By Alex Munro, Year 5 Teacher and Maths Specialist
I came home from work recently to a message from the garage. “Hi Mrs Munro. Please would you give us a ring. We need to talk about your car.” Unfortunately it was after business hours, so I had to wait until this morning to see just how bad the news was.
Fearing it may well be terminal I set to work browsing ‘Autotrader’, working out finance options, sifting through percentages, borrowing rates, mileage versus cost comparisons, road tax costs etc. I realised just how much Maths there was in this necessary endeavour, and how many skills I was using from my Maths ‘toolkit.’
This was a real-life problem that needed to be solved – exactly the kind of situation for which we are trying to prepare our children, but it reinforced for me how important the problem-solving element of this was.
We can help our children to build up their toolkit, adding skills and knowledge along the way, ticking off our curriculum objectives, but if the children are not given frequent opportunities to open this toolkit and select the right tools for each job, we are doing them a disservice.
Over the last three years at Brabyns we have worked hard to develop the teaching and learning of problem-solving and reasoning skills, (one of the prominent aspects from our Whole School Development Plan) and have seen a significant rise in children’s attainment in this area. They are given frequent opportunities to explore open-ended questions, and to experience the struggle that these can bring. Developing mathematicians is all about developing resilience and trying things out. We often use NRich, a wonderful resource whose aims are to:
Parents have commented on how engaging and fun these activities are, and as teachers we are able to see just how effective they are in developing children’s ability to ‘select from the toolkit.’ You can visit the website here: https://nrich.maths.org/
The good news for me, is that the garage had the tools in their toolkit to sort my car, and the knowledge and experience needed to select the correct ones to solve the problem!