Primary Mathematics – The Trainee Teacher viewpoint…
As a trainee entering the world of teaching, mastery maths has been an exciting development in my school. The ability to extend all the students through provision of challenge activities has had a tremendous effect on my students ability to apply concepts to real life.
Last year I blogged on Pedagoo about the idea of teaching maths without numbers. When probability and chance formed part of the curriculum it was possible to allow students time to explore the concept of non-number maths. Now this has been removed from the Primary National Curriculum then we, as teachers, have to explore other angles (an unintentional maths pun there!).
Maths does not need to have right and wrong answers all the time.
So what can we do to challenge our pupils? Within my current Y5 class we have been exploring maths that does not necessarily have a correct answer. At first this was confusing to the children as surely everything we do in maths has to be right? Not so, and the realisation that this is possible was liberating to some children whilst frustrating to others.
Moving to this crazy world where children are encouraged to experiment with number helps with formative assessment greatly; if a child is able to extend into the conceptual domain and apply taught knowledge to a new problem then surely we have achieved our aims as educators?
The second part of any challenge can revolve around the idea that it is okay to be wrong sometimes. Again this poses a challenge to a group of high-achieving mathematicians as they are used to having the right answer and then receiving praise for getting it right. So what if they get it wrong? What should the next step be? In a curriculum that seem to encourage learning through application then this should not be a problem. Allowing children to make, then correct, mistakes would seem to be at the forefront of thinking in other subjects. In Computing we would call this Debugging, so why not apply the same logic to mathematics? Children learning through exposure to real-world problems removes us from the pure “correctness” of curriculum and makes our children more naturally inquisitive about maths and the world around them. Encouraging children to take chances with maths and even learn through there mistakes has been a powerful lesson for this trainee teacher.
Ultimately though you can only flourish in this method if your school allows it. With the push to demonstrate mastery across the maths curriculum then surely this is the only way forward.