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Maths - Explore the topics

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Our writing results improved dramatically when we taught literacy as part of our other class topics. The children were familiar with the subject matter and enthused by what they were writing about, writes Jon Makepeace.

I have always tried to teach investigative maths and maths that relates to real life, but I felt the lessons often became textbook-based.

Our deputy head made a brave leap of faith. Why not have topic-based maths? We continued our usual maths lessons most days, but on Fridays we introduced an extended lesson that incorporated maths into the class topic for that term.

As part of an Explorers topic, I created a session in which pupils used Google Maps to plot an imaginary bicycle route around Britain. Initially, they had a limit of 50 miles a day, but then later on, a budget, and we started to visit restaurants and hotels along the way. This complemented our calculation and money work in a way that helped to make sense of the lists of sums we had practised.

During our Aztecs topic we studied chocolate, using Dorothy Heathcote's "mantle of the expert" teaching approach to encourage pupils to become make-believe designers of chocolate boxes after working on 3D nets. And as the pupils acted as mathematicians, they became inspired to do additional learning at home, bringing in PowerPoint presentations and leading the mental warm-ups.

Preparation for the Friday lessons took longer than for other maths lessons, but became easier as pupil-led work spiralled to provide new learning experiences.

Now my Year 4s (P4s) have a curriculum that empowers them as mathematicians, ignites their enthusiasm and inspires independent out-of- school learning.

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