How to approach the school(15 Posts)
I am planning on going into my son’s primary school this week to talk about maths teaching and I would really like opinions of how to phrase the issue and what help I could offer (and if my offer of help is actually helpful!).
My son is in Year 3 and is good at maths – not amazingly gifted but has grasped all of the essential components that are on the curriculum to teach this year. This has been the case since reception. My issue is that I don’t think he is being particularly stretched. I don’t think I am necessarily looking for him to move onto the next year’s curriculum but I would like more stretching/testing work – for example more word/logic problems which get him to think about basic concepts so he can enjoy his knowledge and not find maths boring.
There are two classes per year in the school and they are divided into three groups of ability. The largest group is the ‘top’ group. The ethos of the school seems to be to ensure that no child is left behind which I would agree is the most important principle but I also don’t think they have sufficient provision in place for more able children. Looking at my son’s maths book, and from what he says, the extension exercises are given out once a child has completed the core work and it tends to be more of the same type of question – so if you understand the core work there is nothing that is more challenging or interesting to do.
I am going in to speak to the teacher about it but am interested to understand what other schools do. How do they support more able children in an area where there are huge differences in understanding without it being a huge burden on staff time? Are there standard websites of problems by year group children can work through? Or workbooks? Does your school mix up year groups to support a more differential approach? Also, as a parent I am very willing to help – either in school or by researching and preparing maths problems for him to work through in school. If you are a teacher, would you consider this in anyway helpful or just a hindrance?
Please don't offer to prepare work at home for your child to do at school. I'm cringing just reading that!
Thanks for website suggestions - I will take a look.
Jennyonaplate - genuine question, can I ask why? I am not saying I could do the teacher's job (I think I would be an awful teacher) but I do have the time to prepare questions/problems at the relevant level across different curriculum topics. I had assumed that the teacher was pushed for time (given current workloads) and that, with some guidance, this could be helpful. If you are a teacher, what would you find helpful?
I would love to hear from people who believe their school are good at stretching children at the upper end of the ability spectrum.
At the different schools that my 3 boys have attended extension work was similar but more difficult work than the core. Perhaps just ask the teacher if there is a possibility of this in the first instance?
I have also offered to help with my child's maths at school ;-) and was politely declined. Personally I think there is nothing wrong with your offering as long as you don't mind them saying 'no'. Atleast you are trying to help.
Our experience is similar. Child not stretched at school with maths. Talk to the teacher is always the advice. The teacher always says everything is 'fine' and the child is bright. Child says it is bored and so the cycle goes on...
I agree the game seems to be getting everyone to the minimum standard. Once you are there you are spinning your wheels..
How do you know he has covered the entire year's maths curriculum in 5 months? Do you have experience of the curriculum? Extension tasks will be the same type of work, to ensure consolidation. It's the norm to have a core task and one or two extension tasks in Year 3. If my pupils complete everything, they are able to log into an online maths program that moves with stage not age, which they can use to extend any area of maths. Do you know if they do this? Is he in intervention groups? My school and the school my son is in has maths intervention groups once a week for more able pupils. This is also the norm.
anxious2017, I am curious to know which online programme your school use.
I am feeling a bit depressed reading the responses.... !
Anxious2017 - I will ask about intervention groups and online support. I am conscious that I mostly have my son's stories to go on which may well not be the full picture. However, as an example he told me a few weeks ago that they were working on the 6x table and once he had finished all of the extension exercises, he was told to just count in 6s to as high as he could go until the lesson ended.
Is he actually finding the work easy? It's important to ensure the child's view is considered, as being a parent, you only see the work written in the book and don't see the learning steps that have taken place in the build-up to it.
Consider whether there are things that you can do at home to support his maths. Have a think about his core numeracy. Does he know all of his multiplication facts instantly, for example? If so, can he do any division using them instantly e.g. 12 divided by 3? Then move on to variations e.g. 120 divided by 3, 1200 divided by 30. Make it a competition between you if he has a competitive streak.
A few websites that I recommend for use at home (more game based so less arduous if he is not keen on extra homework):
www.topmarks.co.uk/maths-games/7-11-years/problem-solving - my more able children particularly like 'Countdown'.
I agree with Jenny - don't give him work to take to school, that would be insulting. Akin to going to a restaurant and taking out a packed lunch.
In my own classes, I differentiate 3 or 4 ways (within a More Able 'set'). In my opinion, the main task should be sufficiently challenging and thus extensions will not be needed on a regular basis.
Trialled a few. RM Easimaths is used, as is Abacus and Sumdog. These are the best three in my opinion.
Maybe ask if they can give more problem solving activities. Again there are schemes for this and they could be given as an extension. Problem solving lasts more than a few minutes. I often use them with my more able pupils as extentions. Let's Think is a good scheme.
Where I am a Governor, our Maths Co-ordinator is doing the Maths Mastery course. She is in the first wave of teachers doing it. As a school we are working towards teaching maths this way but some teachers are more confident than others so they need help with the extension material. One Y6 teacher has also worked on extension materials and we do not do more of the same! The children are challenged with "Herculean"
Questions. They can bypass Hard, Harder or Hardest if they wish. A few do! The teacher then goes around the class to see who needs extra challenge. Sometimes this will be a discussion with another child on a particularly meaty question, it might be explaining the topic to a slightly slower child or work that is linked but not the exact topic. Sideways extension!
To put this into context, we are a high performing LA with grammar schools. We do link with a grammar school and can access advice if needed.
Ask how your school is approaching Mastery Maths and is anyone being trained to roll it out. It depends on challenging work for all.
I found that things didn't move when I approached class teachers (over several years) about more challenging work, but when I (finally, in Y4) approached the SENCO things got better. She seemed to have more resources such as nrich and other stuff easily to hand, and she also seemed to appreciate that doing the same sums with bigger numbers wasn't challenging, it was dull. So my suggestion, if talking to class teacher doesn't work, is to try the SENCO.
I do completely understand that teaching a class of 30 of widely differing abilities is a tough gig - I wouldn't want to try it - which is why I left it so long. But in the end, I was really worried that dd just wasn't getting the chance to get stuck, get things wrong (other than careless errors that she could easily correct) and really have to think hard. All of that is important learning, too.
My ds started a new school in September. It was a move from another. He was out in classes they thought would be right for him (secondary).
His maths teacher actually spoke to me and said he was struggling as ds just 'got' it straight away and was through the extension tasks like lightening. He was worried because ds spent lots of time doing past gcse papers/questions alone and wanted me to know once they'd done first rounds of tests he'd be asking to move him up.
I actually had a good conversation with him and pointed out ds struggles with reading comp and writing out his workings so yes, he could do the maths but actually IMO this was a valid exercise in improving his weaknesses.
His teacher looked relieved
So perhaps ask the teacher how ds is getting on. Ask her where his areas of weakness is in the curriculum as a whole and ask how he can be supported to increase those skills within his maths.
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