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Mixed ability maths grouping

(28 Posts)
mixedabilitygrouping Mon 10-Apr-17 10:29:35

I'm a regular here but have name changed.

I'm just at the end of the 2nd year of a B.Ed and I am doing a research project on Maths mastery in primary schools (linked with Singapore maths and PISA), I've got to collect some data on mixed ability maths grouping so am asking begging if anyone would be able to complete a very short (5 questions, not remotely mentally taxing!) survey?

I'd be truly grateful smile

OP’s posts: |
FabulouslyGlamorousFerret Mon 10-Apr-17 15:15:14

Interesting study, completed 👍🏻

MangoSplit Mon 10-Apr-17 15:21:45

I haven't completed your survey as I'm not a teacher (this thread came up in my Active Conversations). I'd just like to comment that, speaking as the parent of an able mathematician, I would not personally feel happy with mixed ability groups as I feel my DS would miss out. So perhaps another disadvantage would be "difficulty in getting parents to understand any benefit of this method"!

chocoshopoholic Mon 10-Apr-17 15:41:38

I'm really interested mango in why you think your DS would miss out?

I'll be doing my MA dissertation next year and am considering attitudes and misunderstanding of mastery curriculums as a topic.

Satishouse Mon 10-Apr-17 15:51:21

Choc - please tell us how an able child benefits from being taught with less abled children in a subject like maths. I would honestly be interested to know. At the moment I feel like Mango (I am a parent not a teacher) smile

slkk Mon 10-Apr-17 15:56:23

Our more able children have benefitted as they are more open to different ways of representing and solving problems and puzzles and this has helped them to explore and understand the mathematical ideas more deeply rather than just knowing how to answer questions in one way through a learnt strategy. They know that I am never happy with one strategy or representation and have learnt quite a bit from less mathematical peers in some aspects of maths.

FabulouslyGlamorousFerret Mon 10-Apr-17 16:24:08

Yes, I agree with Slkk I think the more able children build a greater depth of knowledge by perhaps exploring alternative ways of solving an equation, very able children may have skipped the concrete (using equipment such as cubes or counters) altogether, as they have worked it out mentally, it can be good for them ensure they fully understand and embed a method before they move on.

Hollybollybingbong Mon 10-Apr-17 16:24:57

Hello mixed I'm a TA in a reception class, our school are teaching through maths mastery and we are introducing varying elements into our curriculum as it enhances the students understanding of maths.
Before it was introduced, I have seen able children falter as what was originally, to them, a very rigid understanding of a narrowly defined set of rules was questioned in different circumstances. Maths mastery and the discussion of every element of each maths question, the answers to which can be reached in a number of different ways, opens up the knowledge and understanding for the whole class.
In my own experience of mixed ability classes, my son was accidentally placed in the wrong class for computing in year 9, the teacher recognised this and offered the opportunity for him to stay in the lower group with additional work as he required. It taught him excellent people skills, helped other people in the class as he was eager and able to share ideas and knowledge and taught him how to question and explain his thinking. He was with that class for 2 years and now in year 13 is on target for a high A level grade along with dinner friends from the class.. As a parent if I hadn't seen the results for myself I would have been dubious about mixed ability classes but handled well and respecting the differing abilities they can be excellent.

chocoshopoholic Mon 10-Apr-17 16:56:08

One of the key parts is mastering a skill before moving on. in the past able children have been given either superficial extension tasks or given the next topic. If mastery is being taught, this means that pupils become fluent in the topic worked on, they develop the associated reasoning and problem solving skills and they can communicate and explain their thinking.

Some pupils classed as able could just 'see the answer' to simple problems. But then because they didn't have the fluency of method later struggle when the problems get harder.

The reasoning and communication skills of our pupils have been much more pronounced much earlier in this way of Teaching for us.

