Archives For ks2 maths

I meet children every day who have lost their enthusiasm for maths. Why is this? When we start to learn maths we are all keen! It is new, relevant and important. So what causes us to lose interest?

I believe the answer is simple: the children who are disaffected are almost universally the ones who are falling behind in class. Note class, not school. I meet plenty of bright children who are fed up with maths – despite being in the ‘top group’, they are still struggling with what is being taught and are perhaps towards the bottom end of the class. I love maths, but I too became unmotivated for a time at university when I fell towards the bottom of my class.

Why is this? Because the enjoyment of maths comes from simply being able to do it. We all know the feeling: when we get a question right, we experience a small buzz of satisfaction, of contentment. The buzz is magnified if we know there was an element of challenge, too. It’s quite a pleasant feeling, and explains why Sudoku has become the most popular puzzle of all time.

Not many buzzes...

Not many buzzes…

So let’s consider our class of 14 year-olds who are learning, say, equations. The teacher explains how to solve an equation and asks the class a few questions. The brighter, more vocal students respond correctly in front of their peers (big buzz!) The class start the exercise. The top half of the class may then solve 20-odd equations in the lesson (lots of little buzzes, a sense of achievement and understanding.) The bottom few may solve a handful, perhaps with the help of the teacher. No buzzes. Not much sense of achievement. And perhaps disappointment, if the teacher asks them to complete the exercise for homework.

Lots of buzzes!

Lots of buzzes!

Working in our tuition centre, we have learnt that the simple way to rekindle enthusiasm for maths is to allow children to experience the buzz again. This may mean we have to take them back a level for a while, but we typically aim for a child to be completing 100+ computations in a tuition session with a success rate of about 75%. Lots of buzzes! And lots of progress, too. DoodleMaths, used daily for 10-15 minutes, should result in a child completing 200+ computations per week with a success rate of 80-90% (higher, because there is no teacher to encourage or offer a quick explanation.) Again, lots of buzzes! But this only works because the child is working at precisely the right level for them.

I have come across some ludicrous examples of attempts to motivate students in maths through gimmickry. It probably made a good news story, but the teacher featured on BBC News a few years ago who would ask his students to text him the answer clearly had no idea about motivating children in maths. More recently, I came across a dreadful app (mentioning no names) which rewards each correct answer with a game of “Whack-a-Monkey”. The developers obviously started with the premise that maths is dull and best broken up with something silly. They failed to grasp that the buzz of the correct answer is reward enough in the short term. My children rejected the game immediately – they became fed up because their enjoyment of the maths was being delayed by a trivial game.

If you ask a child why they don’t like maths, they will typically say it’s because “it’s boring” or “it’s no fun”. But before you start asking them to text you the answer, try this: ask them “If you were better at maths, would you like it more?” The answer is always an emphatic “Yes”. The key to getting children more motivated at maths is to get them working at the right level for themselves and to experience the buzz of correct answers again. Kids only learn maths if they are answering questions, and lots of buzzes = lots of progress + plenty of motivation.

On the Friday 26th October we did the ‘after’ test following our 4-week trial of DoodleMaths at Bathford School.

As a reminder, we worked with six students for 15-20 minutes per day on DoodleMaths , Monday to Friday mornings. We administered the Hodder Access Mathematics Test 1A prior to the 4 week period, and Test 1B afterwards. Here are the results:

 

Student

Raw Score (before)

Raw Score (after)

NC Level (before)

NC Level (after)

Hodder Maths Age (before)

Hodder Maths Age (after)

Change in Maths Age

A

14

19

2a

3c

8 y 3 m

8 y 11 m

+8 months

B

16

19

2a

3c

8 y 6 m

8 y 11 m

+5 months

C

29

33

3a

4c

10 y 2 m

10 y 8 m

+6 months

D

18

16

3c

2a

8 y 9 m

8 y 6 m

-3 months

E

11

11

2b

2b

7 y 11 m

7 y 11 m

No change

F

14

Absent

2a

 

8 y 3 m

 

 

 

We were disappointed that one of our most improved students was absent for the second test, and in hindsight, it was a mistake for us to conduct the test at the end of the last day of term which was definitely distracting for some! A positive outcome on the whole, though, and one which verifies the anecdotal evidence that already exists in regards to the benefits of DoodleMaths daily practice.

The trial with Writhlington School starts today.

We have a fantastic local village primary school right on our doorstep, and we are fortunate enough that they have taken a great deal of interest in what we are producing. So when it came to testing our product to try and see what kind of improvement it might offer a child with sustained use, it seemed natural to pair with them.

We asked the Headteacher, Mr Stone, to identify students that he felt would benefit from using DoodleMaths for 15 minutes per day over the course of a four week period. A group of six Year 6 students were quickly found and seemed delighted to be given the opportunity to use iPads at school.

Unfortunately for them, the first thing we did with them was administer a written test. To genuinely measure their level of improvement over the four week period we clearly had to use an assessment that was independent of DoodleMaths. We chose to use the Hodder Access Mathematics Tests: these have been standardised over a huge sample size and as well as returning a National Curriculum level, they also return a child’s maths age, much as DoodleMaths’ assessment does.

The children sat the Test A on Friday 28th September at 10.15am. The average Hodder maths age for the sample of six students was 8 years 7.7 months, which equates to a National Curriculum level of 2.9 according to the Hodder handbook.

On Monday 1st October the children did their DoodleMaths assessment. The average DoodleMaths age for the children was 8 years 5.4 months. On Tuesday, they finally started using the iPads for learning.
We are now almost two weeks into the trial. The children are working with so much energy and enthusiasm, they are a credit to themselves and their school. What I am most surprised about is that at the end of the session when they are allowed on games and personalise their pet character, they tend to opt to do another 7/8-a-day. They are enjoying maths now that it is personalised to their needs and ability.

We will be doing Hodder Test B on Friday 26th October with the children, and will post the results that afternoon.