Friday, 21 June 2013

The national curriculum document for maths at KS1 and KS2 includes the words connect or connections 25 times – I think they’re trying to tell us something!
Most teachers are aware of the inter-connected nature of mathematics and this is one of the ‘big ideas’ taught on the MaST programme. It’s good to see this gaining such prominence in the NC framework.

The challenge for teachers is showing connections when planning and making the most of connecting maths areas when teaching. This is particularly the case when the subject is atomized into separate units of work with specific objectives for each lesson. One of my solutions to this is integrating data handling into every unit and hanging all the maths on a theme to help get the maths skills, knowledge and concepts embedded.

I’m currently re-writing all my planning documents – not just to meet the needs of the draft framework but also to make improvements to the scope and sequence of each maths area. Written planning documents can provide the ingredients and an outline order to ensure coverage and progression, as well as an ethos for teaching and learning. However it is the way the teacher puts their own creativity and twist on to these plans, with decisions largely based on the children in the class, that they become connected, meaningful and effective.

As those teachers who use my planning documents know, the scope and sequence charts have focussed maths areas for each unit, but with space and time to include other connected areas of maths, or perhaps aspects that are a weakness, in the 2-week unit. Having a theme or context makes it so much easier to make connections, supported by problem-solving, reasoning and data handling within each unit of work.

Data handling is an interesting part of the maths curriculum that can certainly help connect other areas of maths. If we think about the use of graphs, tables, charts and lists they are a perfect way of bringing a context into any unit of work and making links to other maths areas.

• Focus on properties of shape? Venn and Carroll diagrams are a definite to include.

• Finding differences? Compare the bars on a bar chart.

• Ordering decimals? Table of results of athletes’ times for 100m will work.

• Comparing units of measure? A conversion graph is an obvious choice.

This is why I don’t include data handling as a separate unit of work in my scope and sequence charts. I feel it should be part of every unit, and is certainly easy to plan for in every unit. What is essential though, is for each teacher in a school to recognise the progression and variety of methods involved in data handling. It would be easy, for example, for pictograms to slip through with the children in school having no experience of them if they weren’t part of a list to include in each year group.

Here is the programme of study for Data from the draft NC framework (there is no content specifically detailed in Y1).

Year 2
• interpret and construct simple pictograms, tally charts, block diagrams and simple tables

• ask and answer simple questions by counting the number of objects in each category and sorting the categories by quantity

• ask and answer questions about totalling and compare categorical data.

Year 3
• interpret and present data using bar charts, pictograms and tables

• solve one-step and two-step questions such as ‘How many more?’ and ‘How many fewer?’ using information presented in scaled bar charts and pictograms and tables.

Year 4
• interpret and present discrete data using bar charts and continuous data using line graphs

• solve comparison, sum and difference problems using information presented in bar charts, pictograms, tables and simple line graphs

Year 5
• solve comparison, sum and difference problems using information presented in line graphs

• complete, read and interpret information in tables, including timetables.

Year 6
• interpret and construct pie charts and line graphs and use these to solve problems

• calculate and interpret the mean as an average.

The small steps of progression that I am currently writing for data handling (and all the other aspects of maths) are a little more fine-tuned than this and can be used to make sure all aspects are taught. It is not a straight line progression – if only it was that simple – but it gives an idea of the data handling experiences that children need so that they become confident problem-solvers who will have a go at interpreting any form of graph or chart put in front of them.
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