Maths is often children's least favourite subject. Various possible reasons have been put forward, from children simply finding it dull and uncreative to pupils doubting their own ability.
Wroughton Infant School in Wiltshire wanted to find out why so many Year 2 pupils lacked confidence in maths. They decided to look at whether the problem was specific to pupils at this young age and if it was a recurring problem in primary schools. Wroughton Infant School worked alongside two other local primary schools to see if a different method of teaching would help children become "lovers of maths".
The Mathsconfident project played back videos of pupils solving maths problems in the classroom, in an attempt to build pupils' confidence in the subject.
Year 2 pupils in three primary schools were filmed solving open-ended maths problems in small groups. Each class teacher would then watch the video and assess the pupils' ability and confidence to solve problems. The children were shown videos of pupils in other schools tackling similar questions. When watching the videos, they were encouraged to comment and give advice to each other on different ways to tackle problems. From seeing where pupils struggled, teachers were then able to teach the class relevant problem-solving strategies.
The pupils were filmed three months later, and again after six months, to see if they showed increased confidence in maths.
The videos demonstrated how many pupils were reluctant to start problem-solving without being instructed on what to do. This lack of confidence worsened when particular problem-solving methods seemed ineffective or took a long time. In the first video, teachers found that, even when pupils were struggling, they chose not to use the resources available to them on the table.
When children watched their own videos back, they were able to see how reluctant they were and that they did not make the most of the resources available. The fact that other children in different schools were reacting to the questions in a similar way gave the pupils confidence and encouraged them to share tips on how to improve.
By the second video, pupils had learned to start problem-solving straight away without assistance. They were more inclined to use the resources on the table and discuss different strategies. The final video saw pupils using more developed and sophisticated strategies, as well as recognising solutions to problems they had come across in the past.
Tips from the scheme
- Videos can give pupils a new perspective on areas where they struggle.
- Let pupils know that it is all right for them to admit there are areas they find challenging, as it can help them to tackle those areas.
Evidence that it works?
Clare Davies, the teacher and numeracy subject leader who helped set up the project, says that she noticed a change in the way pupils approached maths. They not only showed more enthusiasm while problem-solving but became more confident in their ability to answer questions.
The results from different tests showed a rise in pupils' problem-solving ability. In the beginning, 24.5 per cent of children performed at an average level, including 9 per cent of pupils achieving above average. By the end, 85 per cent were marked as average including 66 per cent marked as above average.
Approach: Pupils watching each other tackle maths questions on video to build their confidence and problem- solving abilities
Led by Clare Davies, teacher and numeracy subject leader
Name: Wroughton Infant School
Location: Wroughton, Wiltshire
Age range: 4-7
Ofsted overall rating: Outstanding (2008).