This Charlie Stripp blog post is an overview of the National Centre for excellence in Maths view for anyone interested

MangoSplit Mon 10-Apr-17 18:53:56

Choco While I believe that, in theory, you may be right, I would worry that, in practice, my able child would spend his time helping his classmates to grasp subjects that he already thoroughly understood. As it is, he has been working with a small group of able pupils this year and has found maths lessons interesting and enjoyable.

Sittinginthesun Mon 10-Apr-17 19:08:54

Another parent here - I would also take some convincing that this would work for my DS1. grin

He is very able at maths. If you teach him something, he memorizes it, so repeating it to consolidate etc is just a waste of time. If he's got a concept, then there is surely no need go back to real basics. He needs stretching, sideways if necessary, but if a child is genuinely working at a faster speed than another child, then I can't see how you can provide for both.

You would have to be constantly providing extension work, extra extension work etc.

I completely understand that mixed ability groups works for English etc, but I just can't see how you can teach children maths in one class who could range from old money Level 4/5 to GCSE grade A ability.

oneisoneandallalone Mon 10-Apr-17 19:39:05

It's not about the high ability helping the low ability with their work; it's about creating a culture of sharing methods, discussing strategies, developing an understanding that there is more than one way of approaching a problem.
This leads to mastery as it helps all children explain their reasoning which then underpins progression to deeper understanding and application to new contexts.
Discussion with a partner also helps them to spot errors - they may be secure in the process but in comparing answers and justifying their belief that they are right, they can spot calculation mistakes.

mumsneedwine Mon 10-Apr-17 20:23:40

But if I've got a mixed ability year 9 or 10
class some will be able to learn functions and trig and others are still working on adding fractions. I've tried it and it's bad for everyone. Bright kids frustrated as go way too slowly and kids who find it hard get disheartened as they think they are too slow. It's the one subject I would always want to teach in sets.

chocoshopoholic Mon 10-Apr-17 20:41:07

One of the problems of not teaching to mastery is pupils who memorise it sittinginthesun.

Memorising a particular method / process is good, as long as problems always take the same form.

Once the problem changes slightly and there's something missing, or the method doesn't work - without the mastery of understanding why - they can't progress on to higher levels without going back to basics and working up again. If they don't master the underlying understanding, this pattern repeats.

This can lead some students to struggle / loose motivation to continue with maths when they need to go back to basics before they can progress. This the main reason I think it's vital for those who may go on to be high maths achievers to fully master concepts and articulate them, so that they can continue to progress.

Sorry, mixedability I've derailed your thread a bit.

oneisoneandallalone Mon 10-Apr-17 20:47:26

I am posting from the perspective of a primary teacher; it may well be different at secondary level.
In a lesson we would all be doing fractions, but at different starting and end points - tasks are pitched as fluency, reasoning or problem solving so all work is linked but has a different focus. Each child chooses their own level of challenge, are free to move up or down within the lesson and ask peers and adults for support or guidance.
I wouldn't have a lesson that covered different topics - so the principles are the same for everyone but it's whether they need skills or application practice that differs and their peers are just one of the resources at their disposal to move their learning on in their own personal learning journey. Sometimes helping someone else is part of their journey (which will develop their own understanding) but they will also learn while working through their own chosen level of task.

Mumoftwoyoungkids Mon 10-Apr-17 21:00:21

I was a (very) high ability student of maths and my Dd appears to be at least significantly above average.

To be honest I'm not convinced. My own experience of maths pre about F. Maths A level is I would be taught a particular thing a particular way. I would then think about it for 5 minutes and then realise that I "knew" 3 other ways of doing it - at least one of which was better (in my not even slightly humble opinion) than the "taught" way.

I'd then guess which one my best friend would understand easiest and explain it to her.

I'd then do the 37 questions we had to do in less than half the lesson whilst discussing the latest home and away plot.

