Part 2: Why Book Scrutinies in Maths Don’t Work

Part 2: Why Book Scrutinies Don’t Work in Maths (and what we can do instead) This blog is the second of a two part blog challenging the common practice of carrying out ‘book scrutinies’ as a way of monitoring the effectiveness of teaching and learning in mathematics. Part 1 should be read first. Ok, so if I’m advising against (and, in my role as a maths consultant, won’t carry out) book scrutinies, what is an alternative? First we must return to our aims. Any process we engage in must be constantly focused upon what it sets out to achieve and how it can be continually improved it so it best meets these aims. Why are we monitoring in the first place? To evaluate the quality and effectiveness of teaching, learning, assessment and feedback in mathematics across classes and key stages To gain an accurate and valuable insight into areas of strength and those requiring investment To genuinely hear our pupils’ ‘voices’ and ask; ‘What am...Read More >

‘No Marking?’ Better Feedback?

Learning to Catch a Ball: How Effective Feedback Works in Real Life I recently acquired a beautiful rescue puppy. Along with the many new skills I’m now attempting to acquire (some more challenging than others) it’s become very apparent that my ability to throw a ball for him to retrieve needs some significant improvement! This ties in very nicely with an area I’ve become increasingly interested in regarding how we can best use feedback to support progress and, furthermore, reflect upon the dominant role marking currently plays in this process. I recently spent time with an inspirational teacher who has been trialing new approaches to feedback with her Year 2 class and assessing both the benefits to their progress and her daily workload. Our discussions led to me to wonder whether there was a way of simply synthesising what she’d experienced working so successfully and sharing these findings more widely. So, let’s return to my need to improve my throwing...Read More >

Ten Terrific Frames

Doesn’t it feel fantastic when you find a really simple idea that works brilliantly? The resource I’m excited about is the humble, but powerful, ten frame. My training is always evolving as I research, read and try out new ideas. In recent times I have become more and more focused upon the importance of pattern in underpinning a child’s ability to understand and use number; developing true ‘Number Sense’.  My reading revealed a resource which now dominates my training and one which has completely transformed my understanding of how children can learn a huge number of essential numerical skills including: Seeing and understanding number relationships Noticing how numbers increase and reduce Seeing numbers in numbers (part/part concept) Understanding that numbers within numbers are parts of a whole (part/whole concept – fractions) Working with clear understanding base 10 and place value Calculating efficiently using number facts and relationships Multiplying numbers efficiently Linking spoken, written and pictorial images of number Linking algebraic symbols (+ – = etc.)...Read More >

Planning using a ‘Maths Sandwich’?

Start the new term with a sandwich; a ‘Maths Sandwich’! The brain learns by forming connections. Successful learning in maths relies upon these connections.   How are you planning to connect what you’re about to teach with what children have learned before and will learn next?   In training I use an approach called ‘The Maths Sandwich’. Instead of going straight into the focused teaching, I aim to create a vital ‘Oh, I get what you mean….but I can’t do that yet’ moment. Adapting these ideas: I’ve worked with all of the ideas below at an age-appropriate level with EYFS to Year 6. The principals of good planning remain the same throughout, particularly in terms of engaging pupils and activating existing knowledge.   I begin my planning journey with the first slice of bread in the ‘Maths Sandwich’. This is the ‘hook‘ or context for the learning. A meaningful problem worthy of my children’s thought and ‘learning stamina’. For example, following all of the recent festivities,...Read More >

Teaching Times Tables

Teaching Times Tables? Here’s a simple but really effective ‘arrays’ task that helps children understand times tables facts and connect them to multiples, factors and fractions. This investigation offers rich opportunities to develop essential mathematical language connected to learning multiplication facts. 1. Using equal sized cubes or tiles (preferably of the) same colour) take a handful. This should be more than you can accurately estimate; probably between 15 – 25). DON”T COUNT THEM! You need this to be number ‘x’ (for the time being anyway).  2. Investigate how many rectangular arrays you can construct using ALL of your cubes or tiles. You must use them all as this will help reveal certain properties of ‘x’. For example, if you can create equal columns of 4 then you know ‘x’ is a multiple of 4 and has 4 as one of it’s factors. If you can create columns of 4, you must also be bale to see that ‘x’ can be...Read More >

Maths that makes’em go ‘Wow!’

Starting with ‘Wow’ Maths! Yesterday I was privileged to speak at a London conference alongside a childhood hero of mine; the maths enthusiast Johnny Ball.  As a child I’d watch Johnny on the TV bringing maths to life, inspiring me to feel curious and fascinated by the ways in which maths interacted with and was the foundation of everything I did everyday. He’d demonstrate the many relationships; how nature uses maths as the building blocks of life and how the architects in history used new and exciting mathematical discoveries to create awe-inspiring monuments like the Great Pyramid at Giza. He was the ‘Brian Cox’ (the TV Science man) of maths in his day.  I wonder who’s filling that gap these days? Despite Johnny’s program on TV, sadly the maths I experienced in school couldn’t have been further from the world he was describing. No one started with the Great Pyramid when teaching me geometry or introduced me to the Fibonacci sequence through science. I grew up thinking that maths was in a squared book and full of ‘right or wrong...Read More >

Great starting points for Primary Maths

The weather is a frequently untapped mathematical resource which we could all make far greater use of to help us teach some important, challenging and extremely useful maths skills. Missing Out? Are you following Karen Wilding Education on Facebook for even more ideas and inspiration? Simply click on ‘like’ here. This week, here in the UK, we saw our first taste of warmer weather and sunny skies. What a difference it makes to everyone it seems! Happy faces, people outside eating, drinking and playing and everyone talking about the summer ahead. The weather is a constant source of conversation in every country but none more so in one which can easily have four seasons in a day it seems (I believe Melbourne in Australia claims a similar fate!). As a starting point for maths it’s so relevant, is being experienced by every child every day, is accessible to us all and offers so many wonderful ways into areas of maths which can be challenging...Read More >

Reading Guaranteed to Inspire!

