Year 5/6 maths – children who see themselves as mathematicians

Researcher: G Ricketts Minchinhampton
Context: Year 5/6 Maths
Desired Outcomes:
• Pupils who love Maths and see themselves as mathematicians.
• Teachers who are able to accurately judge learning in pupil’s heads and better able to adapt and refine Teaching & Learning mid lesson to facilitate the learning going on.
Evaluation strategy 1: Pupils place post-it notes of where they are on evaluation scale of maths attitudes and pleasure. Revisit just before end of study period.
Evaluation strategy 2: Pupils interviewed by TA after lessons asking them; what went well for you today? What were your struggles and how did you overcome them? Did the hinge question help your learning and how?
Evaluation strategy 3: Evaluation partner — to observe pupils caught up in the process –who voted what and how they were intervened with thereafter in lesson.
The use of the confidence scale in Maths lessons gave the Teacher and Teaching Assistant a valuable insight into initial confidence and attitudes towards learning in this subject. The outcomes were very revealing and would suggest that there was a massive gulf in confidence from child to child and didn’t necessarily fit to the labels of “previously high/low attaining”. Even though certain pupils were producing high test scores and producing evidence that showed they were working at the expected standard or in some cases, exceeding the expected standard they remained uneasy about their abilities in Maths.
The use of hinge questioning and mole voting combined allowed the staff to better assess (as close to the coal face as possible) where children were in their understanding of the subject matter from moment to moment. This was hugely beneficial for identifying children that were able to apply Knowledge, Skills and Understanding to problems and children that were harbouring very specific misconceptions. It also helped to identify missing gaps in pupils’ skill sets or knowledge. Depending on the nature of the misconception, this was either tackled immediately or in a planned intervention afterwards giving pupils the opportunity to start the next lesson at a similar point regardless of their previous levels of confidence.
The application of this strategy and its regular usage meant that children became familiar and comfortable with the procedure and understood its value for themselves. When asked about the use of mole voting and hinge questioning, selected individuals from different ends of the confidence scale gave the following responses:
“I like it because when I don’t know the answer to the hinge question I can let the teacher know and nobody else knows. After we have talked about it I can usually see my mistakes.”
“It’s good because Mr Ricketts never tells us what the right answer is and if he doesn’t come over we know we’re fine. It helps us see if we’re getting it but it’s private. It’s just for us.”
Re-administering the confidence scale during the interim and at the end of the study showed a big jump forwards for nearly all children except two. This again was useful information because it clearly identified which pupils to monitor and support more closely in the future. Good work with Teacher and Teaching Assistant has since been done that has improved the confidence of these individuals further. Revealed through informal discussion, one had described a lower level of confidence because of the specific lesson they had just been in but normally felt happier about maths. The other child wanted to practise their basic skills and become more fluent with their times tables and thought this would help them feel happier in lessons.
Questions raised and next direction of study:
1. Should the confidence scale be part of every lesson, or done at least weekly to be most accurate since children’s confidence will vary from lesson to lesson depending on content and challenge?
2. What specific factors meant that the two identified individuals hadn’t made such a big leap forward as the rest? (Basic skills, gaps in mathematical language, trouble retaining procedural steps for carrying out written methods etc)
3. Is there a way of dealing with all struggles in the moment to save a potentially demotivating intervention?
1. Children’s confidence is paramount to their enjoyment in Maths. A previously high attaining child with low confidence is still at risk of not “feeling like a mathematician”.
2. Hinge questioning and mole voting gives staff an immediate assessment of children’s progress within a lesson and if tailored well, can reveal misconceptions and gaps in children Knowledge, Skills and Understanding.
3. Teachers need to have a real ‘handle’ on children’s confidence and attitudes in Maths if they are to facilitate a deep and long-lasting passion for Mathematics.

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