Operation Maths 3-6: Managing the content

Operation Maths 3-6: Managing the content

It can be very difficult to strike the correct balance of content in a maths programme;  a more able class might fly through the activities and conversely a less able group of children may work through content at a much slower pace. In a multi-class situation, the teacher may prefer to have more, rather than less, content so that one or more groups in the room can be kept occupied while the teacher is instructing a different group. Therefore, the volume of content required varies greatly from class to class and from school to school.

During the research and development phase of Operation Maths, the message from teachers was very clear: they wanted a maths programme with sufficient content and ideas, with no need to have to go sourcing extra material. Because of this feedback, the Operation Maths authors decided to err on the side of more, rather than less, content and designed a comprehensive maths programme that has considered everything a teacher may require, while also being able to be pared back to suits the needs of students and classes where a slower pace is preferable.

And not only is the Operation Maths programme highly adaptable to each unique teaching and learning situation, it is also based on the current, most forward-thinking approaches to maths education.

This post will provide some tips on how to best manage the programme in the senior classes, from third to sixth.

1. Start from the Teacher Resource Book

As always, when taking on any new programme it can sometimes take a while to discover the best ways to utilise it in order to maximise on its full potential for both you, as the teacher, and the children. Furthermore, since Operation Maths is based on many, very new and different approaches to the teaching of maths, this may leave teachers feeling a bit adrift initially.
That is why we recommend that those using Operation Maths for the first time should always start with the daily lesson suggestions in the Teachers Resource Book (TRB).  Typically, these will be laid out as follows:

  • A recommended oral and mental starter, designed to consolidate prior learning and lead logically into the lesson that follows. It is suggested that this lasts for 5-10 minutes.
  • The objective/learning  outcome for that day. This will also be given in the pupil book and/or discovery book
  • Discuss and teach is the most important section. This will give suggestions on how to achieve the objective learning outcome. The suggestions will differ depending on the specific learning outcome(s); for example there may be probing questions given or suggestions for a concrete, pictorial or digital activity which may lead the children to deduce the new learning outcome(s) for themselves. It may involve reading and discussing a teaching panel (yellow panel) in the pupils’ book.
  • Pupils’ book and/or discovery book: This gives the details for the location of the specific questions that reinforce and consolidate the learning outcome(s) covered in the discuss and teach section. It is not expected that all questions would be completed by all children and this is the main place where the teacher needs to decide what question activities are a priority for his/her pupils. Typically, the question sets are arranged to start with easier tasks and then graduate towards more difficult ones. There is often a section towards the end entitled “Work it Out” (blue panels in the pupils’ book) which contain the most difficult tasks and might be most suitable for the higher attainers (HAs) in the class.
  • Digital Resources will list any relevant digital activities that can be used from the comprehensive suite on edcolearning.ie . These are given in the Pupils’ books as well and may also have been referenced previously in the discuss and teach section.
  • Extra exploration: this is typically a suggestion of a game from the games bank that could be played by early finishers to reinforce the learning outcome of the day.

2. You don’t have to do it all!

As explained above, in the senior end TRBs , each topic is broken down into day-by-day plans which have a specific objective(s)/learning outcome(s) eg 5th class, Division, “I am learning to divide using chunking” or 3rd class, place value, “I am learning to identify the value of each digit in a number”. The discuss and teach sections lay out how to explore and teach each specific concept and what activities, either concrete, pictorial, digital or book-based can be used to reinforce the understanding.

However, it is not necessary that the class would do every single book-based exercise before they can move on. Rather, the teacher can select which ones they think most suitable for the ability level of their class. As explained previously, the initial question sets in each “day” are easier and then they progress in difficulty, often culminating in a  “Work it Out!” section. There are many different ways that a teacher could direct a class to answer these questions so as to facilitate differentiation:

  • The children progress through the questions themselves at their own pace, as individuals or as pairs perhaps, for support.
  • The children do a certain number in each question set eg first three in each; every second question etc
  • The teacher could allow the children to choose what questions to answer eg ” I want you to do five questions, you pick which ones” or “I want you to select two questions out of each set, you choose”. The children could discuss at the end the reasoning behind their choices thus providing a great insight into their understanding of a topic and their concept of themselves as learners.
  • The teacher could assign a number of incomplete questions as homework for that evening.

At the end of that “day”s maths lesson, it is likely that the children will have achieved the learning outcome, albeit to a variety of different depths, eg the child can identify the value of a digit in a number, even if not with 100% success rate. Irrespective of the content covered that day, in the next maths class, the teaching should move on to focus on the the next “day” and the next learning outcome(s), as envisaged in the day-by-day plans, thus ensuring that the children get a broad and balanced experience of the maths curriculum.

3. MWBs! MWBs! MWBs!

The free mini-whiteboards (MWBs) that accompany the Operation Maths programme are very adaptable  and can make covering content, in a meaningful way, so much more efficient. Some of the ways in which they can be used:

  • Display  the ebook on your IWB (this is often preferable to the children looking at their own books  as they are looking straight up at the board, and therefore easier to check that the children are focused on the teacher and the task). Then, using  a selection of suitable questions from the book, you can use the MWBs for some fast-paced answering. This can be a great way to get through all/most of that day’s content, while also revealing any problematic questions/misconceptions that can then be focused on again as part of class-based reinforcement or practiced as part of homework.
  • “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 are quicker 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.
  • More maths done in less time. Rooting in bags, finding a copy, ruler, pencil, pen…ruling the copy, asking what date it is….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.
  • Bar models: This is one of the key problem-solving strategies used in Singapore Maths and a key strategy also in Operation Maths. If your pupils are not very familiar or comfortable with bar model drawing (for example if the children are using an Operation Maths book and didn’t have Operation Maths the previous year) it can be a great idea to draw the bar models step-by-step with the children i.e. the teacher draws on the classroom board and the children draw on their MWBs. Alternatively, the teacher can use the Bar Modelling eManipulative, available on Edco Learning to model the problems on the main IWB.
  • Quick fire estimations: estimating should be quick responses and not take as long to produce as a full calculation would; otherwise they are not efficient (see this post for more on this). To practice these quick fire responses, you could quickly display a calculation on the class board from the Operation Maths ebook and then hide the calculation (eg use the no-show button on your projector remote) while the children quickly jot down estimated answers. These should then be compared and discussed, with reasons given as to why some estimates are more reasonable than others, before then agreeing on the most reasonable estimate(s).
  • Step-by-step to show algorithms: if you are teaching some of the standard algorithms (eg the long division or long multiplication method) 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.

For other ideas on how you can use your Operation Maths MWBs across the curriculum, read on here.

4. Bar model drawing

As mentioned above, bar model drawing can be a difficult concept for both teachers and children to grasp when they’ve never come across them before. That said, they are an invaluable strategy and worth the investment; already feedback from teachers using the programme for the first time have revealed that topics the children previously found very problematic (eg fractions in all classes, cost price and selling price in 6th class), have now become so much easier and clearer, thanks to the structure of the bar models.

A way to make your collective introduction to bar models much easier, is to display the Thinking Blocks site on the class IWB and to get the children to respond by drawing the bar models and/or giving answers on their MWBs. Such an activity would also work well as an oral and mental starter that could be used regularly throughout the year.

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 Junior Infants to 2nd class? Read on to find out how to manage the content for those classes.