A break from school is such a precious time to recharge your batteries, spend high-quality time with family and friends and rediscover a life outside of teaching.  It’s also a wonderful opportunity to rekindle your passion for education and reconnect with why you became a teacher and what really matters to you most. In response to a request made by a very busy teacher and mother (thanks Becky D), below is my summer reading list recommendations. Some maths and some general education, some leadership and a few ‘I just like this’ too. Enjoy! 1. If you’re looking to think differently about teaching maths and everyone’s ability to be successful then read: ‘The Elephant in the Classroom: Helping children learn and love maths’ by Jo Boaler They’ll be a groan here from some of you who know me well as I’ve recommended this book on pretty much every training session I’ve run since I first read it nine years ago….There’s a reason for...Read More >

What you practise, you become good at (even the ‘bad’ stuff)

I don’t know if it’s because it’s a new year, but I’m more conscious than ever of how important it is to be willing to change the way we think. When we practise thinking a certain way, what we think becomes what we actually believe (even when it’s not true!) A personal example (with very painful reminders….): ‘I’m rubbish at maths and I hate it.’ I thought this for most of my life. Every childhood experience I can recall, at both school and home, re-enforced for me that there were ‘people who could do maths’ and ‘people who couldn’t’ and I was someone who couldn’t.  Unwittingly, my own well-intentioned mum cemented this belief by reassuring me that ‘You’re good at other things. Some people are just not ‘mathsy’ people. I’m not and you’re not’. And I believed her. Why wouldn’t I?  I practised this belief for years. When maths was hard I knew it was just evidence of what an ‘unmathsy’ person I was....Read More >

Inspirational Maths Leadership

I’ve said it before in my posts, and I’ll keep saying it, I thrive on constant inspiration to keep me learning, energised, curious and passionate about my work as an educator. I’m totally committed to my work but often that’s not enough and certainly, without new ideas, particular ones which challenge me to think and act differently, I wouldn’t be working nearly as effectively as I could (and should). With this in mind, I wanted to share a blog post I’ve read today which sent my mind into excited mode and topped up my energy levels instantly….fantastic stuff and so easy! I share things I find most regularly on Twitter so if you’re not a follower yet find me here @karenwildingedu Today’s great find is here. 

Is Just Having The ‘Map’ Enough?

In my role as an independent maths consultant, I am very fortunate to work alongside incredibly inspiring people who are determined to do their very best for the children they teach. This Monday was the first day back after the half term break and I delivered a whole day’s training on ‘Developing Essential Number Sense’ to a fantastic group of primary schools in Halifax. Unusually, I then stayed in school the next day as a learner myself to find out about how the school have been implementing changes as part of their involvement with the ‘Maths Hubs’ national initiative. It was incredibly worthwhile and I came away buzzing with new ideas and eager to share what I’d found out. (Thank you so much for your time, welcome and enthusiasm Copley Primary!). I now need time to really think about what I’ve learned. Whilst I have been thinking, I found myself reflecting back to how I spent part of half term on...Read More >

The problem with our current models of differentiation?

What impact are the headings ‘UA’, ‘MA’ and ‘LA’ having upon your childrens’ progress? (And are we talking about this enough?) A very good friend of mine who is training to be a teacher visited me this weekend. We spent a lot of our time reflecting upon what she’s learning and what’s working well. The issue of ‘differentiation’ came up almost immediately and how the models being used in most Maths classes in the UK seem not to serve the needs of our children effectively at all. We reflected upon the impact of putting children into groups and labelling them ‘high ability’, ‘middle ability’ and ‘low ability’ and this then affected both their attainment and children’s views as learners. I often wonder along these lines….. If I wasn’t a very proficient cook (yet) and wanted to be, would being in a group made up of other ‘non-cooks’ help me improve? When I share this anecdote on training people usually laugh as it seems so ridiculous. Thoughts...Read More >

New Sample Key Stage Tests from DfE

Just released from the DfE, sample tests for both Key Stages. Great to see a genuine emphasis on reasoning which backs up everything the new curriculum aims stand for (page 3 of curriculum and often overlooked at a key part of all maths planning?) Concerns overuse of ‘squared paper’ where workings are to be shown which could suggest that children calculate one particular way rather than making sense of the problem and working efficiently using what they know and understand. To meet these requirements, there is a real need for schools to prioritise the development of approaches which support children’s ability to reason and use highly effective images such as the ‘Bar’ model from Singapore to make sense of problems and work accurately and efficiently. We are delighted to be able to offer a range of exciting, high-quality courses, PD days and whole staff training to make sure everyone in your school feels inspired, supported and has a clear way forward. See our Courses and In School Support pages for information or email...Read More >

Maths teaching without inspiration…?

Maths teaching without inspiration…is just too hard! I want to talk about inspiration. I’m so incredibly passionate about my work with schools but even with this drive and commitment to making a real difference, I find myself often struggling to focus and achieve the things I know I want to and I’m capable of in the way I ideally want to. I’m in danger of slipping into ‘Eeyore’ mode when I’d much rather be ‘Tigger’….. It’s easy to slip into the trap of doing things the same way because we’re all so busy. ‘Busy’ doesn’t come close to it when you’re a teacher. It’s relentless and finding time to ‘come up for air ‘and change the way we’re working can seem almost impossible. I’ve felt that myself many times over the twenty plus years as a former classroom teacher. So I decided to ‘Flip It’ (Have you read the book? Brilliant advice for solving problems by ‘flipping’ them 180) I started to realise that I perhaps had things the wrong way around. In the past...Read More >