Subtract fear and add a positive outlook!
How one primary school is changing its pupils’ attitudes towards maths
The terms ‘long division’, ‘equations’ and ‘square roots’ are enough to strike fear in the hearts of many adults, with memories of their long gone maths class days making them shudder. In fact, if you were to mention these terms to a group of primary or secondary students, undoubtedly, many would have the same adverse reaction.
But while negativity around maths still exists, fortunately there are a number of schools successfully creating a shift in attitude. Aled Williams, deputy headteacher at All Saints Primary School, Barry, Wales explains how by introducing innovative new apps, the school has managed to change its pupils’ attitudes towards the subject.
Engaging children in maths has traditionally proved tricky; for various reasons a child may believe that they can’t do maths, and getting them to see past that can be the biggest challenge. Apps are the route to information for today children; they engage with them fluently. We started by implementing Daydream Education’s Maths Tutor app, because it provides schools with a complete maths learning solution It is aligned to the National Curriculum and incorporates a huge variety of tutorials, interactivities, real-life scenarios and assessments. We recognised the need for all these features to facilitate learning and improve pupils’ understanding of key maths skills and topics. I started by rolling it out in two of our classes, but it was so successful that it’s now being run from Years 2 to 6.
In my experience, children naturally gravitate towards technology; Maths Tutor has been no different. The kids love it and it’s become part of our weekly maths lessons, where they go on the app and perform very focused and engaging tasks. Increasingly they are using it during their down time, which, for a teacher, is incredibly positive to see..
However it’s probably the competitive element of the app that has proved most popular with pupils; they enjoy being able to earn gold stars and trophies, and really push themselves to refine and rehearse things they’ve learned so they can better their personal scores
The app has really aided some of our teachers too, in, for example, the teaching of ‘time’. The concept of time can be one of the biggest headaches for a classroom teacher, largely because it is one of those rare cases in mathematics where there is such diverse ability range. You might have one group of children working on time-zones and very complex problems, and another working on more basic concepts; it becomes increasingly difficult for teachers to give each child the exact help they need. But I can access the app, and see where each child is in terms of progress.
On the app, there is an interactive clock, which breaks the whole concept down into very manageable chunks! The videos and tutorials that feature in the app also allow children to progress at their own speed; they get a great deal of success which makes them become motivated and engaged, in a format where there’s lots of different ways to reinforce and learn new concepts. And there isn’t any stigma associated with learning, because it’s very personal to them, and doesn’t show where they are in comparison to other children.
At the start of each academic year, I give my pupils a very general maths assessment to see where they are, look at previous data and then at the end of the term, after a few months of using the app, I re assess to see how they’ve progressed. The evidence is there in black and white: they’ve improved. But the improvement doesn’t stop there, they help each other to improve. If, for example, some children are struggling with a specific aspect, they know they can speak to others who have achieved a great deal of success in that certain area. It’s quite heart-warming to see that in action.
Through apps and gamification, students can learn and complete work without being aware that this is what they are actually doing. Technology has positive associations for children, and is therefore welcomed by them as a platform for learning, which provides an effective journey to ensuring progress and engaging them at school and at home. Maths Tutor is solid, interactive and really gets children engaged, and anything that can genuinely do that, gets my vote!