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What are SATs… and why do our children do them?

The first in our series of SATs-themed posts.

Is your child in Year 6? In a state school? If so, it is likely that they will be sitting SATs next month.

ImageSATs (Statutory Assessment Tests) are sat in mid-May by Year 6 students in England.

The tests are in English and maths and are spread over four days, taking around 5.5 hours to complete. There are three maths papers: two written, both non-calculator as of 2014, and a 20 question mental arithmetic test. There are two English papers: reading and “SPAG”, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar; as of 2013, writing has been teacher-assessed.

The results are sent to your child’s school in July, where they are checked by the school. By law, parents must receive their child’s results broken down by subject before the end of the summer term. You will get a report with SATs levels for each subject. The report will also contain a ‘teacher assessment’, which is your child’s teacher’s own perception of the child’s performance.

SATs results are used to measure how well children are doing nationally, how well your child’s school is performing both nationally and to compare the progress made by the specific cohort (year group) at your child’s school. The tests may also be used by your child’s secondary school for setting purposes.

The results will give you a good idea about how your child is performing at this stage and help guide you in how you support them in the next few years.

Error where app won’t open when sending a report

We have had reports of this crash this morning and it seems we have developed a problem on our server overnight which is sometimes causing a crash when the app tries to send the email report.

Some users have managed to fix the crash by rebooting their iPad. To do this, you will need to press the home button and the side button simultaneously until the iPad switches off and then on again. This seems to work in about 50% of cases. If this does work for you, I would recommend disabling the reports for the time-being to ensure the crash doesn’t happen again.

Another user has managed to work around the problem by setting their device to Flight Mode before opening the app. This stops the app trying to find an internet connection and enables the app to be opened. Again, if you are able to do this, I’d disable reports for the time-being.

Since we haven’t managed to reproduce the crash on our own devices as yet, it would help us immensely if users experiencing this crash were able to enable the diagnostics and usage on to their iPad. To do this, go to SETTINGS>GENERAL>ABOUT>DIAGNOSTICS AND USAGE>AUTOMATICALLY SEND. This will help us to identify the cause of the problem.

Please be assured that we are working hard to fix this problem. As soon as we have any news we will update you.

Tom Minor

My Favourite Mean, Median and Mode Problem

I’m thinking of four numbers. The mode of the numbers is 7; the median is 7.5; the mean is 9. What are the numbers?

Solution:

First, you need definitions:

MODE: The most popular, or most frequently occurring item of data

MEDIAN: The middle number when the data set is ordered. If there are four numbers (as in this case) the median is exactly half way between the second and third values.

MEAN: This is calculated by working out the total of your numbers, and then dividing by how many numbers you have.

Here are the steps to solve the puzzle:

1) If 7 is the mode, then two of our numbers will be 7. We cannot have three 7′s, because this would affect the median. Our numbers are therefore 7, 7, x, x

2) If the median is 7.5, our third number is 8, because 7.5 is exactly half-way between 7 and 8. Our numbers are now 7, 7, 8, x

3) If the mean is 9, then the total of our numbers is 36, because 9 = 36/4. At the moment, our numbers total 7+7+8=22. This means that our last remaining number is 14, making our numbers 7, 7, 8, 14.

 

If you enjoyed solving that problem, then try this:

I am thinking of five numbers. The smallest number is 10. The range is 9. The mode is 11. The mean is 13. What are the five numbers?

NB RANGE: The difference between the highest and lowest values.

If you’re feeling brave, post your solution below!

We Love Rote Learning! (but mainly because it’s the key to success in maths)

Rote learning gets a bad press. The term is associated with good old-fashioned chalk-and-talk teaching methodologies… “Sit down and shut up! Open your books at page 359 and complete questions 1 to 59 before the bell…” But as any teacher knows, it remains the best way to learn a lot of what we need to make us good at maths.rote learningFortunately, times have changed, and technology has opened up new ways to teach by rote. Here are some of the techniques we employ in our tuition centre, and within our app, to liven things up:

  • Introduce a time constraint on a question: “You have five seconds to answer each of these questions before you get it wrong…” (useful in forcing children to guess – not always a bad thing when it comes to learning facts by heart!)
  • Introduce a time constraint on an exercise: “How many of these times-tables can you do in one minute?”
  • Compete – against others, either in the classroom or across the globe on tutpup.com or similar
  • Compete against last week’s score. Children almost always improve their score, and this spurs them on more.
  • Instant feedback. Rote learning is deathly if nothing’s marked until the end of the lesson – and then it’s all wrong. IT allows children to see instantly if they are on the right track.
  • Muscle memory: remember this can play an important part in learning some tasks by rote. For example, it is vital when completing sums by column addition to always show working (this is the purpose of the overlay on these questions in DoodleMaths). The brain remembers the sequence of muscle movements as much as the principle itself.photo (9)
  • Set the bar at the right height: in other words, ensure the balance of success/challenge is correct for the individual.

