Since the introduction of the new curriculum for mathematics, there has been much talk, in various forums, about how the teaching of mathematics has radically changed. It is unequivocal that the new programmes of study are more demanding. Content has moved to earlier year groups and expectations between key stages are higher, for example; NC14 states that by the end of Y4, children should know their multiplication tables up to 12×12.
The new programmes of study have broad aims that are embedded throughout the curriculum; some of the key areas are that pupils are being asked to develop higher levels of fluency and the ability to reason mathematically. This has been achieved through an emphasis on problem-solving, making connections across mathematical ideas and applying knowledge in other subject areas. This is empowering us to teach mathematics beyond pure factual and procedural recall. Although these are both important skills that children need to develop, it is essential that children explore mathematics through a conceptual approach; this means discovering the ‘why?’ rather than the ‘what?’ and the ‘how?’
So, what is new? Well, the biggest developments in mathematics teaching have linked to the old!
School’s are now re-resourcing the hands-on enactive mathematics resources that have been thrown out or pushed to the back of the maths cupboard. Cuisenaire rods, base 10, place value counters are all on the comeback and rightly so. These manipulatives enable children to solve ag-related (if not higher) problems with a greater proficiency. The uses of concrete and pictorial representations of number are now being used to support written calculation policies. This is building on from the National Strategies ‘Models and Images’ documents to show a progression of calculation rather than a formalisation of calculation as seen in many policies. Further to the traditional paper policy, schools are now using handheld technology to digitalise their policies and hosting them so that children can access high-quality explanations from home; this is extending the learning opportunities for our children through innovative and engaging platforms. Further to the use of manipulatives, schools are beginning to develop problem solving through introducing schemes such as OUPs ‘Inspire’ or ‘Maths no Problem’ to complement their current provision. The NCETM are currently researching the effectiveness of these programmes, which are based on the Singapore Bar Method, using their Maths Hubs – Year 1 teachers in 68 primary schools are currently part of the trail.
There are huge developments in how the new curriculum is being structured. With the new programmes of study not having blocks or units, it has been up to schools to map out their mathematics provision. This requires a whole-school vision, of the school’s strengths and weaknesses of mathematics, to ensure that areas of weakness are addressed early in the year and threaded through other topics. A common area of development that I have seen has linked to ‘problem solving’ and when it should happen. A simplistic answer is that it should be happening all of the time. The new curriculum is asking us to provide opportunities to explain, prove and justify – these are difficult skills to develop if children are not exposed regularly to them.
The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) is a fantastic resource to support you develop problem solving or investigative-rich schemes of work. I advise all teaching staff (including Teaching Assistants) to sign-up to this website as it provides incredibly high-quality resources to support the teaching of mathematics. This includes: subject knowledge support, academic articles, possible activities linked to every strand of the new curriculum as well as videos that showcase how we could teach some of these new and challenging areas of mathematics.
Josh Lane is a Specialist Leader of Education and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org