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National Numeracy Strategy

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Teaching Numeracy Ð'- Classroom Realities

The National Numeracy Strategy (NNS) makes many recommendations about the teaching of primary mathematics.

Consider carefully the ways in which your placement school has responded to these.

In what ways is current thinking about effective mathematics teaching being addressed?

Throughout this piece of writing I intend to show how my placement school has responded to the implementation of the National Numeracy Strategy (NNS) and its recommendations. In order to do this I will draw upon lessons I have observed as well as lessons I have taught. I will also attempt to show the pros and cons felt by all that I have come into contact with, again with regards to the recommendations of the NNS. There will also be many references to conversations that I have held with teachers and quotes from current educational thinkers.

In order for me to compile a relevant discussion as to how the NNS is used within my placement school, I feel that firstly, it is important to understand why it was introduced and, secondly, why it is seen as an important document.

Written within the NNS it is stated that,

" Its purpose is to help primary and middle schools, and special

schools with primary-age pupils, to set appropriately high

expectations for their pupils and understand how pupils should

progress through the primary years."

(DfEE, 1999, pg2)

From the Conservative governments' point of view then, the introduction of the NNS was to be a step in the right direction towards giving the primary teachers and primary children the much-needed support and encouragement that they both required in order flourish in this subject. Unlike the National Curriculum the NNS is not a statutory document however its use is strongly advised.

Its recommendations are simple; all schools should provide a planned, structured and relevant Numeracy lesson which should take between forty five minutes to one hour per day. Within this lesson the whole class will work as one large group for a certain amount of time and mental and oral work will be imperative throughout. The first five or ten minutes should include mental and oral starters to warm up the mind and the last five or ten minutes should consist of a plenary and assessment of whether or not the learning objective has been met.

It was introduced in the September of 1999 as a way of encouraging a higher attainment of grades and in a similar way to the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) before it, there will be targets that all 11 year olds should attain each year. Also provided with the framework for teaching mathematics were a wide range of resources such as number lines, number tracks, digit cards and 100 squares as well as mathematical dictionaries, number games and construction kits which are all designed so that children:

"Ð'...Become less reliant on fingers and apparatus and calculate mentally."

NNS (1999, pg30)

This should encourage children to try to work out mathematical equations in their head then prove it using the equipment provided. A concept recommended by the NNS, as mental arithmetic has become one of the main topics for concern.

It is now 2006, and from my further reading and experience about this topic it is apparent that there are many teachers and authors that applaud its introduction. The general consensus from the numerous authors that I chose to study was that primary school pupils, before the NNS was introduced simply worked through a Numeracy work-scheme, mostly bland text books, individually, without the crucial interaction between not only their teacher but also with the class as a whole.

Derek Haylock and Anne Cockburn are two authors that feel the NNS should not just be referred to as Ð''important' but as a,

"Major curriculum initiative in primary mathematics."

Haylock, D and Cockburn, A. (2003, Pg x)

They explained that,

"The Numeracy Strategy has also encouraged teachers to take more responsibility for direct interactive teaching of their pupils, with less reliance on pupils working individually through commercial schemes."

Haylock, D and Cockburn, A. (2003, Pg x)

As with any new Education Reform there are always going to be those who disagree with the change or at least have their doubts about its effectiveness, the NNS is no different.

There has been much discussion recently surrounding the harshness of there being such a rigid structure of individual lessons and the termly planning with many teachers feeling restricted.

Also further disappointment has been felt where the needs of lower ability children come into the discussion. As evidence that I will elaborate on later in my writings show, with there being such a structured way that lessons are carried out there is little room for slower learners to grasp the learning objective of every lesson. As one lesson has finished for one day the next day another topic may be introduced so the lower ability learners may be overlooked to a much higher extent than is thought. Of course this cannot be said for all schools but as Sue Atkinson says,

"One of the main purposes of the National Numeracy Strategy is to bring up the level of the children who are below average."

Atkinson, S (1992)

With this in mind it would be a shame to see, in any school the NNS actually disabling achievement.

To further discuss this point I will refer to a mathematics lesson that I have observed at my placement school. I will firstly point out the positives and then highlight the

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