Here are some areas of Key Stage 2 maths that lend themselves well to such techniques:

  • Doubles and halves
  • Number bonds to 10, 20, 100 and number facts up to 10 and 20
  • Times Tables (leading to associated division facts)
  • Column addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
  • Naming shapes and solids
  • Units for measurement
  • Adding and subtracting 9, 19, 99 etc.
  • Compass points
  • Decimal and fractional bonds to 1
  • Calculating the fraction of a quantity
  • Fraction/decimal equivalents

This is the tip of the iceberg. But what are we doing when we learn these things by rote? Simple: we are committing a mathematical fact to our long-term memory. Storing facts in our long-term memory frees up our working memory to perform more complex calculations. For example, 80 – (4 x 7) becomes a lot easier if you know 4 x 7 = 28 as a fact immediately.

I’m not saying all maths needs to be learned in a rote fashion. There are equally plenty of areas of maths where a deeper conceptual understanding is required. But most of the children that we meet find maths difficult because they are frustrated by their lack of knowledge, rather than their lack of understanding.

Can you make 100 using exactly five 5′s… in five different ways?

You are allowed to use any mathematical operator including exponents and factorials. Scroll down for my five ways. I had to get creative for the last one, and I must admit to spending a good part of my evening on it!

 

 

 

 

 

1.   5 x 5 x (5 – 5/5)

2.   5 x (5 + 5 + 5 + 5)

3.   5 x 5 x 5 – 5 x 5

4.   (5 + 5) ^ ((5+5)/5)

5.   5! – (5 + 5 + 5 + 5)

If you found any other ways, please please please submit below! 

Who else tendered (other than Pearson) for the Los Angeles iPad Project?

The $1 billion dollar iPad roll-out in Los Angeles is on hold for the time-being since three students hacked their district-issued iPads within days.

Far more disturbing than this is that there appears to have been little or no discussion with LA teachers regarding the educational content on these devices. Pearson appear to have this sewn-up.

Teachers are all different. They have their own individual styles, strengths, habits and foibles; it is getting the right blend of these characteristics that makes a school great. Children are all different, too, and this means that each child will always find a teacher in an educational institution that they admire, respect, and see as a role model. It’s this unique blend of individuals that makes every single school develop its own culture and ethos, and thus allows (some) parents to have a choice in the education of their child.

Given this, it should come as no surprise that teachers like to choose resources which supplement their own good work – resources that complement their own style of teaching and will work with the blend of individuals that are in their charge. I have taught in four very different schools and had to adapt my teaching style every time. “One-size fits all” just does not work. Teachers have been prescribed enough with the Common Core Standards (or the National Curriculum in the UK) without having to be told exactly how to deliver them.

So that’s my first problem with Pearson providing the content for these iPads. My second is this: I’m afraid that for all their vast financial investment, the Pearson Common Core System of Courses is uninspiring, and in no way matches the innovative nature of the iPad itself. They do not delight. As I have stated in previous blogs, subject-specific apps need to offer something new: technology alone does not raise standards. The simple rule is this: educational apps need to enhance existing provision, rather than simply replace existing teachers, worksheets and textbooks if they are to have an impact. Innovation of this nature tends to come from individuals finding solutions to their own problems, rather than corporate, salaried employees being paid to search for them.

I’m sure educators in Los Angeles will be able to introduce and use other resources apart from Pearson’s. If not, it won’t be the students hacking their devices – it will be the teachers.

Why Your Five-Year Old Should Learn their Doubles by Heart

On the assumption that your five-year old has a grasp of addition, these are the most important numerical facts a child can learn at this age.

Children who are good at maths have committed a lot of what they know to heart. By this, I mean that important number facts have been learnt and committed to long-term memory. Note that it is widely accepted that there are two ways to commit something to long-term memory: either learn by understanding (perhaps you’d learn the events leading to the start of WW1 in this way) or rote learning (times-tables must be learnt this way in my view.)

I digress… back to the point in hand. The more number facts a child has committed to long-term memory, the more they free up their working memory to perform more complex calculations. A child who can recall the doubles of numbers below ten can then also learn the following without much more effort:

- Near doubles: if you know that 6+6=12, you can instantly work out that 6+7=13.

- Adjusted doubles: to work out 6+8, change it to 7+7 and use your doubles. Doubles, near doubles and adjusted doubles account for the majority of addition facts to 20. 

- Double 10, 20, 30 etc. and 100, 200, 300 etc. This innately teaches children place value, and excites them because they are using big numbers! You’ll get them doubling 1000, 20,000 before you know it.

- 2x table: same as your doubles!

- Halving: the reverse of your doubles. But you have to learn them off by heart: if you choose to teach doubles by adding a number to itself, whilst this is sensible in the short term, in the long term many children learning how to halve will attempt some kind of subtraction. Better to get them to learn off-by-heart early on.

- If they can halve, they can quarter. Teach it by halving, and halving again.

- And you can even lead in to percentages, because 50% is one half.

- Partitioning: if they know their doubles confidently off-by-heart, they can double any number by partitioning. Double 24? Well, double 20, double 4, then put it back together.

Of course, the other by-product of doing this is it gets children into the habit of committing numerical facts to their long term memory from an early age. Because maths is never duller than when you are still continually counting on your fingers at 9 or 10 years of age…Image

 

 

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