Maths at St. Mary’s Primary School
At St. Mary’s Primary School, we believe that all children can ‘do maths’. All pupils are encouraged to believe that if they work hard at maths they can succeed. We encourage parents to do the same, as it is with a ‘can do’ attitude that our children believe that even if they haven’t achieved a goal yet, it is only a matter of time.
In our maths lessons, we teach children through whole-class interactive teaching, where the focus is on all pupils working together on the same lesson content at the same time. The children in the class all move to the next concept once they have mastered the current one, our aim is that no children will be left behind. Pupils who grasp concepts rapidly are challenged through being offered rich and sophisticated problems before any acceleration through new content.
Teachers design lessons so that children are using a concrete, pictorial and an abstract (CPA) approach. This approach is used as some children find maths difficult because it is abstract. Instead by using this approach, we build upon children’s existing knowledge by introducing concepts in a concrete (tangible) way. For example, if a problem involves adding piece of fruit in year 1, children can first handle actual fruit. From there they can move onto handling counters or cubes which represent the fruit.
As well as using the CPA approach, teachers also incorporate opportunities to practise fluency, reasoning and problem solving.
What is fluency?
The first thing to say is that fluency is not only about number – there are other areas of the curriculum where fluency is important. However, number is by far the largest part of the primary curriculum. When we think of fluency, we can think of it in three parts.
Efficiency – this implies that children do not get bogged down in too many steps or lose track of the logic of the strategy. An efficient strategy is one that the student can carry out easily, keeping track of sub-problems and making use of intermediate results to solve the problem. An example of this may be that a child who solves 1002-999 would do so by counting on not by using column subtraction.
Accuracy depends on several aspects of the problem-solving process, among them careful recording, knowledge of number facts and other important number relationships, and double-checking results.
Flexibility requires the knowledge of more than one approach to solving a particular kind of problem, such as two-digit multiplication. Students need to be flexible in order to choose an appropriate strategy for the numbers involved, and also be able to use one method to solve a problem and another method to check the results.
So fluency demands more of students than memorising a single procedure – they need to understand why they are doing what they are doing and know when it is appropriate to use different methods.
Mathematical problem solving is at the heart of our approach. Pupils are encouraged to identify, understand and apply relevant mathematical principles and make connections between different ideas. This builds the skills needed to tackle new problems, rather than simply repeating routines without a secure understanding.
Mathematical concepts are explored in a variety of representations and problem-solving contexts to give pupils a richer and deeper learning experience. Pupils combine different concepts to solve complex problems and apply knowledge to real-life situations.
We believe that the way pupils speak and write about mathematics transforms their learning. Maths has a rich and varied language and we want our pupils to be confident in its use. Mastery approaches use a carefully sequenced, structured approach to introduce and reinforce mathematical vocabulary. Pupils are encouraged to explain the mathematics in full sentences. They should be able to say not just what the answer is, but how they know it’s right. This is key to building mathematical language and reasoning skills.
At St. Mary’s we encourage all parents to help their child to learn key facts such as multiplication tables and addition facts within 10 so that the children will not be overloaded with not only understanding a new concept but also having to solve facts they have not learnt as well.