The teacher would then either
1) "Stretch me sideways" (same basic too easy principle but phrased slightly differently)
2) Suggest I discuss it with a friend (yeah done that)
3) Try and pretend I didn't exist (excellent - got my Spanish homework done)

Finally one accepted that it really wasn't working for me and let me work through the book at my own speed. And finally I no longer spent the lesson feeling like my brain would explode.

I realise I am fairly extreme but there really is nothing worse than people trying claim that going over the same very basic point in slightly different ways of a subject that feels more natural to you than breathing is "mastery".

Sadik Mon 10-Apr-17 21:02:43

"it's about creating a culture of sharing methods, discussing strategies, developing an understanding that there is more than one way of approaching a problem."
Surely that still happens even in a setted class?

Sadik Mon 10-Apr-17 21:07:41

I agree with everything Mumoftwoyoungkids says above - my experience and that of dd's as far as I can see (& she's now in a set of pupils all predicted A* at GCSE)

Mumoftwoyoungkids Mon 10-Apr-17 21:14:42

Sadik Thanks. I was feeling bad that I had been a bit harsh as 13 year old me typed a right old rant.

I think if you haven't been in a maths lesson pitched significantly below your ability (or years worth!) then it is hard to understand. I always wondered if Roald Dahl was a mathematician and remembering maths lessons when he wrote "Matilda".

For teachers:- imagine being told that you are going to spend the next 5 years learning to "master" 5+5.

SallyGinnamon Mon 10-Apr-17 21:19:39

At DS's school they set. Top set whip through stuff and do GCSE a year early then do further maths. Bottom set is very small and have a lot of personal attention and time. They all still get very good results in the end, just coming at it from different approaches.

Can't see it working if they were mixed. The strugglers would be lost and the most able bored. Even if you keep upping the difficulty it's still the same stuff repeated and it gets boring.

Sittinginthesun Mon 10-Apr-17 21:20:25

Chico I do see that reasoning, but watching my dcs (who get their maths ability from their Dad, and not me!), they genuinely "get" it.

When I saw memorise, I mean that they instinctively understand. So DS is taught something new, he grasps it straight away, turns it over, sideways etc himself.

And I know he is not alone. A group of his year 8 class are tackling GCSE high level work, on top of the year 8 curriculum. I just can't see how, in any way at all, it would help him being in a mixed ability class.

We deliberately chose a secondary that set in maths from day 1, for this reason.

user1469568833 Mon 10-Apr-17 23:25:25

Having seen mastery in action I am convinced it works. I try and explain to others that's it's like a triangle, the broader the base the easier it is to extend upwards in time when appropriate and the stronger the understanding . I'm not saying there is never a case where children need stretching up as well as sideways but in 11 years of teaching I have not come across a child that I could not have sufficiently challenged by sticking to the concept of mastery and deepening their understanding through reasoning and problem solving.

user1469568833 Mon 10-Apr-17 23:26:32

Would say my experience is in primary so can't comment on secondary

user789653241 Mon 10-Apr-17 23:55:17

chocoshopoholic, there are a lot of threads about able children and problem with mastery teaching in G & T board!

slkk Tue 11-Apr-17 07:54:54

Mastery teaching is fairly new in the uk so I'm sure it is sometimes not done very well.
In my experience for maths it does. In our school we have one exceptionally gifted child and many very able children the gifted child has been accelerated to a different year group but the others work well in class.
Usually they are challenged within the main lesson. E.g. Multiplying or dividing fractions: most of more able could already do it. So I asked them to explain why their methods worked. Not a clue. So they puzzled over that at the same time others learnt it for the first time. All of them folding paper to see why. The difference it, the ones who couldn't already do it did not know the formal method yet. I then showed them a paper model. Is this fraction divided or multiplied? The pieces have increased, so multiplied, right? Or is it?
When it comes to written work, they usually need something different and lower ability children may need more time so higher ability can work on more abstract problems.
I tend to sit at mixed ability tables, but in ability pairs. They can move around for different activities though.
This video shows the idea well. It's aimed at teachers but is interesting I think.

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