Georgia’s school recently held an Information Evening for the parents of KS1, mainly to introduce a new Maths scheme that the school had recently bought in to – Maths Makes Sense.
Designed and developed by Richard Duune, I first heard and saw Mr Duune and his new approach to Maths teaching in a Dispatches programme on Channel 4 in early 2010. (A related Math quiz) In ‘Kids Don’t Count’, featured in typical sensational broadcasting fashion, Mr Duune was brought in to ‘turn around’ Maths instruction at a couple of schools in the South East. The programme focussed mainly on the vast discrepancy in Maths ability among students and how being perceived as a boring subject, students were unable to answer some very basic Math questions.
The new Maths Makes Sense scheme is essentially a new style of presenting mathematics based on visual aids and models to both allow children to be able to better visualise the direct link between numbers and physical objects and a new style of teachings mathematics that rely significantly on the teacher to provide the information in an engaging, stimulating and fun way.
As in the programme, Maths Makes Sense makes use of quantifiable objects to represent numbers. Mainly, plastic or paper cups which can then be further divided in to portions to represent fractions.
A sum is defined as a ‘Math Story’ and children are advised to look at sums as a story.
Cups are placed on a resource table with another table labelled the Math table on which the Math Story is ‘played’ out.
For example for the sum 2 + 2 = ; the sum is read in the typical fashion but acted upon 1 part at a time, so 2 cups are moved from the resource table and placed on to the Maths table, the sum is then read again and the next action is decided upon. In the case of (2 + 2) another 2 cups are carried over from the resource table to the Maths table. The question ‘How MUCH is this?’ is then asked while looking/referring to the number of cups on the Maths table.
And this final question is very specifically How MUCH is this? instead of How MANY are there? (Personally I don’t ‘get’ this nor do I understand the logic of the wrong grammar.)
There is a significant amount of body/arm actions to help with remembering concepts; for example multiplication is explained with arms crossed over the chest ‘I love love love this so much I do this ‘x’ times’ Or divide: one hand on top of head and the other under the chin.
A little bit of further digging around has resulted in the ideas and philosophies that inform Mr Duunes approach. He states quite clearly that within this scheme and the underlying method of teaching relies on ‘Teaching as Performance’.
The Dispatches programme showed Mr Duune in his class of 10 year olds (I think) who could not multiply 3 x 4, the passion and excitement he generated was nothing short of infectious. It was not difficult to see and understand why kids would get excited by his style of teaching Maths.
However, as Georgia’s school moves to incorporate this new Maths scheme, much as I want to like this new exciting style of Maths I find myself having more concerns about Maths teaching in the long term.
How do the children move on from using cups to mental maths?
What about children who are already capable of mental arithmatic or who already grasp the concepts – would this scheme help them or hold them back?
And of course the typically Asian-side of me asks, if the Chinese, Korean and Japanese kids do it so well without theatrics – how have they done it and why can’t we over here?
I think we are very lucky in Georgia’s school that the Maths Coordinator is a very dedicated, completely inspired teacher and I trust that with some home and school co-ordination all will be well.
Have you, as a Parent or Teacher used or heard of this scheme? What have your experiences been and what do you think of it?
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