Pahoia School: ALiM report

Number of
students
Year Initial stage
Add/Sub
Final stage
Add/Sub
Time in programme Predominant
Focus
8 5/6 Gloss
1 student - stage 3
2 students - stage 4
5 students - stage 5
Props/ratios
1 student - stage 2/4
Gloss
1 student - stage 4
3 students - stage 5
3 students - stage 6
1 student unknown
Props/ratios
1 student - stage 5/6
4x30mins weekly
7 weeks
Fractions

Our School and Me

We are a small rural school situated approximately 20 km north of Tauranga. We have eight classrooms and have approximately 190 students on our new entrant to year 6 roll. The majority of our students are NZ European.

As part of our current strategic plan we have three main goals that focus on improving student achievement. They are to:

  • raise student achievement in literacy
  • raise student achievement in numeracy
  • strengthen strategies and tools that embrace 'personalised learning'.

I have taught for nearly 20 years and am currently the DP and a year 5/6 teacher. I am also the new lead teacher of maths as of last year.

Project Focus Group

This year I have worked four days out of five with a senior maths class who tend to struggle a lot with maths. The focus group for this intervention was chosen as they were in year 5 and 6 and had begun the year at stage 3 or 4.

Their biggest hole, according to IKAN, was fractions. This became the main focus area to improve on. The rest of the maths class were also working on fractions.

Place value and times tables were a whole class focus also.

The target group were seen four days out of five, for half an hour each time, while the other two groups rotated every second day with me. A teacher aide was on hand to offer support when groups were working independently.

Release time was largely spent in testing, planning, time with advisor and fellow ALiM teacher and creating resources for myself and other staff members to use.

Results

Over the past seven weeks of intense maths learning the change of attitude of the children towards maths in general has been the most obvious improvement.

NumPA results showed improvement in fractions for all group members, except for one who went overseas for an extended time. Through the NumPA testing it is interesting to note that improvements were also made in proportions and ratios, addition and subtraction, and multiplication and division. Every child improved in at least one area. Even the child who disappeared overseas improved in three areas.
Another ‘result’ was a marked change in my attitude to, and confidence in, teaching maths. I felt more inclined to relinquish the ‘Pink Books’ more confidently and trusted that my knowledge, resources and skills were enough to make a big difference to the children’s experiences and ultimately to their learning. Learning did not have to follow a neat linear path according to the book. Rather it took a path according to needs and growing knowledge and strategies. Also, I felt more confident in knowing where or who to go to ask for help or ideas, as well as being more creative with what I could bring to the children.

Why did it work?

  • Working with the group every day was a key reason for the positive changes. Just ‘tweaking’ the usual task board rotation had a more positive effect than I realised it would.
  • The children enjoyed keeping the journals but it was tricky trying to fill them up with things we had learned as we kept the pace fairly slow at times when things weren’t being retained. However, a benefit of the journals was that the children were encouraged to care for the development of their own mathematical proficiency. Although these were not used as much as they could be the journals were a real hit. A spin off was the positive attitude raised ‘comfort levels and gave them greater confidence in their capacity to learn and to make sense of mathematics.’ (Anthony,G. and Walshaw,M. 2009 p.8)
  • Time for repetition of activities.
  • I included a blend of independent, pair, small group and whole class maths experiences. There was nothing different there. But I did focus on more ‘wait time’ and pair conversations as I endeavoured to connect learning to what they were thinking. They still struggled at times with explaining to each other how they solved problems. However, with time, they showed signs of improving. I was surprised at how much they enjoyed the independent practice activities (so simple).
  • Instead of introducing a game and then leaving them to it I played it with them for a few days in a row. I spent more time than usual on monitoring involvement as well as improving the games. Making sure that all were participating in games was important; sometimes a dependency on the rest of the players can happen so it was important to ensure this did not occur. This also paved the way to posing new questions or tasks as I was more ‘present’ with them. This challenged and extended them.
  • Making connections and using real life situations and materials such as cutting up apples was an easy way of seeing the fraction. However I was conscious of showing fractions that were non-circular objects or sets. Sometimes this was a challenge but the children began to help with examples.
  • Think Boards were also a favourite, but as a pair activity it was easy to miss when they went off track before them bringing it back to the group to share. Of course, this wasn’t entirely wasted time and brought moments of clarification.
  • Informal assessment as we went along was helpful. The games appeared to be games to the children but they were an excellent gauge for me of who was getting it and who wasn’t. Sharing problem solving in pairs worked similarly. It was important to remember that this is a group of children who had come through school appearing to fail at maths, as well as other areas, therefore they tended to seize up when it came to ‘real’ tests.
  • My attitude and confidence must have made a difference. Fractions has not been my favourite area of maths to teach, but now that I trust myself more to listen to the children and understand their needs more clearly I can creatively bring learning to them in a way that may ‘stick’ better. The support of my facilitator and fellow teacher at Matamata Intermediate was a bonus.
  • This initiative was also a catalyst for change in me. Thank you for creating the opportunity for so many of us to grow and learn.

I did a quick brainstorm with the focus group about the intense few weeks we have spent together.

What’s been great about maths this term?

  • The games
  • Solving problems at practice
  • The University Thingy
  • Going outside to do maths
  • I’ve got a better attitude
  • I feel happier about maths
  • I feel positive about coming to maths
  • If there’s no maths the middle session seems longer

Why do you think maths has worked this term?

  • You taught us
  • I moved up a group
  • Being in a group where people think the same
  • The games were fun
  • The songs made my times tables improve
  • Doing reflections

What could have made maths even better?

  • More challenges
  • Nothing, it’s cool
  • More maths choosing, we didn’t get a chance to do that because we saw you every day. 
  • Make up more outside games
  • Make maths longer
  • Do more reflections
  • Use the computers

What’s the best part of maths?

  • Having fun – games
  • Fractions
  • Learning
  • Getting faster