Colourful, well-illustrated, easy on the eye. The attributes of a coffee table guide. Just what you wouldn't expect in a 100-page maths book. And yet, a coffee table guide is exactly what Alison Barnes, primary maths consultant for Brighton and Hove LEA, and Sue Shaw, advanced skills teacher and attitudes to learning coordinator at Falmer High School, have produced.
The Brighton Excellence in Cities Schools Progression in Calculation document is a full-colour, CD-Rom supported teacher and pupil-friendly guide. A year in the making and with considerable input from colleagues, it has been produced for the Brighton Excellence in Cities (EiC) cluster of some 20 schools, two of which are secondary.
Its principal aims are to ensure consistency in teaching methodology and closer liaison in the transition between primary and secondary schools. Sue says: "I felt that methodology in maths was probably being lost along the way. Children were arriving in a classroom with very mixed ideas about how they were going to do calculations," and adds that she was unable to find any liaison between schools to link the move from key stage 2 to KS3.
From foundation to Year 9, the document sets out a range of strategies and objectives for teaching addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
There is no requirement to teach all or any of them. It is, says Alison, "a model written by teachers, for teachers, based on their good practice". It will support those who do not specialise in maths. "It could be for NQTs; it could be for teachers arriving in the system for the first time." Even experienced teachers will benefit.
Sue adds: "It's a supportive document. It's not to take away from what is already there. There's nothing really new - what it has done is collate ideas that could help others."
Six primary schools and one secondary were involved in the planning. "I think all six (primary) heads could see the opportunities that the document presented to get some cohesion, especially with children who had a lot of learning difficulties," Sue explains.
The document is colour-coded: progression in addition pages, for example, is red and there is a separate page for each year from foundation to Year 9. Division, multiplication and subtraction are treated similarly. Being presented in a ringbinder, pages may be copied or projected onto whiteboards via the accompanying CD-Rom.
"Vocabulary is a really key issue in maths in this part of Brighton," says Alison. Now, if a student is stuck on a word, if it is red then they will know it relates to addition.
Of the 11 sections, it is envisaged that Section 2, an overview of each of the more detailed progression sections, will be of special use to managers or maths co-ordinators who, perhaps, plan to observe a lesson. Here, too, traditional difficulties of transition are addressed. Thus, foundation methodologies deliberately appear with KS1; similarly, Year 6 with KS3.
Other sections provide illustrations of teaching aids such as daisy wheels and number grids, and interactive teaching programs. These are extremely important, says Alison, as there are so many it can be difficult to recall what each does.
The project could not have been completed without EiC funding. Launched in October, there has been a close to unanimous uptake within the cluster; so successful has it been, that headteachers want every teacher in their school to have a copy.
Continuity, says Sue, will be the key to the success. "It will be more long term than one year," she explains. "What in one year I would like to see is that teachers have taken on the aspects of the methodologies we have suggested and the approaches used; that they have tried some of the support and enrichment activities; that they have a good understanding that objectives and success criteria can run over a number of lessons or weeks.
But also that children in their class have become more confident, that they feel more able to approach their mathematical calculation and have a bit of excitement about it."