Over the years, during my time as Maths Leader at Yew Tree Community School, I have always researched new ways of planning, teaching and assessing children and their understanding of applying their skills in maths.
Once the curriculum changed in 2014, the tests and resources we were using did not meet the needs of our pupils or meet the curriculum outcomes. This is when I began to search for a tool the teachers could use and adapt to assess pupils’ knowledge throughout the year.
Just like the principal for Talk for Writing, as part of our assessment in maths, we began to do a ‘cold task’ at the beginning of a unit of work and then a ‘hot task’ at the end of the unit last September, usually using the same or adapted questions, to assess whether the children have improved and gained the skills, which had been planned and taught.
Currently, during Friday’s maths lesson, the teachers give the children approximately four or five questions, which will assess their prior knowledge of the topic, for example, the properties of 3D shapes. Once this task has been completed, the teacher can then adjust their planning for the following week, ensuring targeted and focussed teaching from the starting point of the class and individuals. The following Friday, when the questions are given again, hopefully the children will answer them confidently and accurately. If the previous questions in the cold task were answered correctly, then the teaching can be adapted to teach mastery and greater depth sooner and, therefore, the questions are changed to reflect this.
By using Question Bank as part of ‘cold and hot’ assessments, means the questions can be chosen easily through the database by finding the relevant topic. Once the questions are found, they are quickly made into a document of choice (word/PDF) that can then be saved and adapted to the level of difficulty the individual teacher needs for their class. The teachers have found it invaluable, as they do not have to think about the questions or search through several resources. Furthermore, there are questions added all the time and when compiling an end of unit test, the answers can be printed off too. When finding questions, it also shows whether the questions meet the main teaching objectives for maths (KPIs) and the questions can be searched for by mathematical skill, which is perfect for finding reasoning questions for our Friday lesson. In the area where tests can be saved, the assessments can then be accessed by other teachers within the year group which means saving valuable time so that teachers can think about their work/life balance.
Another way our school uses Question Bank is as part of ‘reasoning Friday’. Previously, as Maths Leader, I had asked staff to include word-problems every day in their teaching because we had found that this was a skill which we, as a school, needed to focus on, so that pupils were able to answer word problems and reason confidently. In addition, we used to ask the children to do a next step question, in the next day’s lesson, to assess whether the pupil had fully understood the previous day’s lesson and whether they could apply their skills. This was even more of a focus once the curriculum changed.
Last year, due to the change in the tests of having an arithmetic paper instead of a mental maths test, the school began to teach one lesson a week which focussed just on arithmetic, using the Rising Stars New Curriculum Arithmetic Tests, which again were great. They were adaptable and allowed the teachers to really focus on the skills the children required to confidently access other areas of the curriculum and the SATs tests at the end of Year 2 and Year 6. At the end of the academic year 2015 – 2016, our KS2 SATs results showed that this had paid off tremendously and also, across the school, children were becoming more and more confident with their calculation skills, which meant they were able to apply these to their problem solving. This in turn, led to me to thinking about that we needed to focus on reasoning and problem solving, hence Fridays being for reasoning and solving word problems.
Throughout the school, teachers on a Friday, teach the skills of reasoning, using questions from Question Bank as part of their lesson. The questions are in the style of SATs tests, so the pupils become more confident with the use of language and how to answer such questions. During the lesson, the teachers expect the children to explain how they got their answer first, before they give the answer. This allows the children to explain and reason their thinking, and in turn, allows the other children a chance to discuss and reason their ideas.
There is a real buzz in the classroom when it is maths and the children LOVE the challenge of the questions and being able to solve problems, especially if they felt at the beginning the questions were difficult. This is wonderful to see, especially when children come up to me and say that maths is their favourite subject and they wish they could have maths all day!