Here the NRICH Primary Team, one of our Power of Maths partners, share their top tips for primary teachers when it comes to remote maths teaching and learning.
Our mathematics curriculum, which requires learners to problem-solve, reason and communicate mathematically by justifying their thinking and convincing others, poses a real challenge during lockdown. Opportunities for engaging in meaningful dialogue with individual learners can be severely restricted when teaching remotely. In this article, we’ll explore ways for learners to develop these key mathematics skills at home and have great fun along the way.
Top Tip 1: Encouraging parents to be ‘listeners’
One useful approach for supporting mathematical problem-solving and reasoning remotely is encouraging parents and carers to become ‘listeners’. This approach is being championed by mathematics educator Carol Handyside who encourages families to change the dynamic during home learning so that the adult is no longer expected to explain the mathematics. Instead, they are encouraged to listen. Carol argues that this approach helps to overcome the time pressure for teachers wishing to talk individually with their learners when teaching online but still enables learners to explain their understanding. It has been suggested by the mathematics education writer and researcher John Mason that there are three levels of convincing – convince yourself, convince a friend and convince a sceptic. By moving to a ‘listener’ role, older family members can support their younger family members to progress towards convincing others in a supportive family atmosphere.
To support families further, NRICH has uploaded a series of parent-friendly videos modelling interactive mathematics activities and games to enjoy at home with older primary-aged learners – you can find these free resources in our Solving Together collection.
See our Solving Together resouces
Tip 2: Make the most of online solutions
Reading and comparing different solutions to a problem can support young learners to develop their reasoning skills, enabling them to progress from the lower ‘descriptive’ phase towards ‘explaining’ and later ‘justifying’ their thinking (for more details see our article Reasoning: The journey from novice to expert).
Exploring different approaches can also allow young learners to begin working more flexibility, a very useful quality for a young mathematician. For example, how might members of your class tackle Noah (Figure 1)?
At NRICH, curriculum-mapped activities such as Noah feature examples of classroom work under the ‘Solutions’ tab. Clicking on that tab reveals real-life examples of children’s work and they often choose a variety of problem-solving approaches. Perhaps we might have published a solution using the bar model approach, a ‘trial and improve’ method or a simple algebraic approach? These solutions offer an excellent resource for remote teaching and learning. For example, for the Noah activity schools submitted some very engaging photographs of classroom work (Figure 2). Why not consider posing one of the curriculum-mapped problems during a whole class live session before encouraging individual class members to explore the solutions afterwards and compare them to their own?
Try the Noah activity
Figure 1: NRICH’s Noah activity – a great opportunity to explore different ways to approach a problem
Figure 2: Some examples of classroom work investigating Noah
Top Tip 3: Using a learner-friendly self-assessment tool
Ensuring that learners fully understand that being a good mathematician goes far beyond knowing their times tables facts or number bonds can be difficult when teaching remotely. At NRICH we believe that young mathematicians should be encouraged to be fluent, flexible and to understand their work, as well as develop a positive attitude towards learning mathematics and posing and solving problems. We’ve developed a child-friendly self-assessment tool designed to encourage them to value the different qualities they need to develop whether working at home or school (Figure 3). By modelling use of this resource, and encouraging learners to return to it over time, they should be able to track their progress in different aspects of their mathematical development.
Nurturing Successful Mathematicians
Figure 3: NRICH’s child-friendly self-assessment tool
Top Tip 4: Set some longer tasks
Some mathematical activities and problems deserve much more time than others. Magic Vs (Figure 4) is a lovely example of a problem which can take days for young learners to fully explore.
Try the Magic Vs activity
The NRICH team has collected together more examples of similar age-related problems under the heading Maths to take your time over. These are engaging problems which home learners can explore, leave and return to later on. This approach has the added bonus of allowing much greater flexibility for remote learners to fit their study time around their individual home circumstances.
Try the Maths to Take Your Time Over tasks
Figure 4: NRICH activity Magic Vs is a lovely problem for extended thinking
Top Tip 5: Get published!
One of the most inspiring ways to encourage young learners to develop their mathematical communication skills is encouraging them to submit their work for publication – which also enables to work at the third level of John Mason’s progression in convincing we discussed earlier. At NRICH we invite primary-aged learners to send in their ideas and solutions for our Live Problems – we publish a selection of their submissions every half-term.
See the Primary Live Problems to solve
As an additional bonus, any learners submitting their work can download their own NRICH certificate in recognition of their efforts. As you saw in the Noah, learners are very welcome to share photographs of their work as well as their drawings and notes. Find out more about what we look for in a solution.
We hope that you enjoy exploring these top tips with your learners, and we’re looking forward to reading their submissions to our latest Live Problems in the coming weeks.
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All images have been supplied by NRICH, who are happy for us to use them.