The past 18 months have impacted classrooms and ways of learning around the world, with implications for schools and teachers as a result.
For some fortunate teachers the transit experience from remote learning to face-to-face teaching will be (or has already been) smooth and fluent; perhaps their pupils have sailed along merrily with the planned learning activities since local restrictions were put in place. A period of home education may not have adversely affected the children at all, and these teachers are able to pick up the face-to-face teaching where it left off.
However, this will not be the case in most classrooms.
The realistic situation for the majority
It may feel to teachers as if the school learning is about to begin again from zero, and there is no doubt that the period of home-education will have left a huge hole in the progress of many pupils. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, there were big celebrations for online learning where it could be accessed. However, many schools simply did not have the time or resources to set up effective online programs for their students.
In Australia, the NSW Public Education Foundation executive director David Hetherington summed it up:
“There are some statistics out there that suggest one in six children live in households below the poverty line. In many cases, these children don’t have access to a device or the connectivity that makes interaction with schools and the education system possible.”
ABC News, March 20th 2020
‘Learning packs’ and the role of parents
Many teachers have been tasked with quickly putting together ‘learning packs’ for their pupils (in digital or hard-copy form), and the work was to be completed under their parents’ supervision. This was always destined to be a hit-and-miss process because it depended almost completely on:
- The children and parents being as motivated about the learning activities as were the teachers who prepared them.
- The children needing no professional teaching support during the completion of the activities.
- The parents having time to work with their children.
Remote learning has served to inform the general public that face-to-face teaching with a professional educator is an essential part of the education of most (if not all) students.
The 2021 pathway in maths
As students return to learning in the classroom (either full-time or blended), teachers are faced with a dilemma of where, what and how in all curriculum areas, not least of which is maths:
- Where are my pupils up to in their maths learning?
- What part of the year’s curriculum content is to be included?
- How do I choose which maths topics to cover with my class?
Where are my pupils up to now? What maths topics should I teach?
Schools will almost certainly need to be flexible in terms of the content that they choose to teach. This flexibility frees teachers from trying to rush through every maths topic that has not already been covered with their class. However, the desire will no doubt still be there for most teachers to cover as many broad areas of the maths curriculum as possible.
One way to do this is to cluster together some maths topics.
An advantage of this approach is that it allows pupils to strengthen their connection skills, as they might see their work on Probability tie in closely with an understanding of Fractions and Decimals, for example.
What is clustering?
Topic clustering ties learning outcomes from several topics (and even subjects) together.
It focuses on a group of similar smaller concepts being taught together, to encourage a better understanding of big ideas and new knowledge.
How do I choose which maths topics to cover in my clustering?
There are numerous ways that groups of topics can be formed, but the topics should cluster naturally together. Since a cluster might be worked through over a period of several weeks, a single cluster needs to sustain interest, motivation, and curiosity in the children.
Some ways to form clusters from maths topics can be found for each year group below.
Year 1 (age 5-6)
Teachers can pick and choose from the suggestions in the list in any order and spend as long as they wish covering the content. The list is by no means exhaustive and teachers may well find more interesting ways to form clusters. Most maths topics appear in more than one topic cluster, which should help cement understanding.
Keep calm and carry on clustering!
For more content on the infinite possibilities of maths visit: oxfordprimary.com/mathsadventure
About the Author: Brian Murray
Since 2004, Brian has been involved in writing maths textbooks, teacher support material and assessment books. This includes several maths titles with Oxford University Press. He is a strong believer in linking maths to other subjects and real-world issues.