S2 & S5 – Maths Lesson

On 2nd November I attended the maths tutorial, a day spent looking at Mastery Maths, how this looks in the classroom and where to source resources to support the planning and delivery of Maths. I was worried about this training because Maths is a weak area for me and I am aware that my subject knowledge, through my subject bundles,  was very low.  However, the training was interesting and thought provoking but I left the training and felt I still needed to find out more.  This was to develop my understanding about what I had learn in training and  Mastery Maths with particular reference to the EYFS.  I therefore went home and did some additional reading. and purchased some reading material and also children’s textbooks to work through! Unexpectedly the next staff meeting in school was to look at mastery in maths and the 6 part lesson.  This was also interesting and specifically showed how this fits into the school I am based in.  I learn best through seeing examples so this really helped to back up what I saw in the tutorial.  The teacher leading the staff meeting had videoed herself teaching a six part maths lesson and this was very useful to see it in action.  The training and the staff meeting has made me think about my own practice in the classroom with regards to maths and how I can improve my practice and the maths sessions I deliver.

Each day in the classroom we do a 10-15 minute whole class maths session.  This is a programme the school have developed themselves and have been using for a few years with great success.  However,  I was beginning to feel concerned about my own ability to assess the children’s maths development during these lessons, teach gaps and misconceptions of individual children and I felt it was difficult to keep the children engaged for the whole session.  It is a whole class sit and do lesson and the children in the class are more physical TS2 Has a clear understanding of the needs of all pupil/ TS2 Is able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this impacts on teaching.  I spoke to my mentor about my concerns and she was more than happy for me to have a think about how I could make the lesson more active, hands on, practical and differentiated. This was really encouraging that my mentor was happy for me  to have input into this and was happy for me to take charge of changing the lesson from her original plans for the term.

The maths lesson relied heavily on using the interactive whiteboard with slides having varied maths activities for the children to do which helped to develop their quick thinking skills around maths. I didn’t want to change the maths session to a point of it being unrecognisable to the children as a majority of the class rely on the repetitive routines of the day.  I looked at the slides individually and thought about how to make the same activity more physical.  I planned my maths session to involve jumping, clapping, stamping and alternating between doing activities stood up and sat down TS2 Is able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this impacts on teaching..  Having only been teaching this lesson for a short time I was worried about implementing the change especially with this being a mentor observation too. In actual fact the lesson was a success.  The children were engaged for the whole session and they joined in well with the activities.  The changes were small enough that the children still recognised the lesson.

These changes were beneficial for engaging pupils but I was still feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job at assessing the children’s individual abilities to know who knew what and what needed to be taught next TS2 Is aware of pupils’ capabilities and their prior knowledge, and plan teaching to build on these.  The children who I did know had gaps I was struggling to think how I would teach these gaps when other children were ready to move on.  With this is mind and with the recent training in Maths myself and my mentor decided together that we needed to think about making this whole class session more hands on and less smartboard based.  I was keen to do this knowing I would then be able to physically see what the children could do.  Again my mentor was happy for me to go away and think about the changes and how I would implement them.  It was also great to see my mentor had taken on my ideas and was using them in her own teaching of the maths lessons. Being a trainee  it has been rewarding to see my ideas being taken on by others.

Again I gave these changes a lot of thought and I decided to introduce equipment to the lesson.  As a whole class we began our maths session using our core activities of counting, days of the week, weather graph I then sat the children in a large circle and did some counting activities using small equipment such as cubes, counting bears etc (count me out 3, count out 7).  The children reacted to this change really well and their enthusiasm in the lesson was so much higher.   This was a really useful change to see how much the lesson improved with the addition of equipment.  Although I was able to assess the children easier, it still didn’t solve the issue of meeting everyone’s needs, supporting the LA and challenging the HA.  This was beginning to cause me some frustration because I felt like I wasn’t able to meet the needs of all of the children and I wasn’t doing a good job for everyone.  

I talked this through with my mentor and she acknowledge that this was not just the case for me but also for her.  I had decided the week before that for whole class phonics I would split the children into groups and have them working in different areas of the classroom but on the same lesson.  This had been  working well.  Therefore I thought this could be successful in maths also.  I decided to have 8 HA children sitting at a table for maths and the rest of the children sitting on the carpet in 2 circles with equipment in all areas for the children to access.  I then chose 3 different activities all based on counting, numerals and matching amounts of objects to the correct number TS2 Is aware of pupils’ capabilities and their prior knowledge, and plan teaching to build on these.. I pitched each of the 3 activities to different abilities TS5 Knows when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively.  Using the TA to support one group and I supported the other 2 groups.  This worked well for stretching and challenging the HA group and myself and my mentor can see the real benefit to the children.  All of the children were being challenged at their own levels.  This was so rewarding to see but it was still not quite right.  I was feeling like I was taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back.  After an observation by my senior mentor and having time to reflect on this lesson I was able to identify that the reason it wasn’t working was the 2 groups on the carpet couldn’t be supported effectively so close together.

I planned the next lesson with a similar set up of 8 children at a table and the rest of the children in two circles on the carpet again but I deployed staff differently. The TA started the HA children off on their task whilst I began the activity on the carpet.  She then joined one group to support whilst I supported the other group on the carpet and checked in with the HA children for support as and when needed. This helped me to differentiate the lesson for all of the children to meet the needs of everyone. TS5 Knows when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively This lesson was a success for both the children and the adults.  It felt like we had achieved something not just myself but as a class team.  I am more confident in being able to assess the needs of all of the children in the class during the maths lessons now TS2  Is able to take accountability for pupils’ attainment, progress and outcomes

I am taking these changes further and am now looking at organising the class into maths groups who each have their own area of the classroom to work.  This means I will be able to have a clear plan of the activities I offer and the next steps that needs to be planned. My mentor has been very supportive of the changes I have made and alongside training has been a good source of information.  I feel like This whole process has been a big learning curve that will remain with me throughout my future teaching career.

This experience has changed my whole practice with regards to how I deliver maths. The maths lessons I now teach have little to no resemblance of my past lessons other than the subject area being taught.

It has made me realise that although my mentor has routines and lesson that have been successful in the past it doesn’t necessarily mean they will always work with every class that comes into school. Changes need to be made if these changes will be of significant benefit to the children’s ability to learn.  This is especially so if the original way was detrimental to their learning.

I have also learnt that good ideas of ways to change things don’t always necessarily work first time and sometime lessons need to be continuously tweaked especially as the children and their needs change. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong.  It has really shown me how effective and beneficial reflection on all lessons can be for making important improvements for everyone.  

Focused next steps:

  • Split children into maths groups
  • Plan differentiated activities based on the class data and what the children’s next steps are.