Preparing for changes to the maths curriculum in Wales – Richard Owen

The draft Curriculum for Wales has now been released, and as educators we finally have the What Matters statements for the new Areas of Learning Experience (AOLE).

 The Mathematics and Numeracy AOLE is segregated into four subsections of mathematics:

  • The number system is used to represent and compare relationships between numbers and quantities
  • Algebra uses symbol systems to express the structures of relationships between numbers, quantities and relations
  • Geometry focuses on relationships involving properties of shape, space and position, and measurement focuses on quantifying phenomena in the physical world
  • Statistics represent data, probability models chance, and both support informed inferences and decisions
Children learning with Inspire Maths

Depth of Understanding vs Accelerated Learning

Our National Curriculum Documents have previously been structured to support an Accelerated Learning model, with external pressures being exerted onto schools to produce a high percentage of pupils achieving at least one Outcome/Level above where they should be at Year 2 and Year 6.

To the delight of Welsh education professionals, the new Progression Steps are built upon a Depth of Understanding model.

Schools and Teachers as Curriculum Designers

As the Curriculum for Wales is based upon the Depth of Understanding model, the progression steps outlined in the document are only headline statements. The smaller incremental stages are to be created by the school and/or teachers.

Whilst the autonomy and creativity now entrusted to our profession is most welcome, this will undoubtedly be a cause of apprehension for even the most experienced mathematics specialist teacher, let alone the thousands of non-mathematics specialist practitioners in Wales.

The use of a Mathematics Scheme

As a current Deputy Head Teacher and Mathematics Consultant, I would be very hesitant of leading my school into this very exciting and innovative curriculum without a base scheme in Mathematics. With all of my experience of working with over 100 schools across the UK in mathematics, I would not feel confident in solely creating the incremental steps required for all of the areas of maths included in the Curriculum for Wales.

I feel it is vital schools utilise the expertise and experience that has been employed in creating published mathematics schemes that have carefully created the progression steps between year groups. Thus, ‘not throwing the baby out with the bath water’.

Numicon in the classroom

The inclusion of manipulatives

One clear addition is the use of manipulatives as part of the What Matter Statements. For the mathematical community this is a significant positive step towards our Welsh pupils achieving the depth of understanding that is targeted by this curriculum. Schools already have a wealth of resources, but this is the ideal time for schools to develop the use of manipulatives through the school, including Years 5 & 6 at Primary and 7 & 8 at Secondary.

Moving towards 2022

As all schools in Wales now look to the future of our education system with much optimism, and rightly so, from a mathematics perspective it is imperative we embrace expert advice from proven institutions to provide guidance and Continual Professional Development for our staff.

All schools have been allocated a proportion of money to be used on progressing towards the curriculum. A potential use of this grant could be to work collaboratively as clusters of schools to create and purchase physical resources and/or published resources that would further develop our pupils’ depth of understanding, and to invest in the development of our teaching staff. 

Find out more about Inspire Maths, based on Singapore’s top maths series and proven to raise standards in the UK.

Find out more about Numicon, the market-leading primary school maths programme.

Get tickets to The New Curriculum for Wales – Support and Guidance for the New Landscape Conference in October

Mr Richard Owen MSc., B.Eng. (hons), NPQH, PGCE
Deputy Head Teacher & Independent Mathematics Consultant

Richard Owen is currently Deputy Head Teacher in Nottage Primary School in the seaside town of Porthcawl, South Wales. He also work as a Mathematics Consultant for Oxford University Press, for Numicon and Discovering Mathematics at KS3. Richard has a passion to give children the experience of mathematics that allows them to see its power and beauty, whilst understanding how it is embedded throughout our world and create a love of learning for all children.