Teaching maths in primary schools is at a critical stage. Tremendous strides have been made in many areas. Expectations of what young children are able to understand and do have been raised significantly; children are taught what they need to know; they are beginning to apply their knowledge of mathematical concepts to solving problems in the numeracy lesson and increasingly in other subjects. Teachers' questioning of children to consolidate learning and assess whether they really understand still requires further development, except possibly if you work in Year 6. Yet standards, as measured by the tests, steadfastly refuse to rise at the same rates as we saw to at the beginning of the numeracy strategy. Certainly, the proportion of children achieving level 4 envisaged by the government seem very distant.
I believe that further progress is not only possible, but also essential if we are to preserve the sanity of those Year 6 teachers who every year tell me: "This is the poorest class I have ever taught." Yet in those classes, end-of-key-stage test results are as good as ever.
Excellence comes partly from enjoyment, and for many of the children in Salford, enjoyment is essential if they are going to achieve.
Teachers in Salford use models and games in the daily maths lesson from Reception through to Year 6 and beyond to key stage 3. These activities, once learned by the children, develop naturally as the children grow older.
Just as the counting stick is something all children (hopefully) experience as a regular part of learning maths, these activities are becoming part of each of our pupils' experience. Counting hoops, which are first used as a focus for children's counting both forwards and backwards, will then be used to consolidate their understanding of place value, help them relate counting to addition and subtraction and encourage explanations of their reasoning.
Children need variety in learning. There are many excellent commercial resources available, both printed and ICT based. This is particularly true of whiteboard software. However, investment in such resources does not come cheaply. We have to be sure that children's mathematical experiences are rich and motivating whatever the school's circumstances.
Peter Dickinson will be presenting the seminar Interactive Mathematics on a Low Budget at 1pm on Thursday March 17, in Seminar theatre A.