 teachers will know – along with the teachers who introduce any formal methods of calculation, helping the children understand why they use these methods and the maths behind them is much harder than just getting the children to work on the mechanics of the calculation. Thus, scores and scores of children are taught the method without necessarily understanding the maths behind them. Since the introduction of a mastery approach to teaching maths, this has been improving.
This is how we tackled this challenge whilst trying to develop a deeper understanding and mastery of the calculation method.
1. Pitch
Naturally in the first session there was already a range of confidence. Some of our Year 6 children were already familiar with and confident with long division whereas some had just about still got a grasp on dividing by a single digit number. Those children were offered the opportunity to either go and attempt a few calculations to make sure there were confident or attempt an estimation challenge involving the long division from nRich: Dicey Operations Game 6
With the rest of the children, initially after a visual representation of the method, a number of demonstrations and a discussion around how the remainders and other aspects of the method worked, the choice was again given to the children where to pitch themselves. Those who felt confident then went to try either of the before mentioned challenges where those that did not stayed in the ‘Long Division Clinic’. The Clinic involves whiteboard work, discussion and targeting from the Teacher and explaining to their peers the process they are working through with careful listening in by the Teacher.
In order to enable the children to practice the calculation and get a real-time assessment on whether they were correct or not whilst I worked with those who still needed to grasp the method we used the website MathsBot which creates instant problems and the chn could quickly uncover the answer on the IWB to check they were correct. If not, they were to analyse, with a partner if needed, to uncover the error.
2. Clinic Continues
Because of the nature of the first session being much more introductory, there is more time given now for those who are less confident to continue working in the Clinic and then try independently. By this stage also, by scrutiny of the previous lesson’s learning, some children may have been discovered who were not as confident as previously thought. These can come into the ‘Clinic’ briefly to check where any misconceptions are.
Meanwhile, those who are more confident have choices on how to push themselves further. Try some more challenging problems set by the Teacher, work on showing their remainders as fractions or decimals and finally some reasoning and problem solving problems set by White Rose Maths which develop understanding on how to apply this method to problems.
3. Tutorials
It is well documented that we learn 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see and so on… But we learn 95% of what we teach others. So the question was for me then ‘How could I get my class to teach others in a way that will include all?’ Of course I could go down the route of whole class presentation… But if I were a10 year old child I would struggle to stand up and teach my peers the basics of long division. Teaching to groups is always fun, less intimidating. The question that method throws up is how could I accurately assess if each individual child had met the LO when different groups are teaching each other at once? To have each group teach other one by one so I could listen to every child would be too time consuming. So what?
I was led to an app called Explain Everything which was perfect. @ICT_MrP was the first to introduce this to me.

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The app allows the user to create a video whilst using a drawing tool or a highlighting tool and images. This gave the perfect opportunity for the children to ‘teach’ someone how to use skills in Maths. In doing this, the children themselves become increasingly competent, developing their fluency.
This video not only gives the children an opportunity to engage in a meaningful and purposeful activity, but it can also serve as a future stimulus to remember previous learning. These are some examples:
http://www.kingsroadschool.com/year-6-long-division-tutorials/
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Not only does this allow the children the opportunity to explain the workings behind the formal method, it encourages them to take it step by step and plan how to break down the calculation for someone that is new to the concept. There is also that extra incentive where they could have their work used for a huge purpose – to have on the school website as part of our calculation policy and teach others who are interested in how to use this formal method.
Considering how to group the children is key in this task. Children should be allowed the opportunity to work independently as some will feel inhibited by not being able to express their explanations with extra discussion. However, some children will not yet be fully confident in their abilities and so mixed-ability pairing is extremely useful here. This is not only enable the children to further internalise the formal method but also make peer coaching another input for all children to get this calculation approach.
4. Take on the Problems!
By this stage – most children should be fairly competent in the method or at least much more closer to grasping it than they were before. This is where the real application, the whole reason why we learn these methods, comes into play. A selection of problems are available of differing levels (strictly no straight calculations) – the children are in mixed ability pairs and take on the challenges they wish to try. This ‘Hot/Spicy/Chilli’ approach means they can start where they feel comfortable and then advance or step back where they feel is necessary. The challenges can be sourced again from the White Rose Maths documents (they have a lot of sessions when teachers are required to teach a new calculation method) and also many other areas. These challenges are completed on large, graffiti paper so that concerns about presentation or neatness can be put to one side and the maths is the main focus:
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As the session progresses, the children are expected to discuss their thoughts and their answers. This will again develop children’s ability to talk through the calculation. This would be the equivalent of the ‘Ruler of Reasoning’ session in my ‘TalkMaths Approach’ shared in a recent post. The Teacher’s role is to step back and listen in to discussions. From this observation they can address any final or further misconceptions that can be dealt with as a whole class.
No approach is foolproof. There will still be children who won’t have grasped the concept after this approach – however, this will give children a pace to suit them. Faster and more in-depth if needed, slower and more probing if required. Teaching and learning formal methods of calculation is a necessary facet of maths teaching in KS2 Maths and a lynchpin in any child’s mathematical toolkit. A deeper understanding must be developed – hopefully this will help.

