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Mathematics

“Mathematics is a creative and highly inter-connected discipline that has been developed over centuries, providing the solution to some of history’s most intriguing problems. It is essential to everyday life, critical to science, technology and engineering, and necessary for financial literacy and most forms of employment. A high-quality mathematics education, therefore, provides a foundation for understanding the world, the ability to reason mathematically, an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics, and a sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject.”

(National Curriculum in England – Mathematics Programme of Study – Key Stages 1 and 2)
This statement is taken from the introduction to the new National Curriculum, which became statutory in September 2014. These principles epitomise our vision for mathematics at Gospel Oak. Through our teaching and learning, we aim to help children develop:
  • A positive attitude towards mathematics and an awareness of the fascination of mathematics.
  • Competence and confidence in mathematical knowledge, concepts and skills.
  • An ability to solve problems, to reason, to think logically and to work systematically and accurately.
  • Initiative and an ability to work both independently and in cooperation with others.
  • An ability to communicate mathematically, by hypothesising, reasoning, justifying and generalising.
  • An ability to use and apply mathematics across the curriculum and in real life.
  • An understanding of mathematics through a process of enquiry and experimentation.

What does maths look like at Gospel Oak?
We aim to make our lessons as exciting and interactive as possible. Lessons usually begin with a short oral session designed to get children thinking mathematically. These starters are short and pacy, with an emphasis on mental calculation and recall. The main part of the lesson is divided between teacher-led learning, group work and individual work, with review sessions to check the children’s understanding. Most lessons involve children using and applying the maths they have learned. This means that children are asked to solve problems, follow a line of enquiry, test their ideas and communicate their findings. We believe that this is vital to children developing a deeper understanding of maths. Our Mathematics Policy gives more detail about our approach to teaching, learning and assessment.

Calculations

We believe it is vitally important that, by the end of Year 6, children are equipped with mental, written and calculator methods that they understand and can use correctly. When faced with a calculation, children are able to decide which method is most appropriate and have strategies to check its accuracy. Sometimes, the written calculation methods that we teach are different from those parents and carers learned when they were at school. You may therefore find it useful to look at our Written Calculations Policy:

At whatever stage in their learning, and whatever method is being used, it must still be underpinned by a secure and appropriate knowledge of number facts, along with those mental skills that are needed to carry out the process and judge if it was successful. At Gospel Oak we also have a Mental Calculations Policy which sets out the key skills and strategies children will learn in each year group for calculating mentally:

Number fluency

We strongly believe that number fluency, which includes learning key facts such as times tables, as well as the ability to know how and when to apply them, is crucial to developing a deep understanding of maths. We aim to help children develop their number fluency through a number of approaches used across the school:
  • A high quality learning environment in every classroom which supports children by showing a variety of representations of numbers and mathematical concepts or skills.
  • The use of concrete resources such as Numicon and bead strings to help children develop their understanding of the number system.
  • Access to RM Maths, a computer programme which gives children chance to practice key skills.
  • Daily mental maths practice, both during maths lessons and the use of morning mental maths books in Key Stage 2.
  • A comprehensive list of key facts that children should learn and memorise each year.
  • A weekly competition which focuses on number fluency.

Each of these approaches is explained in more detail below.

The learning environment

All classrooms have maths displays which are designed to support children during lessons. They serve as visual reminders of key ideas or strategies. They may include examples of work done in lessons, key vocabulary and visual representations of mathematical concepts.

Concrete resources

We believe that the regular use of resources helps children to develop their understanding of number and calculations. All children use Numicon, either during whole class sessions or in small groups to practice key skills. These shapes help children to visualise numbers, see patterns and make connections. We also use bead strings which can be used to support many different areas of maths such as calculations, fractions and ratio. If you would like to buy a bead string to help support your child at home then these can be purchased from the school office. All classrooms have a variety of other resources, such as hundred squares, dice and counters which children can choose to use to support their learning.

RM Maths

RM Maths is a computer programme designed to give pupils 15 minutes of individualised maths support a day, exactly matched to their ability, with focus on core skills and mental maths. 45 targeted year 1 & 2 children do a regular session every lunchtime. Also, in the morning (before school starts) some children from Key Stage 2 attend sessions.

Daily mental maths practice

In addition to the mental maths done within lessons, all children in Key Stage 2 have a Mental Arithmetic practice book. Children have chance to work through these books each morning during registration. They then take part in a weekly marking session where they can ask questions or share ideas and methods. It is very important that your child arrives in school on time if they are to have the time to complete the test for that week. 

Number fluency workshop and booklet

At Gospel Oak we recognise the vital role that parents and carers play in their child’s learning and enjoyment of all subjects, including maths. We therefore strive to ensure that you are fully involved in your child’s education. We have held two sets of workshops where adults were invited in to school to find out more about what their children are learning in class, and then to visit classrooms to see this in practice. 

The first workshops focused on an explanation of the methods we teach for written calculations. The most recent workshops focused on number fluency. All the workshops have been very well attended and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Thank you to all those who were able to come. If you were unable to attend, you can ask your child’s teacher for a copy of our ‘Number Fluency’ booklet which sets out the key facts that children in each year group should learn. It also includes ideas for activities and resources that can be used to help learn these facts at home. We appreciate any time you can spend helping your child and we know that this support has a very positive effect on their mathematical understanding.

Mental maths competition 

We have a weekly competition for children in Year 1-6 which focuses on mental maths and number fluency. The challenge is set on a Friday and will be carried out the following Friday so children have time to practise. All challenges are taken from the Topmarks Speed Challenge website and can be practised at home. You can read about this week’s competition at the top of the page.

What can I do to help my child at home?

Any time you can spend helping your child with their maths or discussing their learning is hugely beneficial. The more opportunities that children have to practise maths, the easier it becomes. These opportunities could come about through homework, when demonstrating to you what they have learned in class or even during ordinary everyday situations. 
Help your child to learn the key facts set out in our ‘Number Fluency’ booklet. These facts are listed by year group, but you should start wherever you think is most suitable for your child.
Encourage your child to practise the for the mental maths competition each week. Remember, the current challenge is set out at the top of this page and is updated weekly.
There are a large number of helpful websites which can help your child with their maths. Some suggestions are below:

Younger children should practise counting as often as possible. Here are some ideas for counting games:
  • Chant the number names, encouraging your child to join in when they feel confident.
  • Sing number rhymes together.
  • Give them the opportunity to count a range of interesting objects (coins, pasta shapes etc), encouraging them to touch and move each item as they count it.
  • Then ask them to count things they cannot touch or see (more difficult!) such as claps or jumps.
  • Look for numbers in the environment, for example in your house or when out shopping.
  • Cut out numbers from cards, magazines etc. and ask your child to order them.
  • Make deliberate mistakes when counting or ordering numbers. Can your child spot what you have done wrong?

All children should have the opportunity to solve real life problems involving numbers. Below are a few ideas to use as a starting point. The more ‘real’ a problem is, the more motivated they will be when trying to solve it:
  • When shopping, ask your child to find the total cost of 2 or 3 items and how much change you will get.
  • If you are planning an outing, ask your child to work out what time you will need to set off and how much money you will need to take.
  • Ask your child to use a TV guide to work out the length of their favourite programmes.
  • Use a bus or train timetable to plan journeys. How long will it take?
  • Involve your child in weighing and measuring the ingredients when cooking. Ask them to scale the recipe up or down in order to feed the right amount of people.
  • Plan a party or a meal on a budget.

Most importantly, keep it fun and give your child lots of praise and encouragement. The crucial thing is to help your child see that everyone can be successful in maths with a bit of practice!