Classroom planning for mathematics

Classroom planning - part 3

Children often fail at mathematics because they have missed out on an earlier learning experience, for example one-to-one correspondence or conservation. Language or reading deficiencies can inhibit the child in approaching written problems. This can often be overcome by presenting tasks concretely, pictorially, diagrammatically or with pictures to support the words.

In planning sequences of instruction the teacher must consider these factors and encourage the development of alternative strategies. The establishment of personal benchmarks in measuring can be of great help, for example the width of my little finger is about one centimetre, if I stretch out my arm it is about a metre from the tip of my finger to my neck. Labelled reference points in the classroom can also assist the child in estimating heights and widths, for example the bookshelf is one-and-a-half metres high and I am nearly as tall as it, four carpet tiles make a square metre.

All children gain from using strategies for number facts. They can learn the ‘easy’ number facts first ( 1, 2, 5, 10) and use these to build up the others using doubles, near-doubles and patterns of odd and even. These strategies are of particular help to children with memory problems.

It is also important to consider the child who may be particularly good at mathematics. He/she can be given more difficult or taxing problems to solve rather than prematurely pushing him/her forward. Problems with two or three steps or open-ended problems are more difficult and provide a challenge. Once a concept is well understood it is better to use it in problem-solving activities than to overuse rote computational exercises. Sequences of graded work-cards allow children to work at their own pace and to undertake extension activities. Teachers should create lots of these and make them available to the children. Cards should be graded and sequential and cover all the strands and not only number.

Assessing children’s work in mathematics

Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning process. Teachers use assessment techniques every day. They make decisions about what to teach and how to teach it based on their observation of the children and the feedback they receive from work the children are doing. Reporting to parents is usually based on both the results of tests and the teacher’s assessment of the child’s approach to the subject.