Tauraroa Area School: ALiM report

Number of
Year Initial stage
Final stage
Time in programme Predominant
5 5 4 students - stage 4
1 student - stage 5
5 students - stage 5 2x60mins weekly Place value, Basic
facts, Add/Sub.
5 6 4 students - stage 4
1 student - stage 5
5 students - stage 5

Tauraroa Area School is a year 0 – 13, decile 7 rural school.There are approximately 120 pupils in the year 0 – 6 area of the school.

Target groups

One group of five year 5 students and one group of five year 6 students.

These were not children with the very lowest mathematical ability in the class but rather children who were performing below expectation and whom teachers felt would benefit from extra support. They had gaps in their knowledge that needed addressing.

It was evident from our testing that these children had not fully understood key place value concepts. We also found that they were heavily reliant on counting strategies for solving problems and did not have fast recall of basic facts.

PAT results showed that the areas of weakness for these children were number knowledge and strategies. They were unable to identify the number of tens in numbers, solve multiplication problems or 2-digit addition or subtraction word problems.

The attitude survey highlighted a general dislike of mathematics and most had the opinion they were not very capable at mathematics. Some could not see the importance of mathematics as a subject.

Our aim

  • To improve understanding of place value and quick recall of basic facts.
  • To become familiar with two key addition and subtraction strategies and be able to apply them to solve problems.

Our approach

The children were removed from their class in their year group of 5, for an hour on Wednesdays and Thursdays. This was over and above their normal classroom programme.

We held a parent and child meeting one evening before starting the groups to explain to parents and children what we were doing and why. We shared with parents how they could support their child by playing the games we sent home with them. Parents and students were given the two challenge sheets that we had developed. These showed what knowledge and strategies we would be working on.

Students were provided with a blank 1A5 book to record their learning in.

The facilitator supported some lessons and gave ideas on next steps.

Lesson format

The first part of the programme was based around knowledge, particularly place value and basic facts. It included lots of work with tens frames, bundling sticks, place value houses and place value money. Peter Hughes' place value work from his paper Mathematical Literacy for Lower Achieving Students was used, as were ideas from John Van de Walle’s Elementary and Middle School Mathematics.

The second part of the programme focused on learning and applying four key strategies for addition and subtraction.

  • Making a tidy number and place value partitioning for addition
  • Going back through ten and reversibility for subtraction

Each session ended with discussion of what had been achieved that day based around their maths challenge sheet and identifying 'where to next?' (Principle 5 – Making connections) (Principle 6 – Assessment for learning)

Each week children were taught a game and took it home to practise.


When each group initially came to me they appeared quite nervous and despondent. They voiced concern about having to do lots of worksheets and homework. There was a visible change when I told them the purpose of our time together was to boost their maths ability and we were going to do that by playing games and talking lots. As a group we were to support each other and any answer was acceptable to offer to discussions. There would never be any put-downs for mistakes.

There was a very noticeable change in their attitude straight away. I believe they felt ‘safe’ with these peers and the teacher.

We began by ‘roaming the known’ – revisiting learning they felt comfortable with and had success with. We moved to the next steps quite easily and revisited these every week. We talked a lot about how we achieved an answer and what other ways we could solve problems.

There were many ‘lightbulb’ moments. One student threw his hands up in the air and said “I get it!” and the change in his whole attitude to our lessons was amazing. He tackled all maths problems with confidence and wanted more challenges.

Eight out of ten children were markedly more positive and capable by the end of our sessions.

I realized that one of the children (AM), whose confidence and attitude had not changed much, had actually been relying on his friend in the group and was actually piggy-backing on him. This was noticeable when I wouldn’t let them sit together and AM became quite upset by this and would not participate.

Positive points to ponder

  • My own maths knowledge/practice was extended and this transferred back into my own class and changed the way I approach maths with my year 2 class.
  • It was highly beneficial to have the facilitator or a teacher aide present for a session as sometimes the group had quite a split in their needs and it was difficult to catch someone up.
  • It was obvious the benefits that were coming from the programme. When someone was absent they were noticeably behind the rest on the next session and needed quick catch-up.

Issues that arose

  • The biggest difficulty for me was being out of my class for five hours per week and not having a reliable reliever to continue my programme. This meant I had to do all the planning for my own class as well as the maths group.
  • We also lacked physical space in the school to conduct the maths project groups and had to be outside at times.
  • It was difficult to get some children up to where the rest of the group was if they had been absent.

What worked?

  1. Establishing a safe learning environment.
  2. Keeping the children informed of next step.
  3. Making the learning connect and be relevant.
  4. Having a a focus on place value.
  5. Using materials to help visualize problems:  tens frames, bundling sticks, place value houses, coins in film canisters, place value money.
  6. GAMES – they loved having them to take home. Each child received a laminated game board each session and new dice/cards/counters to keep at home. They were more than happy to have games as their homework and could see the relevance of these.
  7. Parent support: by having a face to face meeting with the parents at the beginning of the project and explaining what we were hoping to achieve and how they could support their child, we found that they showed a real interest in what was happening and did support the children at home.


The NumPA results do not show any stage movement in place value knowledge but in the actual forms they showed a definite improvement in calculating how many tens/hundreds were in higher numbers. They did not achieve the next stage in place value as they had to answer a decimal question, which we had not looked at during our sessions at all.

Children's responses

What has changed in your maths?

“Everything has changed.”
“ I can figure out pluses and takeaways easy cos I couldn’t before.”
“ I actually like doing maths. I normally hate maths, but this is fun.”
“ A lot of things. Pluses and takeaways have got a lot easier.”
“ I feel better about maths now.”
“ We’ve learned heaps.”

What has helped you learn?

“ The dots (ten frames) – not counting on my fingers.”
” I used to count in ones but now I count in tens and fives and hundreds.”
“ The games.”
“ The number lines.”

Parent responses

The parents who responded to our final survey were very positive about the benefits they noticed for their children. All noted that their children had grown in confidence and how their speed had improved for basic facts. They commented on how effective they thought the homework games were. Parents stated how they really appreciated the opportunity this had given their children.

Class Teacher

Both class teachers have reported that their students are more confident and willing to take part in class maths discussions. The teachers have commented on the improvement in children’s mathematical ability.

What changes have you noticed from the programme? (Teacher Voice)

“A lot more confidence.”
“Willingness to have a go
“An improvement in basic fact knowledge.”
“A totally different attitude.”
“Willingness to try and explain their answers in class.”
“They feel more secure and confident.”
“Thank you so much. We are so lucky to have this opportunity in our school.”