# Conception of the good

### Insights into our current education system

#### Month: September 2017

At Trafalgar College, we have a centralised planning system put in place where all Maths teachers within the department are teaching from the same textbook. This textbook has been designed and agreed by myself and Ian Burchett, Executive Principal.

The rationale behind our decision to use a textbook as our main teaching resource was to ensure that all pupils in the year group, across all ability spectrums, are being taught the same content. The only difference between each class is the amount of time the teacher spends on teaching a particular concept.

This week I taught all my year 8 classes how to write a fraction as an integer (given the numerator is divisible by the denominator) and in the planning process I was thinking of the different problem types that fall under the concept of writing a fraction as an integer, here they are:

1. Simplifying a fraction where the numerator is divisible by the denominator
• Using the first 12 multiples of the first 12 times tables

• Large numerator that requires short division

2. Finding the missing value which can either be:

• Numerator
• Denominator
• Integer

3. Filling in the missing blanks where the integer is equal to a string of fractions

4. Writing a fraction from a sentence and simplifying it to an integer

5. Deciding if the following equations are true or false

6. Deciding whether the equation will be a mixed number or integer, where the answer would be ‘integer’ or ‘mixed number’

7. Deciding which fraction is the odd one out given a list of fractions which simplify to an integer. Including fractions that do not simplify to an integer

8. Given a number line, state the equivalent fraction for each integer given the denominator of that fraction

What I found was that pupils were genuinely thinking about the concept that was being taught simply because they were trying a variety of different problem types. Essentially, they were doing the same thinking again and again but applying their knowledge in different instances. What I enjoyed was watching the kids ponder, stop and think whilst they were attempting each question on their mini-whiteboards. I saw the pupils correcting their mistakes before I even needed to highlight their mistakes whilst circulating the room. This is simply because I thought about the different ways of assessing a pupil’s ability to write a fraction as an integer.

This September, I started at Trafalgar College in Great Yarmouth and my biggest push for the first week was to ensure that all Year 7s would be able to recite their times tables.

I did this through rolling numbers. This is something I learnt from my visit at KSA, and saw the successful implementation of whilst being at Michaela Community School.

Rolling numbers is a call-and-response chanting of times table facts while pupils are counting off on their fingers. The chants are catchy and funny. There are specific hand motions to each times table chant which allows pupil to distinguish between different times tables – also resulting in many pupils desperately wanting to roll certain times table chants over others.

What worked well?

Kids at Trafalgar College have been successful in learning their times tables. The most effective aspect of it all is the counting off on their fingers. Kids can now associate that 21 is the third multiple of 7. This goes above and beyond having kids just listing out all twelve multiples. This enables pupils to answer certain calculations easily. How did I know this? I could see an improvement in the time it took for pupils to answer times table questions when I would test them before or after my lesson.

The lyrical and rhythmic aspect of the chants really motivates pupils to get involved because it makes reciting times tables fun and exciting. They find the opening line the teacher chants “Team! Team! Good as Gold! Let me see your fingers roll…the threes” motivating because the team element gets the reluctant kids to take part. When I say “roll” the kids start rolling their arms. From the front it looks really impressive to see 32 kids rolling their arms and smiling. Why? Simply because they are having a great time!

What were the struggles?

There are some pupils who will really want to take part more so than other pupils. I did have a small population of pupils who were reluctant, and thought that the whole process was cringeworthy and unnecessary. However, I didn’t let those pupils opt-out. The process of learning your times tables is imperative. My Headteacher put it nicely that learning the times tables is equivalent to learning the alphabet before you learn how to write. I would motivate these reluctant pupils in a positive manner by reminding them that we are a team and that they don’t want to be the person who lets everybody down. If you take part then you will enjoy it. If you take part then you will be able to list off your times tables effortlessly. What really helped was picking the most enthusiastic pupil to stand at the front with me and chant the teacher part. This made reluctant pupils see how successful other pupils have been who took part and motivated them to get involved too.

Why did I push rolling numbers in my first week?

It helps kids learn their times tables, successfully. Kids go through school learning their times tables in a very touch and go fashion and by repeatedly rolling numbers on a daily basis it pushed all pupils across the ability spectrum to commit these facts to their long term memory. The chants are catchy. The kids love the physical movements because they are loud and dramatic. Most importantly, it has made learning something potentially mundane (as children may think) incredibly enjoyable.