The focus of our first Leading Numeracy workshop was reviewing current numeracy practices and achievements at our schools. We discussed some student work samples, looking particularly at how the student had solved problems and any misconceptions they had about numerals and maths rules.
Something I noticed was how word rich so many maths problems are. Any student with low literacy skills is going to struggle to solve some maths problems simply because they can’t read them. Many questions on our national numeracy tests (NAPLAN) are word problems, but the test conditions mean that we can’t read those problems to our low literacy students. Talk about set them up to fail.
Our task once back at school was to conduct an audit of school policies, strategic plans and annual implementation plans to see whether numeracy is mentioned and if yes, what the focus is. At my school we have numeracy in both our Strategic and Annual Implementation Plans but it hasn’t been a strong area of focus until this year. Our maths policy is so old and out of date that it wasn’t worth trying to update or revise.
In fact, I wonder about having policies for subject areas and how useful/relevant they are. Would we be better off recording preferred teaching strategies, questioning techniques etc in a document that could be handed to a teacher and they would know how we teach maths/numeracy and why we teach it that way. I would certainly be interested to hear what other schools do with regard to subject/curriculum policies and whether they are useful, used and regularly updated/revised. Send me a message or comment on this post, it’s always helpful to hear what others are doing.
A summary of the survey results is in the slideshare presentation at the top of the post. It’s clear we have got plenty of things to work on starting with developing a staff understanding of what numeracy is. We all had quite different ideas about that and it’s not that long ago that we only talked about teaching maths not numeracy and maths. I wonder what our student’s parents think when we write about their child’s numeracy understandings in mid year and end of reports, do they have any idea what we are talking about?
I’d love to hear about maths and numeracy at your school. Have you worked as a staff to develop whole school understandings of terminology, or teaching strategies or policies?