Deputy maths lead Claire Hall discusses the massive impact Numicon has made on the students and staff at Tilbury Pioneer Academy.
Back in 2013 Tilbury Pioneer Academy was due to be closed as students weren’t achieving their expected grades, staff weren’t being supported and the school was deemed not worthy of KS2. However, since the implementation of the Numicon programme, Tilbury Pioneer Academy has become a Numicon Advocate School, opening their doors to other teachers who are also inspired to change the way maths is taught.
What were the initial challenges?
At the beginning of the Numicon change I, like many other teachers, felt that my numerous years of experienced teaching rivalled the new methods that Numicon introduced. I was determined to trial and test out every tool and method that the programme incorporated with the aim of finding faults that could hinder the students learning. However, after seeing the progress our teachers and students have made by breaking down barriers and achieving clear goals, I am now an active advocate of the Numicon approach. The resources and support available to teachers, have inspired us and positively affected our maths classrooms.
As a school we wanted a programme that incorporated continuous professional development and had clear, step-by-step goals that we and our students could follow. Numicon offered all of this and more. Immediately, we received more support by bringing in Louise Pennington, Numicon Professional Development Lead, who visits our school every half term to discuss books, staff development and how we as a school can move forward. Together we have introduced model videos and have set up weekly masterclasses for teachers to discuss challenges and share ideas.
How have you implemented Numcicon?
During one of our weekly masterclasses we introduced the Haylock and Coburn model, designed to introduce creativity in the mathematics classroom. The model allowed students to touch and manipulate maths tools, draw equations and talk about the processes they go through during class. With this method included, students would be fully equipped to solve problems or equations by themselves. Naturally, Numicon fit into this theory perfectly and we began making progress. By having proper and conclusive conversations with students and including them in the creation of working walls and other tools, students are given the opportunity to label and clearly explain their evidence-based solutions in class.
Another benefit of the Numicon programme, which we implemented into our day-to-day teaching, is the Numicon Interactive Whiteboard Software. By using the software both in class and to support our teachers during planning sessions, we are able to bridge the gap between preparation and application and ensure that clear outcomes are achieved in the classroom.
Even now there is a level of uncertainty when teachers discuss using manipulatives at KS2 level. However, we’ve learnt they are just as effective at this level as at KS1, it all depends on how you use them. We say to our children “prove your solution with a model and then a diagram”, training them to understand which resources are available to them, which ones to choose, and do they need them? Promoting the questions: What? When? How? Why? And how do you know? This creates a journey through maths that is step-by-step and building upon existing methods, so that everything is familiar. Numcion provides a progressive flow of fluency, reasoning and application and that is how we know the students have achieved their set goals.
What benefits have you seen?
Through our commitment to the programme and the Professional Development support we have received, 77% of our students are currently achieving their expected results and we are on track to reach 85% by the end of the year. Additionally, our Year 6 students are paving the way to reach a 91% achievement rate next year, and our special educational needs children (SEN) who started Year 5 not achieving their expected scores are also on track to improve and achieve their expected results.
Our students aren’t only the ones benefiting from the Numicon programme, our teachers also feel supported, able to ask questions and have a considerably reduced workload allowing them more time to plan and set clear goals.