In 2012, their tests showed that in almost all components of numeracy, both boys and girls were performing below their Local Authority’s average. Additionally many children were negative about maths and did not see themselves as likely to do well in the subject. Joanne sought to not only impact attainment but also this attitude and to enthuse children in their learning.
Crowd sourcing among staff
The first in-service day of Joanne’s headship involved pooling staff knowledge about numeracy practices and problems within the school. This group began to introduce new techniques in their classrooms, feeding back on how the interventions were working.
The staff worked with the theories of growth mindset, and Jo Boaler’s mindset mathematics.
Teacher David Duncan explained
“We want to foster a real love for maths, a real interest”.
This level of engagement requires an environment in which children can experiment, explore and try to explain, all without fear.
The school was able to fund CPD courses and conferences, as well as some new resources. The biggest resource is teaching staff who themselves have demonstrated a growth mindset, using their own time to study and challenge themselves to find other ways to teach.
Netherlee decided not to base its maths teaching on a single resource, instead adopting a variety of approaches which included:
- Number Talks - involves a problem being set for the whole class which everyone works on (typically mentally). Once students have a solution they silently show ‘thumbs up’ and students are invited to share their methods.
- Maths Journals - some children have begun to journal about their maths learning, giving them the opportunity to be creative and colourful as they express their understanding of the maths behind calculations and real world problems, as well as reflecting on their learning.
- Visual maths - making maths visible is a big part of developing a mathematical mindset. Lessons involve pictures, outdoor learning, ICT, manipulatives and a variety of different presentations for a given topic.
Parents and carers are keen to support their children with their homework, which is typically drill and practice style, with occasional creative tasks. Netherlee provides families with a booklet explaining the numeracy to be covered each year, along with an online resource. Schools in Netherlee’s cluster have recorded a number of videos, uploaded to YouTube, in which teachers demonstrate ways to approach different calculations and concepts.
In six years Netherlee’s maths attainment has markedly improved. In 2012, P7s were significantly below average in all ten components of numeracy, P5s significantly below in eight, and P3 were performing below average on nine. In contrast, in 2017 P7s were above average in all but two components, the final two being average. P5 and P3 cohorts each scored significantly above average in all ten components.
In terms of Curriculum for Excellence levels, in 2012 80% of children in P1, P4 and P7 were performing within their respective levels. By 2016, this had increased to 95%, a level which has been maintained since.
Attitudes to maths have also changed within the school, with few children expressing a dislike of the subject now.
To find out more, take a look at the full Netherlee Primary School Numeracy case study.