For the love of maths: engaging teachers, capturing learners

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Jo Ledbury gives her top tips on encouraging children to be passionate about maths including highlighting some aspects of Pearson's whole-school mastery programme, Power Maths. She also talks about her experience with the local maths hub and mentions barriers her learners face that impact their ability to love maths.

Q: What are your five top tips for getting primary students to be passionate about maths?

1. Make it practical. When introducing a new concept, get out materials and prompts so children can have a hands-on approach. Children need to be taught how to use the concrete resources from early on. This also helps when building on their knowledge as children will recall the processes they used, and the teacher can model the next step. 

2. Link it to real life. Maths is all around us and there are many ways for children to immerse themselves in learning. For example, when teaching measurements, try making cakes to ensure children can read scales. When learning about time, ask children to read the time from the classroom clock.

3. Teach a growth mindset. Encourage children to approach maths with a ‘can-do’ attitude, or ‘I don’t know it… yet.’ The characters from Power Maths can further help with this as children relate to the different versions of growth mindset they model throughout the textbooks.  

4. Inspire parental engagement. Holding a parent and carer workshop across all year groups shows them the methods and strategies they can use to support children at home.

5. Teach with enthusiasm. It is important that teachers model their enthusiasm with maths to get children on board. This can be done through storytelling, which the ‘Discover’ part of the Power Maths lesson plan is great at as it helps to hook children into their learning. Another way to motivate through enthusiasm is to challenge children with a game in which they must try to win against you. This really draws out those competitive children who will do anything to beat the teacher.

Q: What do you use, or draw on, as an educator to share your passion for maths?

The local maths hub has provided fantastic support. As a school, we have been on the ‘Teaching for Mastery’ journey, to help establish teaching for mastery approaches so that all pupils develop deep knowledge, understanding and confidence.

Over a four-year programme, each year builds upon the previous and the support from the maths hub helps ensure you are on track to be able to sustain the mastery approach in your setting. We are in the ‘sustaining’ phase to help make teaching for mastery ‘business as usual’.

As a result of this process, we have embedded the five big ideas of teaching for mastery into our maths curriculum. During our mastery training, we have had maths specialists come into our school to support and offer advice and visited other schools within our work groups to see the big ideas being implemented.

Q: Are there any barriers or issues to your learners loving maths that you see in your classroom?

One of the biggest barriers to children loving maths is that they find it hard, or they lack confidence – and sometimes they can be overconfident but not fully understand. To overcome this, we do not group children by their ability.

We follow the ‘teaching for mastery’ approach where all children are taught the same concept at the same time. We ask children to recall prior learning and use this to then build upon, breaking the learning down into smaller steps. For those who understand the concept we take their learning deeper through open-ended tasks or investigations; for those who are struggling we offer support and scaffolding.

If needed, we also offer same-day catch-up intervention to ensure that all children move on at the same pace and no child is left behind. By making space for the pupil voice, we’ve listened to children explain how in the past they thought they were not very good at maths because of the table they sat at; whereas now they all stay together and that has boosted their confidence.

We also have a whole-school consistent approach to displays, so children can see the learning journey all around them as they progress, and are able to visualise the importance of maths at every level. This also helps them access help and guidance when needed.

Another barrier has been the maths anxiety of parents and carers, which they can pass on to their children. When some parents try to show children their way of working out, this can result in children becoming confused. Though these parents and carers mean well, they may not have a deep understanding of the methods used in the classroom.

As a school, we display our calculation policy on the website and also share it directly with parents. We hold workshops for families where parents and children can work alongside each other by applying the methods taught in school, which the parents are able to take away to help at home.

In addition to this, we explain to parents about growth mindset and how we promote a can-do approach at school.

Q: Why is it so important to embed a love for maths in primary learners and what happens when we don’t get that right?

Maths is important, it is all around us and is used daily. If children have a love of maths embedded early on during their time at primary school, it will help them overcome barriers and make them more successful at problem-solving, critical thinking and reasoning.

When we don’t get it right, children struggle with maths, they become disengaged, and their learning is full of gaps that get harder to plug. This could also impact their logical thinking and their problem-solving skills. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

  • Name: Jo Ledbury
  • Role: Phase Leader/Maths Leader/Science Leader
  • Brief summary of your career: I have been teaching for 15 years and have led maths and science for the last 9 years
  • What’s your favourite thing about maths? How one concept can link to another, and you build upon ideas to create new learning
  • Why does maths matter? Maths is all around and used multiple times a day
  • What do the children/young people you work with enjoy most about maths? Using practical resources to help with their understanding, trying new methods and thinking of ways to solve problems. 

Additional resources and support from Pearson

Our Diversity and Inclusion poster series showcases key mathematicians who have inspired us and positively impacted the way that we live today. Featured individuals range from Katherine Johnson, the first African-American woman to work as a NASA scientist, to Al-Khwarizmi, the man who is considered to have written the first book on algebra.

Pearson has a range of resources that will help make maths learning fun. This includes Power Maths and Maths Flex, which help learners become maths masters.