Primary Mathematics

Primary Mathematics

Thursday, 1 June 2017  | Ben - Assistant Primary Coordinator & Senior Primary Coordinator

How is it done and why do we do it this way?

Back in 2014, Michelle began teaching at MECS in Senior Primary, and brought with her a new way of looking at Mathematics, based on an assessment framework originally researched and developed by the Melbourne University Assessment and Research Centre. Over the past few years, the mathematics teams from Junior to Senior Primary have moulded and shaped this framework into a program that is seeing excellent results for our students here at MECS.

There is a constant pressure in schools to try to cover the entire curriculum each year in as much detail as possible. Given the scope of what to cover is so large, often topics had to be moved through quickly. What we began to realise however, was that many of the basic concepts of mathematics were being rushed and that more time and ‘honing in’ was needed for students to develop their full mathematical understanding in these areas. Prior to Michelle starting at MECS, the mathematics coordinators had identified a need and fortunately that next year, Michelle arrived with an invaluable resource.

The program uses detailed pre-tests to assess the specific skills and knowledge of each student, then uses this data to determine the next steps in each student’s mathematical learning. This ensures that students are not wasting time going over topics and skills in which they are already confident; instead, it allows us to extend their learning from their individual point of need. It also relieves students from being required to complete work that is well above their level of understanding. Furthermore, it ensures that students who are ready, can step outside of their comfort zone and begin exploring mathematics skills and concepts traditionally expected from those in higher year levels.

Mathematical workshops take place for the core components of the four processes (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), place value (JP), money skills (JP) and fractions, closely focussing on where each individual child is ‘at’ in the learning. The other mathematics components are then organised around these five key areas so that the learning taking place in the workshops can be integrated across to the concepts covered in our own classes.
What are the advantages of this framework?
  • Students feel success in their mathematics learning, no matter what level that they are working at.
  • Works at closing the ‘gaps’ in student learning that were appearing in our former approach to mathematics.
  • Extends students in their specific areas of need, so not to repeat concepts and skills that they already know.
  • Students gain confidence in themselves as a learner.
  • ‘Fluid groups’ allows for students to change groups if they quickly pick up the skills that they have been working on, and begin working at a higher level.
  • Allows greater depth and time to be spent learning the four processes (+, -, ÷, x), as well as fractions.
  • Allows teachers and support staff to keep a closer eye on how students are ‘travelling’ in their learning.
What is clearly evident in teaching this program is that it is specially oriented for students’ individual needs. As educators, we understand that students come to us in mathematics with a broad range of foundational skills, as well as a raft of misunderstandings. We recognise that students bring not only their own set of skills, but also an array of giftings and talents, and while for one topic, a student may require extra support, for the next, they might be exceeding the level expected.

The Transformational Education book describes it beautifully in Chapter 13: “‘Student orientation’ recognises that teachers treat each learner as a unique individual, made in God’s image, known to him by name and nature, gifted specifically by him…” (pg. 121.) 

Teachers modify and cater within each skills group, aware of the different needs and abilities of the students, and provide many differentiated approaches to learning. This impacts on how we deliver the curriculum; the giftings and interests of students may require the teaching method to be different from one lesson to the next. The skill sets and interests of students allow teachers the freedom to experiment with new and exciting ways of learning.  
The data from the past three years indicates that this whole Primary School approach to mathematics is working! We have noticed that each year the majority of students are coming to their new classes and subsequent year levels with a greater depth of understanding across these core components. The aim continues to be working towards ensuring we honour each child by nurturing their God given gifts and talents in mathematics.

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