Today, I visited Sheffield Hallam University to attend a seminar led by Dr Jenni Back who gave a talk about the differences in early years maths between here in the UK and in Hungary. Contrasting between the rigorous and systematic approach in Hungary to the development of Rich maths tasks (www.nrich.maths.orgnrich here in the UK. Here are the notes made.
What is Number Sense
-communicating arithmetic ideas
-fluent recall of facts
- range of appropriate and useful representations (big emphasis on RANGE)
- apply ideas to new ideas and concepts
- more comparison work needed
- relationships between numbers and quantities
- systematic counting ( cardinality and ordinality)
With the emphasis on algorithms in the new maths curriculum, children will not develop sufficient number sense and we will be in trouble!
Proficiency - developing fluency with understanding. A key part of number sense!
Key Thresholds - What children must be able to do (mental arithmetic)
- ks1 entry - we assume they have conservation and counting. But do they?
- ks2 entry - we assume they can add/subtract, know bonds to 20 and place value. but do they?
- ks3 entry - we assume they can multiply/divide - but can they?
- ks4 entry - we assume they know how to use proportional reasoning, but do they?
Strike it out - (Available on www.nrich.maths.org.uk
What are the skills involved!
How can it be progressed for each stage.
Rich tasks - You must
- make sure that you prompt and question learners appropriately.
- identify what children are learning
- make mathematical discoveries explicit - presenting what they have learnt - what they have noticed!
How is this different to Hungary?
Hungarian Approach (based on a year in Kindergarten - mixed age 3-6 years)
- teacher led
- very child focused
- accurate use of mathematical language for even the youngest children
- 'care-full' approach - very rigorous
- emphasis on a range of concrete, iconic and symbolic representations and making links between them.
- teacher talks about preparing children for school
- teacher led games and tasks
- children spend a great deal of time on developing fine motor skills without the need for writing. They need to develop their learning muscles before they begin to write.
- vocabulary is a constant and is expected of all. It is always used! Learning maths through play!
- number pictures not numerals always used. Numerals are the last thing chn learn. Images of dice, Roman numerals, clock face, cuisonnaire rods and other things are used. This makes sure that children understand what a number means rather just knowing what the numeral looks like.
The emerging thoughts from the seminar and all people involved were that the need for such rigour seen in Hungary and the creativity we now see in The UK need to be mixed together.
In Hungary the progress of children is slow at first (as they learn all about number) but very soon their progress is rapid and sustained !
We emphasise the need for rapid progress immediately, but then this progress is generally not maintained, especially in Years 3 and 4. Could it be that what we have to do in years 3/4 in plugging gaps in place value and the number system is because we do not give the children a deep enough understanding of our number system from an early age?
As always, lots to think about. But this did make me think about the issues in years 3 and 4 that most schools have.
I'm a deputy head in Scarborough, England and love using media and tech to develop writing. I'm also a keen advocate of Learning Without Limits and believe in a games based approach to developing mathematicians.