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Overcoming mathematical misconceptions with conceptual maths

A classroom teacher in St Luke’s and St. Matthew’s Primary School, Dundee, used conceptual maths techniques with her primary seven class.

Conceptual maths is strongly linked to growth mindset, as it promotes deep thinking and reflection, use of strategies and celebration of mistakes. The teacher made use of ‘number talks’, championed by Jo Boaler, and ‘think boards’, which are based on research carried out by Jerome Bruner. The children enjoyed this approach to learning mathematics, which was also found to encourage a growth mindset culture in the lessons

Conceptual maths techniques were used in primary 7 class for every maths lesson over a period of six weeks.

This included use of number talks, think boards and flexible groupings. The class followed Jo Boaler’sadvice on her website ‘Youcubed3’ to set maths norms for the class, including understanding what they like to hear, feel and see during maths lessons. Measurements were taken throughout the period. The teacher measured the engagement of six pupils on a regular basis throughout the coaching period using the Leuven engagement scale(pupil engagement over a two-minute time periodassessed on a scale of 1:5)(Laevers 2005). The scores were used to inform a qualitative interview with the class teacher at the end of the process.

Findings

  • Using conceptual maths techniques encouraged the class teacher to be a more reflective practitioner
  • Taking part in the project helped the teacher to maintain a focus on conceptual maths
  • Conceptual maths techniques improved pupil engagement and enjoyment of maths
  • Flexible grouping combined with conceptual maths allowed all pupils to attempt challenging work, with dramatic results for some
  • Pupils were able to explain their thinking using mathematical language
  • Pupils enjoyed their maths lessons, and were keen to take part

Take a look at the full extensive St Luke's and St Matthew's case study.