Operation Maths Jr Inf-2nd: Managing the content

Operation Maths Jr Inf-2nd: Managing the content

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As outlined in a previous post, Operation Maths 3 – 6 provides fulsome content for the senior classes. The complaints heard about other schemes – that there is simply not enough to do in the senior class books – is definitely not one heard about Operation Maths! At the junior end of Operation Maths – which is the focus of this post – the Teacher Resource Books (TRBs) are the jewels in the crown: the most comprehensive available and jam packed with the ‘how to’ of setting up maths’ stations, differentiation, oral maths, discussion topics, early finisher activities and a comprehensive stand alone problem solving section. And, since this programme is also based on a CPA approach, the TRBs are full of suggestions on how to promote those methodologies in a classroom.

Familiarity with any new programme takes time and time is a very precious commodity for all us teachers. Therefore, in this post I will give you some tips on how to successfully implement the programme in the junior classes – what in today’s game parlance our students might call ‘cheats’!

1. Start from the Teacher Resource Book

Start with the weekly lesson suggestions in the Teachers’ Resource Book (TRB). Typically these will be laid out as follows:

  • A whole class warm-up and oral, designed to consolidate prior learning and lead logically into the lesson that follows. It is suggested that this lasts for 5-10 minutes  each day of the week, depending on content. While there are typically many suggestions here, it is not necessary to do all of them. If you find a starter that works particularly well, you could note this alongside the margin of your TRB, or in the notes section, to highlight it for future use.

The mini whiteboards are invaluable for this part of the lesson. Look out for children who lack the confidence or know how and are hesitant to write their answer or copy others. Encourage a growth mindset:
1. It’s okay to make mistakes, everyone does! We learn from them.
2. Often there is more than one correct approach; eg 17+19 can be modeled/thought of as move one to 19 to become 16 + 20, move 3 to 17 to become 20 +16, move one to 17 to become 18 + 18

  • Discussion questions that stimulate talk and discussion in a relevant and meaningful way. Again, only do as many as suits your circumstance.
  • Pair work, a book based activity to encourage co-operative learning. Modelling, especially when the concept of pair of group work is relatively new to a class, really sets the tone and promotes success. Choose a child to work with. Start the conversation:
    • I went first the last time, would you like to go first today?
    • Do you remember the first thing to do?
    • I think we roll the dice twice and add the numbers, do you agree?
    • Oh dear! Neither of us can remember what to do, will we quietly ask Tom?
    • Will you watch me while I’m taking my turn just in case I go wrong? I’ll help you too!
  • Stations: the organisation of these maths stations will depend on teaching style, the number of children, the ability level of the class and the assistance available from other staff members (SNAs, support teachers, etc.). And as with Pair Work it can take a little practice before the children approach stations successfully and productively – but it is well worth persevering! Station work promotes problem solving skills, group think and independence.The suggested stations can adapted in a number of ways:
    • use with similar ability groups or mixed ability
    • set up the activities at designated maths stations (tables or areas) which the class can rotate around eg 4 groups with 7 or 8 children per group; each group does two stations for 15 mins each for one class (30 mins total) and does the other two stations on the following day.
    • Each group does a station for one class, with each group working at each station over the course of the week.
    • Use the stations as a whole class activity e.g. on Monday all the class do the activities for station 1, on Tuesday do the activities for stations 2 etc. This does depend on there being enough of the required materials for the whole class to use them at the same time.
  • Books: Bearing in mind that Operation Maths is based on a CPA approach, it is envisaged that the child would engage in all the concrete and pictorial activities for the topic before doing the pages in their At School and At Home books. Furthermore, sometimes it is envisaged that the concrete activities for the topic at hand will take place during one week, followed by the book activities in the subsequent week (this will be explained in a paragraph under the Activities heading in the weekly plan in the TRB). If you are teaching in a multi-class situation, it would be better to stagger/alternate these weeks among the classes eg Week 1, first class do the concrete activities while second class are mainly book based; week 2, second class do the concrete activities while first class are mainly book based.

2. You don’t have to do it all!

In the junior end TRBs,  the plans are laid out in fortnights which then break-down into weekly suggested activities. The important word here is “suggested”; you are not expected to do everything, so pick and choose the activities that are most suitable for you, your children, the physical limitations of your class and/or equipment, the availability of support personnel. For example there are Aistear-linked themes and activities in the infant TRBs, but if these don’t appeal to you, or are not practical in your specific situation, ignore them.

