Saturday, 4 May 2013

Maths Knowledge #1 - What is it?

Hello friends,

Maths is one of those subjects you either loved or hated when you were in school. I'll bet that how you felt about it, strongly depended on the teacher you had and the lessons / resources that they provided, as well as their own attitude to the subject.

Having been the TIC (teacher in charge) of Maths at my school, I found it really deflating how many teachers held a negative outlook on this subject. Yet it encompasses daily skills necessary to function in our lives. Logic and reasoning applies universally to the choices we lets make maths fun and REAL!.

One of the biggest gaps today is in the area of board games. The rich maths concepts that come out of them, not to mention the social aspect, communication skills, kin-aesthetic application, values examination, peer moderation and a competitive purpose to improve, to name a few of the benefits.

I see a lot of worksheet based maths lessons these days, and while there is definitely a place for this in your programme, it seems to have exploded since the accessibility of photocopiers and the continual growth of curricula that seems to cram more and more Learning Outcomes / Standards into a single year. No wonder the fun has been squeezed out - there is simply no time for it :(   . . . . . . . . or is there?

I am making it my aim to post a series of blogs about some ways to have fun while learning maths, but first, a little background about our maths curriculum for my international readers. I'm sure you'll see commonalities.

Over 10 years ago now, the NZ ministry rolled out the Numeracy Project in schools. This was a great way to up-skill teachers and get them all working from the same page, so to speak (because the programme came with its own set of teaching books (8) and many teachers would teach with these on their laps as a script, in the beginning).
Books 1-9 are viewable at NZ

One GOOD thing was it brought back emphasis on using concrete materials to model number concepts. YAY! Lucky kids. This meant that schools purchased math kits for all their teachers to use. Materials we didn't have before, like - counters, beans, film canisters, ice block sticks, array cards, fraction kits, 100 boards and large abacuses, etc. It was like Christmas.

The Numeracy Project focused of Number & Algebra at first. It divides up number into Knowledge and Strategy.

First of 8 levels - student profile sheet from NZ Maths

While different Strategies are the thinking processes one applies to solving problems, Knowledge is the content that is required to be instantly recalled and used when working with the different strategies.
Of course, as with any curricula, Numeracy is leveled and has 8 stages. Stages 1-3 cover the early basics and roughly equate to kiddies aged between 5-7yrs. These levels require students to spend a lot of time with manipulatives, exploring the concept of numbers. From around year 3 (age 7+), children are able to sustain focus on pair and groups games for more extended periods and group rotations are easier for teachers to manage.

Acquiring and practicing Knowledge expectations is an aspect that can be run through your independent work stations.
2 of my Year 4 boys from last year playing a game of Loopy to practice multiplication (Basic Facts Knowledge)

For younger students you might run it more structured for peer support, i.e. all kiddies working on the same activity for a week, then move on. For older students you can run it on individual goal based systems. This is how I have run it from year 4 up (age 8+) because it allows students to move at their own pace, be it slower or faster.

Finally, for today, each stage has several specific Knowledge learning outcomes that students need to acquire and demonstrate independently, most of the time. These fall into areas of Number Identification, Sequencing & Ordering numbers, Grouping & Place Value, Basic Facts and finally Fractions. I spent months and years sourcing games (both actual and virtual) to match each of these. In the end I wrote a set of games specifically for each stage and embedded it within a self-management and self-reflective programme for students.

I have used it for about 4 years now. Even when teaching in a digital classroom, I found that students loved the games centre, I suspect because of the human interaction aspect. While computer programmes are a great resource, the shine can wear off after a while and it can become just another worksheet type resource, whereas when you play games with fellow students, it will turn out differently every time :) I'll leave you with this video of a Bingo game in progress for practicing times tables.

Stage 4 and 5 are now available at my TPT store, my TNB store and at HML. 6-8 are in final proofing stages and on the way. Links are below.

Next time I will post about the ideas behind the resource so please link up or visit again soon :)

'Til next time

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