Let it make sense:
At the Northam Schools' Federation we plan our teaching based on teaching-for-understanding of mathematical concepts and procedures: The "why" something works, and not only the "how". This understanding, doesn't always come immediately, and learning is a journey. It may even take several years to grasp a key concept. For example, place value is something children understand partially at first, and then that deepens over a few years. Our learning focusses on looking balk, making links and building upon prior learning.
We have the firm belief that all of our children are on their journey to developing a real understanding of the key principles and concepts that underpin maths.
Start with what you know; learn from what you don't:
We have built an environment based on the thinking that ‘mistakes are our friends,’ with the understanding that errors help us learn and are a key part of the process of finding a deeper level of understanding. To this end, our pupils work in pen within their maths books – every single part of our children’s thinking process is important to us and them. Our children are encouraged to say ‘I can’t do it yet’ as opposed to ‘I can’t do it’ as we have a shared belief and commitment that our children will reach the level of understanding required by starting with what they do know, and not giving up.
Talk it out:
We have a commitment to developing the reasoning of the children in our classes. We have implemented effective oral and written strategies to develop our children’s reasoning in maths as we feel that this gives them a much deeper, more purposeful understanding of the maths that they are learning. We teach key vocabulary to help our children think and articulate their reasoning. During our discussions, we utilise P4C techniques and encourage a sense of opinion and respect which help our children to have balanced conversations as they work together to discuss the mathematical concept in question.
The power of context
Research has shown that teaching academic applications in a context is an effective way to engage hard-to-reach students and motivates them in the areas of math, written and oral communication, critical thinking skills, and problem solving.
At the Northam Schools' Federation we acknowledge that it is vital that our children are engaged in their learning. We pledge never to hear: 'I don’t know why we did algebra at school, I never use it.' Therefore, our Maths learning is context based. We use our maths lessons to further our learning across the curriculum, giving our maths learning a purpose and drive that adds to the energy of the classroom. When maths lessons dissolve into social justice debates, it shows that we can make connections between the classroom and the world. The more expansive we are in our use of context, we will create adults who recognise when they use structures like algebra in the ‘real world’.
We have stopped thinking of context as window dressing for the ‘real’ mathematics, and we recognise it for what it really is: Context is the heartbeat of mathematics.
Our children have developed a resilience in maths that is entirely due to our use of context. Our teachers take the time to plan lessons which encourage an obsession with finding an answer. The use of context gives our numbers a meaning and helps our children to understand abstract concepts in a more concrete manner. We enjoy planning our maths lessons, looking for opportunities to take our learning outside and approach our learning with enthusiasm and ambition
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