Oamaru North School: ALiM report

Number of
students
Year Initial stage
Add/Sub
Final stage
Add/Sub
Time in programme Predominant
Focus
5 2/3 1 student - stage 1
4 students - stage 2
5 students - stage 4 5x30mins weekly
8 weeks
Number knowledge
6 0/1 3 students - stage 0
3 students - stage 1
6 students - stage 2 5x30mins weekly
7.5 weeks
Strategy
     
 

How do we accelerate learning in maths for our underachieving students? What works?

We chose two groups of students from within the junior syndicate of the school.

Group A was made up of five students. Group A was taken by the teacher responsible for this project and happened on 40 x 30 minute sessions. This was the possible number of sessions that could be taken over the eight week period. These sessions were held from 9.00am to 9.30am. Therefore these children received extra maths lessons as they had their own class lesson daily from 12.40pm to 1.40pm.

These children made greater gains than the younger students because they started at a lower stage and therefore had the greater increase available to them.

Group B was taken by a teacher aide and happened for 38 of the sessions over the same period. This teacher aide has a TA certificate and was guided by the teacher. These sessions were held from 2.30pm to 3.00pm. These children also received extra maths lessons as they had their own class lesson daily from 12.40pm to 1.40pm. Although not an optimum time for the lesson, we had to fit in with the other work that the teacher aide does in our school.

In general, considering this is the time when sickness occurs during the winter months, the attendance was very good.

Of the eleven children involved, eight were there for all lessons. One child in Group A missed three lessons and another child was absent for one session and one child missed several sessions.

Children were well-behaved and very keen to attend the daily sessions.

Advice for other teachers and principals

I found it crucial to have the support of the following people:

  •  The principal – without his support I would not have been able to take part in the project or use my time in a flexible manner. His support in allowing me to use our school funds for materials and his encouragement and belief that I could do what was asked of me was of value, and appreciated.
  • The parents – I had the total support of the parents who had children involved. I decided, wisely or not, to have a daily contact booklet to keep them informed. This required a huge amount of time but did keep parents in the loop and also allowed them to help their children at home. The booklet would need to be refined when I use this again.
  • The classroom teacher – unless the class teachers of the children involved in the project, take an interest and take on board comments about progress then I believe that the efforts would not have been as great. For the year 2 and year 3 children I kept their class teachers involved. I did this by letting them observe the lessons and going into their rooms. The other group is in my numeracy class so there were no problems there with me knowing where they are up to.

“Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics.”

  1. An Ethic of Care

    If we believe that teachers make the difference I knew that it was important that both sessions were held in my classroom where I have a maths corner. This would allow them to realise that maths is important and that I care for their well-being in the sessions. The sessions were held at regular times and the children in both the groups’ eagerness to come and get ready for each lesson was quite impressive. The older group in general was children behind the level expected but it was great to know that they felt included and valued throughout the lesson. Confidence increased. This was very evident when we, teacher and the group, returned to their own class and taught a group of their mates some of the activities. And boy did they shine!!! Perseverance for problem solving became evident and their support for each other when things got a bit challenging was pleasing to note.

  2. Arranging for Learning
    The size of the senior group was ideal and allowed children to interact within the group. Even within the group the children’s insights were at different levels but this enhanced overall understandings. We were fortunate in that when both groups were working, there were no other children in the classroom and therefore no interruptions. I believe that the children were involved throughout the lessons and once the children stopped answering for another child their comments were there to aid the child that may be having difficulties. Generally both groups were taught as groups with tasks modified to suit the ability/ capability of each individual child.

  3. Building on Student’s Thinking
    Each lesson started with the known and the easy to “think about’ tasks. This was really necessary so that the shutters did not come down for the children. As the children were working at the very early stages of maths we worked extensively at improving knowledge and encouraging the children to use this to discover new ways of working out problems. With the older group of children I consistently needed to remind the children that they could do it. My saying was,“If you can count to ten forwards and backwards, that is all you need to know.” Wow, what a revelation that was for them.
  4. Worthwhile Mathematical Tasks
    Beside all the suggestions in the notes for developing mathematical language, I found that I needed to have a variety of activities for the children to be part of. I needed a constant supply of these. Thank goodness for the colour photocopier and the laminator. On the down side this was a time-consuming task at the weekends and hopefully, if the programme is introduced into schools, then some of these would be provided. However, I do know that when a teacher puts effort into making equipment themselves then they are more likely to use it. For example, I found that even when the children were using the tens frames in a competent manner, when I introduced a different activity to build on or revise the concept, they needed further teaching. So having a wide variety of activities is essential.
  5. Making Connections
    This was really relevant to both groups. Constantly we were going back two steps to build confidence and increase their capability to solve problems and to tackle new learning.
  6. Assessment for Learning
    In general this was done orally and very much moment-by-moment assessment of the students' learning. The programme structure that I was trialing showed progressions that were easy to follow and allowed for me to pace the lessons as I went through the daily lesson. We had a routine and we followed this. The teacher aide did plan in a formal way but would modify these when she thought that this was needed.
  7. Mathematical Communication and Language
    Children became more confident in using the appropriate language and supportive in the communication between themselves. The variety of material that was available on a daily basis helped cement ideas. This was readily available for the children and they were free to use the equipment at other times of the day. I believe that the older group of children will now be able to talk in a mathematical sense when they are back in their own classrooms.
  8. Teacher Knowledge
    I am neither a mathematician nor a statistician so thank goodness I was only working with the little people of our school. I am an experienced teacher who still, after many, many years of teaching, has the passion and energy to take on new challenges. So thankfully I was able to work on several programmes which I felt comfortable with.

So why was this successful at our school?

The initial training and collegiality in Auckland was an awesome experience and gave me the encouragement and enthusiasm to begin the programme. Also important was the support from a knowledgeable facilitator who is always so appreciative of the efforts that teachers make.

The programme has been well thought through. It can be worked successfully by a teacher aide with class support. But it is a programme that I will be using with my new-entrant class in the future. This, supplemented by the Numeracy Project, should give the children an accelerated start to their maths education.

The home/school partnership through the booklets and games sent home has been successful. Without a doubt it is evident that the children who had this home support on a regular basis made the greater gains. (I would make this easier next time).

Having the other classroom teachers in to observe lessons was important. Also having the children to share activities with their peers provided evidence of where the children were working at. Because the older group of children were making considerable gains, it was important that these were maintained in the classroom programme.

The lessons that both the teacher aide and I took were an add-on to the normal classroom programme and not instead of. It provided extra mileage for the children.

The extra activities that have been made are now a useful resource for our school and have allowed other teachers to use them in their programmes.

AND HOPEFULLY - SUSTAINABILITY

With the older group sustainability may be a problem. So I hope, with the principal’s permission, to take the older group of students at least twice a week for 30 minute sessions. This should allow me to keep track of where they are operating in their class programme and also to work on maintenance activities. The younger group are not a problem as I will be teaching them next term.

Thanks for the opportunity for our school to be part of the programme. It has been a privilege to be involved and I hope that the programme is made available to other teachers and schools.