|Time in programme||Predominant
|22 (in 3 groups)||4||19 students - stage 4
3 students - stage 5
|Not specified||5x20mins weekly||Not specified|
Nga Iwi is a decile 1 school situated in South Auckland with approximately 475 students attending the school. The students are Maori and Pacific Islanders. The students I worked with are all year four. There were 22 students to start with. One student left the school during the project and one was added into the group when he enrolled in the school.
At the beginning of the project, students were put into three groups based on the data from the Diagnostic Interview, GloSS and the IKAN knowledge test. The majority of these students came out at stage 4 for both strategy and knowledge. Three students were at stage 5 for strategy. During the project, the students were moved in and out of the three groups according to their knowledge and strategy needs at a given time.
Teaching mathematics everyday with no negotiation is a definite requirement if there is to be any possibility of accelerating learning for students who are working below expectation.
The fact that the mathematics time these students worked with me was over and above their normal class mathematics programme is also a significant factor in accelerating learning. Sometimes I thought that 20 minutes with each group was not enough time. The students in this study asked to do more maths. Some students would say “Miss, can we carry on?” or “Can we do some more working out?” During intervals and lunch times, they would come up to me and start talking maths and ask me to ask them questions about what they had been learning. We would then do a one or two minute question-and-answer quick fire quiz on what they had been learning.
Teaching maths every day increased students’ confidence in mathematics, especially when they saw that they had moved stages or groups. “I get brainy when I learn maths every day. I know my division now,” one student in the study said.
For our students, it is critical to use appropriate materials in conjunction with the mathematics’ language driven by appropriate and effective teacher questioning. One of the best ways teachers can cater for their low achieving students in maths is by engaging them in problem solving activities through the use of a variety of materials during any maths lessons taught. Using and exposing students to a variety of materials will engage students in the learning taking place. A lecturer from the Waananga commented about the high level of engagement demonstrated by the students seen by her when she came to observe. She also commented on the pace of the lesson (which always had momentum) and how the students responded to questions asked. In addition, two teachers from the local intermediate observed the group working and were similarly impressed with what the students were achieving.
Students respond well to effective teacher questioning which challenges their mathematical thinking and gives the teacher insights about the students.
Feedback from one of the associate principals of the school, commented that the questioning of students to explain their strategies, either in a group situation or turning and talking to a partner, helped considerably to consolidate the learning taking place. For example, why four in a row? How else can you solve this? The AP also said that the questioning helped students focus on what they had learnt.
Conversations with classroom teachers proved that what was happening during the study with the students, worked. This was evident in the classrooms in the following ways: teachers noticed students involved in the project had improved participation during mathematics teaching, were taking risks during maths and also in answering maths questions.
One teacher shared that she has seen a huge improvement in one of the students from her class who took part in the study. This student also shared with me that she had moved up a group in mathematics in her class and is now in ‘Squares’. Her post results proved that she is now working at the expected level in relation to the mathematics national expectations.
As the students progressed throughout the term, I was faced with a quandary. I had to decide whether to continue to work with students who reached expectation before the cut-off date and focus on the remaining students, or to continue to work with the original group. Creating more groups would mean less time with each group. I opted to continue with all students.
My experience has taught me that having high expectations, driving students to stretch themselves mathematically, and teaching small, targeted and specific knowledge and strategy lessons has improved students' learning in mathematics. Iit turned out to be no different for this group of students. An example would be that the students were able to work with and manipulate numbers up to ten thousand. Up until this point, these students had generally not gone beyond two and three digit numbers.
Positive reinforcement alongside acknowledgement of student success in mathematics, consistently enabled the students to feel comfortable sharing their mathematics thinking and take risks which in turn eliminated behavioural issues and built student confidence.
The final assessments that were undertaken at the end of the project were compared and analysed with the initial assessments. After seeing final results I was overwhelmed and excited to see the outstanding achievement of the students in comparison to their results at the beginning. Four students in the study made huge improvements and are now working above the expected level. This was one of the many highlights for me undertaking this project. Another would be the students’ engagement and their enthusiasm as they attended each session. Their participation and developing confidence with each session was another highlight for me as they would ask questions, talk with each other and respond to my questioning.
Upon reflection, I believe I have developed as a more confident and effective teacher of mathematics and have felt rewarded by this experience and by the students' achievement.
N.B. The principal funded an extra 20 minutes daily. This allowed the teacher to work with three groups (20 minutes) and have 20 minutes for preparation.