Providing extra depth and challenge with Power Maths
Teachers sometimes ask how they can provide extra challenge for children who complete their independent practice quickly. Alongside the need to engage and stretch all learners, there may also be a practical consideration about class management, and the need for the teacher to support those whose understanding isn’t secure. Here are some suggestions to help ensure all children are appropriately challenged, as you work with the Power Maths resources.
1. Fitting challenge into the overall approach
First of all, remember that the materials are designed to help you keep the class together, allowing all children to master a concept while those who grasp it quickly have time to explore it in more depth. Of course, there will be children in your class that can work through the Practice Book questions more quickly than others. Aim to challenge these children as they work on the same content (see section 3).
Sometimes you may want to write an extra question on the board or provide this on paper. You can usually do this by tweaking the lesson materials (see section 4). The questions are designed to form a carefully structured sequence that builds understanding step by step, but, with careful thought about the purpose of each question, you can use the materials flexibly where you need to.
There are some general ideas for adding depth and breadth during the lesson on p28 of your Teacher Guide. Here are a few example questions you could use in any lesson:
Can you demonstrate your solution another way? (e.g. for the Discover task)
Can you model your answers using concrete materials? (e.g. for the Think Together questions)
Is there another way of working out the answer?
Have you found all the solutions?
Is that always true?
What’s different between this question and that question? And what’s the same?
NB: You’ll notice that there is a Challenge question at the end of the guided and independent practice sections. This is designed so that all children can access and attempt it, if they have worked through the steps leading up to it. There may be some children in a given lesson that don’t manage to do the Challenge, but it is not supposed to be a distinct task for a subset of the class. When you look through the lesson materials before teaching, think about what each question is specifically asking, and compare this with the key learning point for the lesson. This will help you decide which questions you feel it’s essential for all children to answer, before moving on. You can at least aim for all children to try the Challenge!
2. ‘Deepen’ activities
There is a Deepen activity for each unit. These are designed to follow on from the End of Unit Check, stretching children who have a firm understanding of the key learning from the unit. Children can work on them independently, which makes it easier for the teacher to facilitate the Strengthen activity for children who need extra support. Deepen activities could also be introduced earlier in the unit if the necessary work has been covered.
The Deepen activities are on ActiveLearn. In the Planning area, you can find them by opening the page for a given unit (they appear towards the bottom). Otherwise, you can find all the Deepen activities together on the Resources page (filter by Deepen).
3. ‘Deepen’ support for each lesson (Teacher Guide)
The Teacher Guide provides valuable support for each stage of the lesson. This includes ‘Deepen’ tips for the guided and independent practice sections, which will help you provide extra stretch and challenge within your lesson, without having to organise additional tasks. If you have a teaching assistant, they can also make use of this advice. There are also suggestions for the lesson as a whole in the ‘Going Deeper’ section on the first page of the Teacher Guide section for that lesson.
Every class is different, so you can always go a bit further in the direction indicated, if appropriate, and build on the suggestions given. The main thing is to make sure you’re getting the most out of the Teacher Guide, before worrying about what other challenges you could provide.
4. Using the questions flexibly to provide extra challenge
Don’t be afraid to use the Power Maths questions flexibly to teach the best lesson you can for your class! The questions are very carefully sequenced and scaffolded to build children’s understanding, but you as the teacher can determine how best they can be used with your class. Sometimes you might feel children would benefit from another similar question for consolidation before moving on to the next one, or you might feel they would benefit from a harder example in the same style. It should be quite quick and easy to generate ‘more of the same’ type questions where this is the case.
When you see a question like this one (from Y5 U7 L4), it’s easy to make extra examples if you need them. Just choose a pair of 2-digit numbers to generate another calculation and then blank out the numbers afterwards. Or for something extra fiendish you could blank out another digit in the middle section, which would create plenty of talking points!
For this example (from Y5 U1 L1), you could ask children to make up their own question(s) for a partner to solve, with four different digits and a set of clues. (In fact, for any of these examples you could ask early finishers to create their own question for a partner.)
Here’s an example (from Y5 U3 L2) where some of the journeys in the table feature as questions in the lesson, but others don’t. Clearly there are any number of extra questions you could ask using the same table (the lesson includes multi-step journeys). Children could calculate journeys for their own itineraries, they could look for a multi-step journey that covers (e.g.) between 16,000 and 17,000 km, or they could even look for the shortest itinerary that visits all the destinations.
Besides creating additional questions, you should be able to find a question in the lesson that you can adapt into a game or open-ended investigation, if this helps to keep everyone engaged. It could simply be that, instead of answering 5 × 5 etc on the page, they could build a robot with 5 lots of 5 cubes.
With a question like this (from Y5 U1 L6), you could decide to have children play a game involving bags and counters as an alternative. (It could be a game where they draw counters at random and compare the numbers using inequalities, or they could investigate e.g. what happens if one player gets more counters but the other player gets to choose first.)
See the bullets in section 1 for some general ideas that will help with ‘opening out’ questions in the books, e.g. ‘can you find all the solutions?’ type questions.
5. Extra questions for early finishers
If you do want some additional, challenging questions for children to move onto, Pinpoint Problem Solving and Reasoning was designed to support teachers with this sort of situation. Teachers can give these cards directly to children for independent work on the same topic, providing appropriate stretch while also freeing up the teacher to work with those who need more support. (Use the discount code ‘PIN30’ for 30% off.)
The last question (D for Deeper) is the most challenging, but the first part of the card gets children started so they don’t get stuck. There are some accompanying teaching notes which a teaching assistant could use to offer support (as well as further challenge).
6. Other suggestions
Another way of stretching children is through mixed ability pairs, or via other opportunities for children to explain their understanding in their own way. This is a good way of encouraging children to go deeper into the learning, rather than, for instance, tackling questions that are computationally more challenging but conceptually equivalent in level.
We would encourage schools to engage with their local Maths Hub and participate in training opportunities and workgroups. All schools embedding a teaching for mastery approach can share general strategies for providing appropriate challenge, whether they are using Power Maths or not.
Finally, NRICH provides free investigative tasks that could be used to provide additional stretch and challenge alongside Power Maths.