How to exploit opportunities to embed maths revision across the curriculum

18th May 2017 at 13:01

Subject Genius, Suzanne Webster, How to exploit opportunities to embed maths revision across the curriculum

I was frequently, in my modern language capacity, saying to both senior leadership and primary teachers, that there is only so much that you can hold up in front of a class for your children to learn and there is only so much time that can be devoted to subjects on the time-table.  For maths this equates to developing some more “investigative” type maths lessons helping children deepen their understanding of concepts, and exploiting cross curricula opportunities to embed your maths curriculum.


Plan investigative lessons with colleagues:

 It takes time to develop these kinds of maths lessons, which are more akin, to maths workshops, so enlist the help of colleagues.  Perhaps between you, you could develop a few “workshops”.   It is also always difficult, to deliver a lesson just as someone else envisaged it, so don’t try, swap over and teach each other’s classes. 


Revising maths and computer programming:

The fledgling algebra which begins to make an appearance on the primary maths curriculum and SATs papers, in the form of “function machines”, “mapping” function machines and number sequences is the beginning of the maths used to write algorithms.  Notice this definition in the Oxford Dictionary for algorithms.

 “A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” 

and this extract from the KS2 national curriculum for computing:

“Use logical reasoning to explain how some simple algorithms work”

or “work with variables and various forms of input and output”

Yes, it’s time to gather all those function machine, sequencing number, and “x” and “y” variable questions, and use a few of your “computing” slots to investigate the maths behind the “logical reasoning to explain how simple algorithms work”.


Revising maths and geography:

Consider using some of the “locational knowledge” national curriculum objectives in geography lessons to support the “coordinates” teaching in maths lessons and use it as a means of exploring the principles behind the “significance of latitude, longitude etc.”.  In short put maps of the regions or countries you are discussing on a coordinate grid and encourage pupils to locate towns, counties and geographical features using coordinates.  Make sure you include the compass points and add in practice to the nature of “if I was facing north at (somewhere on your grid) and turned 90 degrees in a clockwise direction, in which direction would I be facing?”.  Children find relating maps to actual space quite difficult.  Questions such as if I was to measure the distance from York to London what would I use: kilometres, metres, or centimetres are frequently answered incorrectly. Exploring questions dealing with “scale” are similar. Taking a few lessons to explore the “maths” in geography helps pupils move around maps with greater ease and begin to absorb the concepts of scale, distance, and direction.

Subject Genius, Suzanne Webster, How to exploit opportunities to embed maths revision across the curriculum

Revising maths and art &design:

This gem from the national curriculum is a real gift to the Maths “shape” curriculum:

“to improve their mastery of art and design techniques”. 

Encourage children to “make observations” about the shapes they can see in pictures and even to sketch in shapes as a first step toward completing a drawing.  Use shapes as a basis for one of your art and design projects.  For example triangle motifs can often be a source of warning or reminder of appropriate behaviour.  What warnings or reminders of appropriate behaviour motifs could children design for your school, rather like a set of road traffic symbols.  First they have to be able to draw their triangle, it doesn’t have to be equilateral, but using a protractor and learning about angles will be a key ingredient of the design project.  Then of course there is familiarising them with symmetry, flipping their designs, translation, and even rotational symmetry – all of which could be easily justified as one of the elements in achieving “mastery” of art and design techniques.


Revising maths and science:

Are you making enough in upper KS2, and planning specifically, to revise your maths data curriculum through your science curriculum ensuring that as children write up lines of enquiry they are given the maximum opportunity to present their findings using bar and line graphs and to extrapolate from those graphs.  Again note this gem from the science curriculum:

“Recording data and results of increasing complexity using scientific diagrams and labels, classification keys, tables, scatter graphs, bar and line graphs” .


Revising maths and history:

Do not overlook the contribution of the “Lady of Lamp” in pioneering the statistical representation of data in your Florence Nightingale unit.  The pie chart, which was first developed by William Playfair in 1801 was used by Florence Nightingale to chart casualties for the military authorities of her day, and is credited with the further refinement of this medium known as the “polar diagram” or “Nightingale Rose diagram”.


A few concluding thoughts:

Don’t fall prey to the “busy culture” that pervades primary schools and the incessant scrabble to fit everything in.  Ensure that you are, within the confines of the national curriculum, exploiting said curriculum to deliver the learning outcomes and priorities that you know are a need for your children.  Planning a maths workshop day, exploring maths in other parts of the curriculum, as a team, can be a good way of highlighting and sharing the load of this more specialised type of cross-curricula planning.  

Finally “revision” should not be the mad focus of one time of year.  Develop a “revision learning outcome” mentality for the whole year ensuring that revision opportunities are being exploited throughout your curriculum for the year, year on year, to deliver that all important SATs outcome.



Suzanne Webster is a retired  primary languages teacher and now writes and trains for Five Plus Solutions Ltd. She tweets at @Primary_MFL

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