Daily Whole Class Feedback by @Mroberts90Matt

A recent idea shared by @_MissieBee has prompted me to share this. It links very closely to a brilliant idea where the class are given a whole class feedback slide or sheet to stick in their book which highlights good things done and common misconceptions. I shared a very similar idea previously and have updated it over the years. It is different to what was shared as it offers a regular, even daily, model which could fit into most, if not all, subjects which require recording in books.

One of the most frustrating things I  (used to) deal with as a teacher was the amount of time marking takes. It really is one of the biggest causes of workload. The most tiresome aspect was writing the same comments in multiple books. Things such as “Don’t forget to line up your place value,” or “Check you use punctuation at the end of your speech,” or even “Name one impact of exercise on the body.” Yes – not only can this approach address misconceptions, but give a follow up challenge without either the teacher writing it 20-odd times or cutting it out and sticking it in multiple times. This Daily Whole Class Marking allows me mark a set of books within 30 minutes complete with personalised comments on misconceptions and challenges. It hones in on each child with the teacher only writing in two or three symbols into their book.

Some examples are here: Cinquain Poem Writing

12Another one for Suspense Narrative writing:13

Maths this time – with challenge questions:

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And finally a Science:

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The Idea

I would start straight away by emphasising that this is not my original idea. I came across the method in a series of excellent summer blog posts by @LearningSpy who referenced it to Joe Kirby’s blog! The idea is so simple – basically instead of writing comments that is expected by a teacher to praise what the child has done and give constructive steps on how to improve – you write down three symbols. Then, in the very next lesson (as this method allows you to mark books for the very next lesson with ease) children are given 5 mins to copy down the relevant feedback to those symbols. Typically I have numerous various comments that are used across a set of 30 books ranging from correcting common misconceptions to a gentle reminder to underline the date and LO. During this specific 5 mins at the start of the next lesson, I am then able take the time to target individual children I have made a note of to give some extra verbal feedback on what they’ve done and try to progress their understanding further. I personally have labelled this time ‘MAD Time’ (Make A Difference) but the concept is that the children write the personalised comments down, rather than the teacher.

Does it MAD?

Well, I have been using this method in my feedback approach for over three years now. There are issues:
1. It may be more challenging for Phase teachers younger in the school (particularly KS1) to adapt this. Possible, but more challenging
2. The first week is always the most ineffective as the children get used to the method of feedback and are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their learning. It does take focus from them and reminders on how to use the time best but each year I have done this, the most challenging learners I have had have seen the advantage of this and taken it on board.

Despite these potential barriers, there has been clear outcomes. These are listed below:

  1.  My workload has balanced

Before I would spend up to an hour, maybe more, marking a set of class books. After having written repetitive comments in books the children would then barely give them a second glance, despite my attempts at the start of each lesson to get them to read and initial the words painstakingly etched by me. This would become disheartening after time. Now, I find I am spending 20-30mins or so on the same number of books. This means I have more time to prepare engaging follow on lessons from the learning I’ve just assessed. We all know providing written feedback is a huge drain on time and whilst some schools may be moving away from written feedback reliance, many are still expecting this. This approach allows this still to be met, whilst freeing time for the teacher.

2. The feedback has improved

I am not afraid to admit it – after marking 20-23 books, my enthusiasm would deplete and my comments to the children in their books would become more and more generic and rushed. I suppose this is human nature (and why a wonderful piece of writing from a child might get more rushed toward the end!) Because of this technique, the level of personalised feedback is constant for the whole class, not just the children whose books are nearer the top of the pile! One big loss in the later books in my pile would be follow up questions. I would be less likely to write these in later books. Also, if I planned to stick in follow up challenges, I often forget to print these off and take them home. Once I have the books home, I have forgotten them and therefore no challenge question to push my learners further. This way, there will always be opportunity for follow up challenges.

3. The technique gets the children to take the feedback in

Now that the children are, in essence, writing comments on their own work they seem to take it in more. I have seen direct improvement on a child’s work from comments they have written. Would those improvements have been made if I had written them? Maybe, but it is less likely the child would have read them. This way, the feedback is certain to be acknowledged, even if then the child makes no effort to act on it.

We all know the frustration when we spend all this time writing comments then the children just turn the page without taking it in. This approach means the children have to at least read, write and respond to the feedback (in their purple pen) to indicate any difference to their learning.

4. It shows innovative practice which is centred on one thing – learning

This marking approach has been used under two senior leadership teams. Both of them have stated that they feel this is outstanding practice in feedback. The MAD Time was stated as an extremely good way of helping children make a difference in their learning and straight away set a precedent for that lesson that we were there to learn, and they would have the feedback yesterday to work on. The whole reason I have decided to use this is because it has an impact on the children’s learning. This can be seen in session, in the books and in the data. Learning is the centre of this approach.

5. FInally…the children GET it!

I did NOT expect this outcome! Quite honestly, I thought my class would hate it to begin with. However, now when I display the 8-10 comments they may find in their work, they actually get excited to see what they receive! Some even utter a ‘yesss’ when they know it’s MAD Time before they then find they have a ~) or a +) which they need to work on. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s a new idea and it’ll lose it’s freshness after a couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because they feel they are actually engaging in something they feel is new and a good way to improve their learning. They actually care that they understand why they’ve received certain feedback and what they can do to achieve that.

Will you try MAD Time in your teaching and learning? How do you get written and verbal feedback across to your class and are there any other ways that have been effective for you? Are you MAD?