Children develop their knowledge and understanding of mathematics through practical activities, investigation and discussion.
Mathematics plays an essential part in our daily lives as it is all around us in everything we do. It is a fun and creative life skill which we all need.
From a very early age all children are exposed to maths: climbing stairs, doing up buttons, sharing out sweets, putting out cutlery for each member of the family, completing a jigsaw puzzle, playing a simple dice game, getting dressed. These everyday objects, games and activities help children understand and apply mathematical ideas long before the need to write down any formal calculations.
At Trafalgar, emergent mathematics is encouraged (similar to emergent writing) where children are supported to record their ideas and learning in their own way. This is used diagnostically by the adults to assess the children’s understanding and develop it further, alongside the necessary vocabulary and language of maths.
When new concepts have been approached through practical work and discussion, then reinforcement and consolidation of learning takes place through mental and written activities which may include appropriate addition/subtraction/multiplication/division problems, or through the search for and application of a systematic pattern, or a measuring task, etc. A range of methods and ways of recording are taught and modelled for the children, alongside their emergent recording. Both are equally valued and expected.
We foster a positive attitude to maths where a ‘growth mind-set’ is encouraged. Our children are supported to talk about and discuss their learning, share ideas, use and represent their own ideas, actively engage in a problem (try ideas out), link methods and ideas in using and applying their knowledge, listen to and build on the ideas of others, use more formal methods taught by the teacher.
Children may work alone or collaboratively. In talking to each other and the adults about ideas, they are encouraged to ask questions to help their learning. Why did I choose this method? Does it work with other cases? How is the method similar or different to methods my friends/the adult used?
Our aims in maths are to enable all children to:
- Appreciate the power and beauty of maths
- Enjoy taking on challenges, when learning new concepts or skills
- Think logically, creatively and imaginatively in solving problems, developing the ability to think for themselves
- Learn to work collaboratively, negotiating others’ points of view
- Work mentally with increasing confidence
- Learn the facts and techniques that they will need in order to further their maths learning
- Reach the highest standard possible
Therefore, our aim is for our classrooms to be places where we believe:
- All children can do well in maths.
- Mathematics problems can be solved with many different insights and methods.
- Mistakes are valuable, they encourage brain growth and learning.
- Mathematics will help children in their lives, not because they will see the same types of problems in the real world but because they are learning to think quantitatively and abstractly and develop an inquiring mind where they will be prepared to take a risk to tackle a problem, approaching it with curiosity, courage and confidence.
Helping with maths at home
- Play maths puzzles and games. Puzzles and games or anything with dice will help children to enjoy maths, have fun and develop numeracy and logic skills.
- Try to find the logic in their thinking because there is always some logic to what they say. For example, if your child multiplies three by four and gets seven, say ‘Oh I see what you’re thinking; you’re using what you know about addition to add three and four. When we multiply we have four groups of three.’
- Discuss maths positively. Never share the idea that you were bad at maths at school or that you dislike it. This will affect your child’s view of maths and of themselves as a mathematician.
- Never associate maths with speed. It is not important to work quickly. It is more important to encourage deep thinking and the ability to explain what has been found out.
- Encourage number sense. What separates high and low achievers is number sense, i.e. having an idea of the size of numbers and being able to separate and put numbers together flexibly rather than relying on counting along a number line or 100 square to add up.
- Encourage a growth mindset. This is the idea that ability changes as you work more and learn more. The opposite of this is a fixed mindset, where the idea is that ability is fixed and you are either good at maths or you are not.
Growth mindset: children are willing to have a go, take a risk, make a mistake and learn from it, enjoy challenges and apply these skills to all their learning in school. In order to help develop this, praise the skills of perseverance, risk taking, challenging themselves, ‘having a go’ that children have been using when working something out. These skills never change even when something is worked out incorrectly.
Fixed mindset: children are unwilling to try something new, resist challenges; and when they encounter difficult work, they lack perseverance and conclude that they are no good at something. Telling children they are clever at a subject when they do something well can seem nice, but can put pressure on children to not get things wrong. They begin to worry over making mistakes in case they are not seen as clever any more, resist challenges and begin ‘coasting’; staying within their comfort zone with what they already know and can do.