As explained earlier, there are regular suggestions for stations in the first and second TRBs and in places in the infant TRBs, but again if you don’t have available colleagues (eg L/S Resource teachers, SNAs etc) to help with the running of these stations, then they probably are not for you. However, you could take one or two of the station activities and instead do it with the whole class as the same time. The choice is up to you.

3. MWBs! MWBs! MWBs!

I can’t stress how fabulously adaptable are the free mini-whiteboards or how they can make getting through content so much easier. I was using them for many years before the inception of Operation Maths and found them to be an invaluable tool in the classroom. Some of the ways in which they can be used:

Give Doodle Time! The temptation to doodle is overwhelming so spare a couple of minutes for a quick doodle or two! Signal the end of doodle time with a fun rhyme such as “Rub, a dub, dub! Give your whiteboard a scrub!”

Display the ebook on your IWB for Write-Hide-Show: This works very well as the children are not looking down at their own books, only up at the board, so it’s easier for teacher to check that they are focused on the task. Highlight a specific calculation on the ebook eg 16 + 5 and ask the children to write the answer on their MWBs, hide it (place it face down on the desk, or hold it face in, to their chest) while the other pupils are afforded thinking time and finally on a specific signal (eg aon, dó, trí, taispeán dom) all the answers are revealed simultaneously. Thus, the teacher can quickly assess the accuracy of the answers and allow this feedback to inform whether the class are ready to move on, or need more reinforcement.

“Show your thinking” The children can use quick jottings to explain how they arrived at a certain answer. The MWBs are less structured and easier to use than maths copies and easier to change if you want to amend your ideas. Interesting responses or approaches could easily be brought up to the top of the class for further discussion and display. Again, encourage the growth mindset; mistakes and multiple correct answers are opportunities to learn more.

More maths done in less time. Rooting in bags, finding their book, pencil, rubber… this all leads to a delay in actually getting down to the maths at hand. Whereas, just writing on the MWBs is much quicker and gets more done. And don’t worry if the associated page in the pupils book is not completed; remember the teacher’s aim should be to enable the children to achieve a certain objective/learning outcome and however that is achieved still counts, book or otherwise.

Step-by-step to show algorithms: if you are teaching some of the standard algorithms (eg column method addition or subtraction in first and second class) the MWBs can be handy to allow the teacher and class to do it together, step-by-step, with the children holding up their MWBs at every suitable juncture to check what they have done to that point. This way, potential mistakes may be picked up quicker and addressed before they begin to occur repeatedly.

4. Reduce your preparation

The plans are all done for you, the stations are all explained, the ideas are all there! This should significantly reduce the amount of time you were spending on maths preparation. However, it is still recommended to take the time at the beginning of each fortnight to go through the TRB and familiarise yourself with the content and the activities; this is time well spend that will translate into smooth running maths classes during the fortnight. But also be flexible, and don’t stick rigidly to everything.

One of the sections in the TRB where flexibility is advantageous is the photocopiables. There is a fantastic suite of resources here with great ideas, but don’t feel that if you don’t have 30 copies done in advance that you can’t use them. One example of this are the Yahtzee photocopiables in the TRB of Operation Maths 1. The children could simply write the target numbers ( eg 2-10, 2-20 or 0-5) on their whiteboards and cross them off when rolled. This also allows the game to be played repeatedly without needing other photocopies.

The one set of photocopies to have ready in advance are the Early Finishers and the Problem-Solving photocopiables. Initially, at the beginning of the school year, try to gauge how many copies you will need;you will probably not require 1 per child. As time goes on the number of copies of each can be adjusted, as necessary. These can then be kept near at hand to distribute to children in need of a more challenging or stimulating task.

5. Go digital!

The excellent suite of  digital resources available on Edco Learning can also aid efficient progress through content. The resources are very visual and help the child grasp a solid understanding of the concepts at hand quicker than might have occurred  otherwise. The resources can all be accessed directly via the hyperlinks in the digital books and it can be beneficial to have these tabs open in advance so as to save time during maths class. For more information on the extensive range of digital resources read on here

Teaching 3rd to 6th class? Read on to find out how to manage the content for those classes. 


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