Thursday, 3 November 2011

Literacy and Numeracy in Curriculum for Excellence - Part 2

As promised, in this post I will talk about my thoughts on the second half of the Literacy and Numeracy in CfE presentation that I was lucky enough to attend last Saturday 29th October. Tom Renwick presented and easily kept the room's enthusiasm and interest that had been handed over by Bill Boyd.

I try very hard to avoid being one of the statistics of people who like to talk about how terrible they are at maths. I'm not terrible at all, though I didn't do well at school. Since school I have been back to evening classes and worked on my 'areas for development'. Tom's presentation helped me to see where I had gone wrong and the importance of providing the right opportities for the children in my class so that they can get to grips.

Tom made a frightening but, I fear, well known point. Numeracy in Britain isn't as good as it could/should be. Many of the daily number tasks we do as adults are done with calulators, spreadsheets, phone apps, google. These are all great tools but if you don't know what they are doing, how can you cope when they go wrong?

With the aid of his huge 100 square, Tom talked the audience through a series of related problems. What is heavier, a tennis ball or a golf ball? How much water is in a plastic cup? How to use mass to measure volume?  I must admit, I did get a little lost at points but the message I took away was valuable nonetheless.

At every opportunity Tom solved the problems with the hundred square. The numbers that were flying around the room were no longer abstract. They were all part of patterns that were clearly illustrated on the square. They were all related to the practical demonstrations. And they all seemed to make sense (a little revisiting and reinforcement later on would have sorted me out!)

Like many adults, my wobble with maths confidence stems largely from a fear of being put on the spot or being asked a question I can't answer. Tom spoke about the idea of parents and children learning together and explained that this could easily be done in school. I saw this done a few years ago when the assembly hall of the school I was in was taken over for a day by parents and children learning maths, playing maths games and sharing their own skills together. It was fantastic and was a very comfortable and positive experience for all.

The overarching message presented in the session was that the most important thing that we can develop with children is a fluency when it comes to mental agility. The faster and more accurate a child can solve mental number problems, the more likely they are to cope with the maths through school. As a child learns to develop words using knowledge of the alphabet, they should also be able to develop maths agility through knowledge of number bonds and patterns.

I would recommend visiting Tom's website Maths On Track  and look out for the live Glow maths session lead by Tom on the 26th November. Tom has lots of free resources and videos on his site too.