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“A high quality maths education provides a foundation for understanding the world, the ability to reason mathematically, an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics, and a sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject.” Primary National Curriculum 2014
The mathematics curriculum at St Robert Bellarmine Primary School embraces this principal and aims to ensure that all our children leave school fluent in the fundamentals of maths, are able to reason mathematically and solve problems. We encourage all our children to see that maths is an essential part of their everyday life. We try at all times to show them how maths is used in real life situations.
Learning mathematics is a process that requires active involvement. At St Robert Bellarmine, we aim to provide opportunities for students to become actively engaged in the learning process. Our aim is to inspire children by giving them a lively sense of interest and enjoyment in mathematics, with an understanding of its practical and creative use in everyday life.
As Mathematics is such an important life skill, we have not only embraced the new curriculum, but have introduced a new ‘Mastery’ approach to our lessons. The ‘White Rose’ scheme of learning is taught across the school, allowing pupils to spend longer on key mathematical concepts, most noticeably number. During these longer units, pupils will see mathematics in a real life context, before moving at an appropriate pace from the concrete/pictorial approach (supported by manipulatives including Numicon) to the abstract.
In line with Bruner’s theory of learning, new concepts (regardless of the age of the learner) are taught enactively, then iconically and, finally, symbolically as ways of capturing experiences in the memory. We also believe that it is important to include practical activities and discussion as an integral part of mathematics lessons; and the use of pictorial recording and the classroom environment are also important.
Quality questioning underpins our philosophy for teaching mathematics. At the start of every teaching sequence questioning enables teachers to assess where the children are in their learning and provides assessment allowing us to plan effectively for the future needs of the children. Questions are open ended and used as a basis for further questioning, to unpick misconceptions and deepen the children’s knowledge and understanding. The questions enable teachers to adapt their teaching to the needs of the children offering them the opportunities to exceed expectations and add depth to their understanding.
We believe that mathematics is best learned through activities that allow students to explore and understand the mathematical concepts with concrete apparatus. Using equipment helps to deepen understanding and creates visual and concrete images from abstract concepts. All classes from nursery through to year six use equipment in lessons. A variety of different equipment needs to be used when learning the same concept to create a range of images. Equipment is used in a purposeful context as far as possible and adds a concrete experience to the learning.
New mathematical concepts begin with the use of structured concrete materials including: structural apparatus such as cubes, counters, 3D shapes or weighing scales as well as contextual objects such as teddies or coins for counting or sorting; then develop imagery with pictorial representations including: children’s own mark making and simple drawings, sketches, number lines and diagrams; and lastly move to the abstract/symbolic which include: young children’s emergent graphics, early number formation, number sentences and written expanded methods such as ‘chunking or ‘grid’ method.
Although a wide variety of concrete resources are used throughout the school, Numicon is seen as a major tool in a child’s mathematical learning from nursery to Year 6. Numbers are abstract ideas- all we can do is show representations of them. Numicon shapes can be seen as 'pictures of numbers'. Numicon's imagery uses patterns to represent each numeral. The patterns are structured so number relationships can be seen and experienced. Numicon encourages an understanding of numbers and their relationships. Understanding numbers is reinforced through talk and use in real-life contexts. We strongly believe in a do, talk, record approach to using Numicon.
Provision for practising newly developed skills is provided through small group work on a daily basis. Practise meets the needs of the children on an individual basis and therefore the children will practise differentiated skills according to their need. Practise is used to consolidate and develop fluency with learning that has already taken place.
Children demonstrate their knowledge and understanding by being provided with the opportunity to use and apply the skills and knowledge they have gained. It should be presented through a context which is meaningful and stimulating for all children at their own level. Children should be confidently able to apply their skills and knowledge to imaginatively solve problems.
There are five different types of problem solving which we teach in each year group. These are: word problems, working systematically to find all possibilities, visual and diagram puzzles, finding rules and describing patterns and logic problems.
As we place a huge emphasis on problem solving we have a separate Problem Solving book to ensure we continue to focus on helping children to develop these key skills.
It is essential that our children are fluent in the 4 rules of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. We have a session every day known as “4 a day” wherein the children are able to practise and improve the formal methods of calculation in each year group.
In our school we use a variety of ways of recording the children’s work. Obviously with the focus on using concrete apparatus much of the children’s work is very practical. This work is recorded in our “Floor books”. The work within these books exemplifies the process undertaken in learning a mathematical concept.