In light of the recent parents evening, I thought that I would clarify about what goes on in the classroom and what type of support the children are receiving in maths…
Firstly we don’t have ‘groups’ or ‘sets’. The children are given work which suits their ability and they have the choice of which questions/word problems they start on. These are differentiated and range from easier to harder. There is usually a whole-class input where concepts are introduced, explained, demonstrated etc. This is then displayed on the learning wall for the children to refer back to, should they need reminding or to look again at the example.
We work on the rule of ‘try 5 and move on’. After 5 questions, wherever possible, an adult will check to see how they have got on. If successful, they move on. If partly successful, after dialogue, the child would correct the errors using the purple ‘fix it’ pen. If successful, move on.
If a child is struggling, or what we refer to as ‘amber’ (understand some of it but need some guidance) or ‘red’ (completely confused), then we ask them to come to the support table. Occasionally, a small group may be taken into the hall (after the input), to work quietly with concrete apparatus. We encourage the children to move to the support table on their own accord, and they do feel comfortable in doing this. It is vital if they are amber/red. Sometimes children are asked to move to the support table; it really depends on the circumstances. Once a child is happy and feels that they have moved to green (and have demonstrated this in their book and/or verbally), they can move off the table. It’s a fluid process and it works well.
At the support table, the children use ‘concrete apparatus’. These include base 10 blocks, multi link, place value cards, number lines, bead strings etc.
Concrete is the “doing” stage, using concrete objects to model problems. Instead of the traditional method of maths teaching, where a teacher demonstrates how to solve a problem, the CPA approach brings concepts to life by allowing children to experience and handle physical objects themselves. Every new abstract concept is learned first with a “concrete” or physical experience.
Pictorial is the “seeing” stage, using representations of the objects to model problems. This stage encourages children to make a mental connection between the physical object and abstract levels of understanding by drawing or looking at pictures, circles, diagrams or models which represent the objects in the problem.
Abstract is the “symbolic” stage, where children are able to use abstract symbols to model problems (Hauser).
Those that are green will work on building their mathematical fluency (recall and apply mathematical knowledge both rapidly and accurately). This is not just memorising though. At this stage, they are recognising relationships and making connections. Then there is reasoning. This involves explaining the maths 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. Finally, there is problem solving. The children are encouraged to identify, understand and apply relevant mathematical principles and make connections between different ideas. Maths concepts are explored in a variety of representations and problem-solving contexts to give the children a richer and deeper learning experience. They are required to combine different concepts to solve complex problems, and apply knowledge to real-life situations.