Friday, 3 October 2014

Enriching Teaching and Learning in Maths at Ilam School

Enriching Teaching and Learning in Maths

From Jo Dudley, Ilam School 

At the commencement of our Professional Learning around Maths part way through this year, the first aspects we talked about were “rich tasks”, followed closely by references to online links and integrating digital tools. Thanks to an enthusiastic facilitator, who naturally incorporated the above into her own teaching and learning, and some of us attending a Kath Murdoch “Learning to Learn” full day workshop, we were better positioned to start integrating current inquiry based pedagogies and e-learning into our Maths teaching and learning. This added some real affirmation for natural integration rather than forced or add-on integration. Up until then, many felt there just wasn’t space or time to implement the e-learning and inquiry based pedagogies, which were being shared and modelled with them. Now it was starting to be part and parcel of our whole staff professional learning.

Rich tasks and multiple approaches to other aspects of Maths provided opportunity to not only stretch learning muscles and build rigour, but also to push the boundaries of both the teachers’ mindsets and the children’s mindsets. It helped challenge assumptions around children’s abilities and assumptions around teaching approaches at different levels. These tasks need strategies and frameworks to be modelled by children and/or teachers, so children have systems in place to record their thinking. We needed to allow the children to trial their own first then scaffold as required.

Below are some snapshots of our teaching and learning around this. The inquiry based pedagogies and learning to learn aspects shared here include (keeping in mind there are others and we have only started our journey):
  • metacognition when explaining thinking
  • using prior knowledge and “if I know then I know”
  • transferring knowledge through parallel problems
  • posing learning intentions as questions rather than a statement
  •  working on and building on generic learning to learn skills such as when using a split screen for learning intentions
  • using multiple representations/experiences around a concept
  • Maths doesn’t only take place at “Maths” time. “What is the Maths in that?”
  • authenticity and relating to the real world
  • collaboration
  • revisiting, revising, maintenance back, maintenance forward
  • Using modelling books to construct, share and review learning
1. A rich task used across the school.
For this task children were asked to discover how many leaves would be needed per day for 12 caterpillars if two caterpillars ate 5 leaves per day.
A year 2 child set out her thinking processes with equipment and had her thinking recorded on fotobabble                         

A Year 5 child had her thinking recorded for the same task on Explain Everything

2. A rich task specific to higher Maths stages
For this task the children were asked to ascertain how many boys and girls there were in a rafting team of 15 children, if there were 36 girls and 54 boys. Amongst the children there were variations of three different approaches (or strategies) given. Here are two examples captured on Explain Everything:
Luca, a Yr 6 child

And here's a link to Shawn's thinking.  

3. A rich task outside Maths time.
This Year 2 class collaboratively completes a comprehensive newsboard every morning, incorporating days of the week, Te Reo, weather, a Maths problem and spelling related activities. This is a recording of a 6 year old explaining his thinking of the problem: “There were 15 shoes outside the classroom. How many pairs is that? How many children in the class?” The recording was taken sometime after his initial response, so the fluency with which he expressed multiple understandings (ie fractions, decimals, doubles, halves) hasn’t quite been captured as it truly was.  The recording has been taken on AudioBoo

listen to ‘Maths rich task yr2’ on audioBoom: HERE

A few weeks later they were given a parallel problem, related to pairs but connected to their current Inquiry study.

4. Exploring Area in Geometry
For this activity the whole class was involved in physically working together to ascertain how many children could sit on their mat area. The learning intention and their strategy were recorded in their modelling book.

One child whose specific strategy was recorded on a sticky note in the modelling book recorded her thinking processes on Explain Everything

5. Maintenance and Revison
There are multiple examples and ways of doing this but I would just like to share one teacher’s use of the online tool Kahoot for this. Kahoot:  In Kahoot personalised quizzes can be generated, selecting own choice of time frames, usually seconds, to complete a question. Children work in pairs or groups with devices (ipads, netbooks, laptops, class computer) to record their answers. It generates intense competition and excitement as the programme gives instant updates of each team’s progress. An unexpected outcome from this arose when some children went on to create their own Kahoot quizzes related to their inquiries.

6.  Trapdoor Functions and Prime Numbers
We had a number of learning intentions restructured as questions for our prime numbers study. One of these was: “How do we use prime numbers in the real world?” Watch this Puppet Pals presentation to find out:

7.  Split Screen, multiple experiences, collaboration
A year 0 class was working on Time and on this particular day it was Days of the Week. Their learning intention was displayed as a split screen. On the HOW side of the split screen, the children collaborated on how, as a team, they would organise themselves to move and stand in order with their respective day of week card. There were two teams. Prior to this they had sung days of the week songs and following this day’s session they would be recording their understandings on paper. (Multiple experiences). An outline is captured on Pic Collage with the background being their Book Week decorated classroom door.

A Note on APPS used. I have found that Explain Everything, Puppet Pals, fotobabble, Pic Collage and audioboo have been excellent apps to use for the purposes above. Explain Everything and Puppet Pals were exported as videos to uTube, directly from the apps. Fotobabble and audioboo have their own websites, which recordings are uploaded to.  I find fotobabble more presentable, but audioboo can be used for just audio (which was all it was when I first started using it a couple of years ago) plus it has the added advantage now of a QR code already allocated to your audioboo. The image on audioboo can be added, changed or removed at any time. Both fotobabble and audioboo have embed codes, including one without java script.

Many thanks to the teachers in the Junior, Middle and Senior areas of our school, whose children contributed their wonderful thinking to this blog post.


  1. So good to see the amazing work still continues at Ilam School! Well done Jo.

  2. Fantastic post, Jo. Great to see such authentic maths learning. I am going to give Kahoot a go this term.
    Thanks for your contribution.

  3. Very informative blog Jo, full of excellent practice examples and the authentic integration of digi tools to not only enhance learning but also include fun and interactivity for the learners.
    Lyn bird