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Puketapu School: ALiM report

Number of
Year Initial stage
Final stage
Time in programme Predominant
6 5/6 stage 4 stage 4/5 5x30mins weekly
4 weeks
Basic Facts

The group consisted of three year 5 girls, one year 5 boy, one year 6 boy and one year 6 girl.
They had all been assessed by the classroom teacher and were working at stage 4 or very early stage 5 in all domains of the NumPA. For ease of management they were all from one class and worked in the class as a group.
The focus of the intervention was basic facts accuracy. The method was to focus on their understanding of strategies so that then memory would happen!
The group met for 30 minutes, five days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00 – 9:30am; and Thursday 1:30 – 2:00pm. The intervention ran for four weeks. The group was taken out of the classroom.

Each child was given a maths pack at the beginning of the programme. This included a notebook for comments they and their parents could make throughout the time. There was a modelling book, a pack of cards, dice, maths “memory” type games (these were changed every two days). Each parent was telephoned before and after for their thoughts and suggestions.

The group had a range of possible reasons why they needed ALiM: two were irregular attendees, two were underachievers across the curriculum, one had attended several schools and one was a school socialite. For her, school was for meeting people (she had moved from another school and was of the opinion she was achieving above expected standard).

Very recent assessment in basic facts by the classroom teacher has shown that gains indicated by the NumPA have been sustained.

The students were very keen to be part of the group throughout the intervention and were all keen to improve in their basic facts accuracy. (Perhaps I didn’t emphasise the need for speed and accuracy enough).

Initially they were diffident about the maths learning but they became very enthusiastic when they achieved success, especially through winning at games. Comments such as “Can we play Memory 4?” or “I reckon I will win the tables battle today” were very common as the group entered the room. However, some also reverted back to previously used methods (counting on fingers) when the work was “too challenging” (in two cases it was when they had stopped doing their homework/playing the games).

Students perception of progress

Each week we completed a basic facts timed test and children were able to see progress. We discussed patterns of difficulty from the results of the test. Two girls saw their mistakes and worked independently to learn the facts . They were very, very keen to improve each week and very keen on the test. Both went up one stage on the NumP diagnostic test. One boy became very accurate but was very slow because he used strategies for everything! The biggest change in attitude came when we discussed that poor memory does not mean no brain. It just means you need to train your memory. Even though we talked about “how do you remember passwords” etc., we had to do considerable teaching of looking for patterns because as a group they didn’t automatically do this. The class was working on financial literacy for the last two weeks of the intervention. The group had very little success with this topic and they visibly struggled to make progress.

Teacher perception of progress

The programme started with strategies for addition and subtraction. Each child had a strategy they felt very confident with and used accurately, for example, doubles, doubles plus one, rounding to ten, and compatible numbers. However, the more strategies introduced, the less confident and accurate they became, especially solving subtraction by using addition.

A similar pattern was noticed in multiplication and division : 2x to 4x was fine, but further doubling became progressively less accurate.

My goal for the intervention was that all of the group would be able to accurately use at least two strategies with confidence. The initial learning and success was exciting for both the students and the teacher. However, as the success and eagerness became less evident from two members in particular, I realized that I should have offered the two members an opportunity to opt out.

The teaching of memory exercises was noticeably more successful. The children were given varying exercises to memorise and then repeat. Initially the retention was very limited but after discussion of how do we remember patterns etc., the children became noticeably more accurate.

Teacher response to data

The initial goal was to have students remembering basic facts with accuracy. When the children were assessed and the results showed limited accelerated progress and even no progress, I was absolutely gutted. There was very much a feeling of “missing a golden opportunity on my part” rather than the children failing.

Key Principles

  1. An ethic of care,  including contact with the parents, regular feedback/feed forward with the children about progress being made, and reflection by the students about how they were doing.
  2. Arranging for learning by teaching of strategies in a group, practising with peer, games with a group and at home.
  3. Building on students' thinking, starting with patterns and building on what they know (especially doubles), discussing why we need recall of basic facts and the need for accuracy.
  4. Worthwhile mathematical tasks, ensuring that maths games in particular were building on teaching and including FIO problem solving type activities.
  5. Making connections by telling the group several times that “you need to train your memory and you can do it” and looking at patterns with doubles etc.
  6. Assessment for learning, requiring the students to self-assess and especially telling when they are unsure of either strategy or problem, and discussing daily from week 4 when or how would we use this maths.
  7. Mathematical communication and language, especially ensuring  the use of a range of mathematical terms for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

For the intervention trialled, the ranking of the Key Principles would be 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, 6, 7.

Highlights, opportunities, positives, exceptional findings and strengths

The opportunity to be able to offer an intervention programme was a personal highlight. The frustration experienced and voiced by many teachers when children remain in the “at risk” or “critical” category despite classroom teacher efforts has been a concern for many years (this is especially so when reading offers intervention programmes such as “explode the code”).

The support from my numeracy advisor was key to maintaining the programme in the school. The subsequent support from the principal, my syndicate leader and DP and the classroom teacher was very encouraging.

As a school the opportunity to have the numeracy advisor in the school so regularly was a huge bonus – especially as she trained three teacher aides in a junior intervention programme and one teacher aide in a middle school intervention programme. The result of this training is ongoing in that there are now teacher aides in both senior and junior syndicates familiar with, and confident in, using support programmes for teachers. As a school we acknowledge the support of our advisor.

The special opportunity we were given in having training and release to be able to trial and implement an intervention programme.

The exceptional finding was that it was a lot of work and it would be unrealistic to be added to classroom teacher's lot.

A strength was the involvement of most of the parents.

Lowlights, barriers, concerns

The biggest lowlight was the lack of progress, especially by one girl. A concern is how do we teach basic facts to the at risk children.

What I would do differently

  • Assess children myself instead of going from class teacher's assessment.
  • Ensure all children are at the same level.
  • Work more closely with classroom teacher: try for a greater cross over of learning (don’t try financial literacy).
  • Work from memory activities first (not maths) and then move on to strategies.
  • Work in two week blocks. Take two weeks off and then spend another two weeks. This gives children a greater opportunity to consolidate their learning.
  • Have the group in the morning.