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Sir Douglas Bader Intermediate School: ALiM report

Number of
YearInitial stage
Final stage
Time in programmePredominant
117/85 students - stage 2/4
6 students - stage 5
3 students - stage 5
8 students - stage 6
4x45mins/weekProportions/Ratio stategy

Advice to teachers and principals

The relationship the student has with, and their attitude to, the teacher and school are so important. It took me 2-3 weeks to test and establish a workable rapport with the students. It is necessary to spend the time establishing an attitude ‘turnaround’. It is worth it because then progress can be more rapid.
A group atmosphere of support, with no put downs, plus a positive teacher who manages well is essential. Trust then becomes established, so that making mistakes or not understanding are not such monumental issues.
Don’t let pressure from within the school for quick results get the better of a teacher. Patience is essential.

  • Be very aware of the fact that underachieving students in numeracy may have learning difficulties and experiment with a range of equipment and materials. “Play and learn by doing.”
    Allow students to use equipment as they may also have difficulty in holding an image (memory).
    Try a process of pairing students. Use concrete objects and discussion, drawing pictures and discussion, think-pair-share discussion, and provide opportunities for solving problems by using objects or drawings plus discussions and questioning.
    I found this process longer but it began to enable students to eventually hold the images in their minds. Don’t be in a hurry to get to the abstract number properties. Some students will need 2-3 weeks to make the leap, while others will take 6-7 weeks. Acknowledge that each student learns at their own rate in their own time.
  • Be aware that the ‘tests’ of numeracy, for example IKAN, can set students up to fail if they are slow processors.
  • Students are unable to apply learning in the time given. The same can be said for the STAR reading test and asTTle tests.
    Timed tests do not necessarily reveal the mathematical ability of the student. But students are deemed to understand only when they can recall instantly. The slow processors in my groups have had years of failure in our school system and did not know that they needed a longer time than most students to process.
    Tell them, let them understand about themselves and their ways of learning.
  • Focus on concepts taught when using games.
    The teacher needs to select and direct games available or students will choose something unrelated that will not reinforce the concepts being taught.
    Create short uncomplicated games. Be inventive.
  • Feedback needs to be provided with every lesson. This needs to be ongoing, both written and verbal. It pays to mark work together.
    Daily feedback in books is necessary, and the comments should be about attitude, success, effort and what can be worked on next.
    Celebrate! With success comes confidence.

School profile

Sir Douglas Bader Intermediate School is a decile 1 intermediate school in Mangere, South Auckland. The school roll is 225. The ethnic makeup is Maori 18%; Pasifika 75% (Samoan 27%, Cook Island Maori 24%, Tongan 17%, Niuean 6%); New Zealand European 1%; and the balance Others. There are five main contributing schools, but year 7 pupils enter from as many as 20 different schools. Twenty students are officially identified as ESOL, but at least 40% of students report that English is not the predominant language at home. All classes are organised as composite year 7 and year 8 classes. One class in the school is a Samoan bilingual class and one class is a gifted and talented class.

Summary of key features of Programme

  • The teacher involved has a Postgraduate Diploma (Gifted and Talented), has 30 years teaching experience, 26 of those years in intermediates.
  • The students involved in the programme were identified as underachievers and not progressing well.
  • The students were selected from two of the mainstream classes.
  • One student was hearing impaired and dependent on a hearing device.
  • The students had a range of abilities, with learning difficulties in literacy and mathematics.
  • Attendance and punctuality were problematic for some students.
  • Some students were reported to have problematic behaviour.

Programme summary

 Key features of success

  • Teacher informed students about their learning style so they understood how they learn and think.    
  • Students usually wrote their own learning intentions.    
  • Students wrote personal evaluations, reflecting daily on their attitude and/or learning.
  • Teacher had high expectations of all students.
  • Teacher set a consistent daily routine.
  • Before each lesson, there were independent activities and games, with the teacher playing the games as well.
  • Consistent, constant and immediate feedback was provided on learning, especially during games and when using concrete materials. This helped students make connections and this also helped in identifying and working through any ‘mindset’ misconceptions within students’ understanding
  • All games and follow-up activities further reinforced the concepts learned, for example, when learning fractions of a set, games were made to reinforce fractions (Magic 10, Magic 20, Magic 30)
  • The teacher made use of appropriate and full maths language at all times, with examples provided, for example: shared – divided by; equal – even; multiplication – times; denominator – down number; words, symbols and numbers like one fifth, ⅕. These were  modelled with multi blocks, Cuisenaire rods, sticks, fruit, and fractions tiles and shapes. These approaches proved to be very good as 90% speak English as a second language.
  • The teacher believes that the basis of success in maths is 70% positive attitude.
  • The teacher believes in making maths fun.
  • Students were taught in small groups (two groups of six students), meaning that good relationships were established.
  • The teacher had a very good content knowledge.
  • The teacher created a safe environment which allowed students to make mistakes.
  • The teacher used a whole learning approach, that is, written words/numbers/symbols and used approaches that catered for auditory, visual and kinaesthetic learning styles.
  • The majority of the lesson time involved listening to, talking and playing with the students.
  • The constant feedback made a huge difference to students’ self-esteem and emphasised the importance in believing that they were successful students who could learn.
  • A huge improvement was noted in students’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
  • Constant use of think / pair / share was very important to provide opportunity to verbalise understanding, to further manipulate materials and to solve problems together.
  • The teacher created games and directed students to games. There was no student selection because the games were part of the concepts being introduced. The teacher was always there to correct misconceptions, monitor, correct maths terms and names.
  • Assessment was essential.
  • The teacher let the programme, and therefore the teaching, be driven by students to a great extent. That is, teaching what they don’t know in order to spiral upwards.
  • The teacher endeavoured to meet students’ needs – they’d let you know what those needs were.
  • Most of the group needed to understand the way they learned and why they didn’t understand. So, finding out they were slow processors gave an understanding of why they couldn’t work through things quickly. It is appropriate to teach them that it is okay and give strategies to deal with this, for example, take your time, do one thing at a time, tell teacher that you need more time because that is how you work.


Monday to Thursday; 1 ½ hours daily – 45 minutes per group with a 15 minute crossover.
Topic: Proportion and Ratio and Fractional Numbers

  • Chosen because students had no idea about the topics and teachers also were less confident in teaching this.
  • Directed games. 
  • Lesson concept being taught using equipment, for example, blocks, playing, questions, showing each other, each student posing a problem for the rest of the group.
  • Working out set problems (board work) using equipment.
  • Writing, drawing, working out in books.
  • Marking together, evaluating - basic facts (in overlap time – two groups together).
  • Group 1 leaves – follow format again for group 2.

Total teaching time: approximately 60 hours, plus testing time, plus report writing time.


It has been gratifying to see the improvement students have made in numeracy. If schools want to see achievement improve, there needs to be more funding to release teachers or to employ extra staff to work with those pupils who are underachieving. The pupils in our school deserve the best because they have proven to be great learners.

So, thank you to the principal and maths advisor. Although it is very hard work, given the right support, accelerating maths does work.

Thank you for the opportunity for my input.