Maths - Now they get it

10th August 2012 at 01:00
Summer term plus eureka moments equals happy teachers

I adore the final weeks of school before the summer holidays. Not because the days are longer and lighter, but because the summer term is where all the hard work we have put in all year begins to pay off; where real, observable progress is made.

Take my current class: a small, diverse group of 15 children. Back in October, I attempted to teach a lesson based on subtraction. I remember that sinking feeling when I realised they hadn't grasped it yet. At all. In Year 5.

I remember, too, being told all about my large (in percentage terms) group of children who were on the SEN register for maths. Children who didn't know that 3 + 7 = 10, or realise that they could work this out using their fingers. Children whose only coping strategy with maths was to switch off entirely.

My teaching assistant and I worked tirelessly. We tried every method you can think of, but there were days when we feared they would never get it. Then came our eureka moment: a recent class where we were revising addition in columns. The children were adding each column using their fingers, which allowed them to get reliable and accurate answers. They knew it was easiest to begin with the units first, then move on to the tens, and finally the hundreds.

They had seen this method before, though they had never managed to do it on their own. But this day they were even able to carry numbers on to the next column without being prompted. Everything had finally come together. It's this apparently sudden progress that makes the summer term so worthwhile.

Thomas Pitts is a primary teacher at Gomersal St Mary's School in Kirklees. Find him on Twitter @ThomasJPitts

What else?

Use JemmaHU's number bond song to help pupils add up. Or try Doogal46's board game.

In the forums

Separate maths from numeracy; increase the challenge in the classroom and allow failure. Do you think this is a recipe for success?

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