Mathematics: One-to-one fun equals maths excellence

9th October 2009 at 01:00
Children struggling with basic mathematics make 13-and-a-half months' progress in three months on revolutionary initiative

Original paper headline: One-to-one fun equals maths excellence

The first results from trials of a national maths catch-up scheme for seven-year-olds show those involved making in excess of four times the normal rate of progress.

More than 2,600 children were given one-to-one tuition for half an hour daily over a term using the Numbers Count methods devised by analysts at Edge Hill University and Lancashire County Council.

The children were chosen because they were not expected to reach level 2 by the end of the year, but three-quarters did after the tuition, which included tailored hands-on activities.

The children made 13-and-a-half months' progress in three months, and reported an increase in confidence in "having a go" at maths, plus higher enjoyment levels.

William Hill, head of Prince Avenue Primary School, Southend-on-Sea, had 11 children taking part in the scheme last year, and all but two reached level 2 in the summer.

"Our results for maths were not very good," he said. "I came here two years ago and the local authority was looking at interventions that would accelerate children's progress in maths. We were crying out for something like this.

"The main problem was finding a good teacher and a space. We were lucky that we had someone, Jan Greenwood, who was covering a maternity leave. She stayed on as our Numbers Count teacher.

"We had a space between two classrooms that was being used as a cloakroom, which we converted with some help from the local authority. The caretaker gave it a lick of paint and we were off.

"The sessions are really good fun and the children like to do them. The parents have been really supportive, which is a strength of this programme. The children are now in Year 3 and Ms Greenwood is making sure they stay on track. It isn't just a question of doing it then stopping and stepping back.

"I just wish we could do more of this. If we had more staff then we would because it makes a difference."

The Numbers Count scheme is at the heart of Every Child Counts, one of three national initiatives to help children struggling with the 3 Rs. Every Child a Reader for Year 1s was launched first, and Every Child a Writer, for Year 3s, is in development.

Like Every Child a Reader, Every Child Counts has a central teaching programme with the teacher coordinating less intensive support where needed. But while Every Child a Reader has an existing programme - Reading Recovery - at its core, there was no similar programme in maths.

Numbers Count has drawn on best practice from local authority programmes, such as Numeracy Recovery, used in Hackney.

Counting up

Every Numbers Count lesson is different, but the basic structure is there to help build confidence in pupils. Children choose a familiar activity and practice counting singly or in groups, forwards and backwards, before undertaking new learning and a final recap.

For example, to learn to count on, rather than always beginning at one, one teacher used the game `Mam's Knickers'. The teacher pegs three pairs of paper knickers on a line and asks, "If we peg on two more, how many will there be?" The child answers and makes up similar problems for a hand puppet operated by the teacher.

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