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Paul Borrows, assistant head at Vinehall School, explains how he uses the MNP Mathsteasers series to challenge advanced learners.
Children who are good at remembering number bonds and times tables at an early age are often told they are good at maths, but this has very little to do with being a good mathematician.
When pupils who are confident at times tables start working on more complicated problems, they sometimes really struggle. Their self-image of being good at maths no longer seems to fit, which causes them to lose confidence.
The Mathsteasers books are fundamentally different from other maths books that are available. The questions don’t focus on procedural knowledge, rather, they challenge conceptual understanding. Instead of having to follow a set of rules, children have to understand how those rules work.
At the opposite end of the scale, children who have labelled themselves as not being strong mathematically can begin to see that maths isn’t what they thought it was either.
When you start asking questions that remove the need to learn and regurgitate procedures, it levels the playing field.
It’s great to see children who haven’t previously identified themselves as mathematicians engaging in discussions with their peers, and enjoying getting to grips with ideas at a conceptual level.
You can find great problem-solving and investigative tasks for pupils of all ages, but they don’t necessarily fit neatly alongside the curriculum.
The Mathsteasers books are designed to encourage conceptual stretch while following the key topics of the curriculum. The key areas are revisited each year, so you can use Alpha: The 1st Book of Mathsteasers as an extension book for Y4, but you can also use it with Y6, depending on what is most appropriate for a particular pupil.
In the past, I’ve written a lot of questions or heavily edited material I found online, mainly because I am yet to find KS2 extension material that I don’t need to adapt.
Obviously, writing your own questions is quite time consuming, but with Mathsteasers it doesn’t feel like a compromise as it asks the questions I want, in the way I want them.
It provides a welcome challenge It sometimes seems that as maths teachers, we also have to be salespeople. Maths hasn’t always had a great reputation and a lot of children have negative ideas about the subject before they even come into the classroom.
Part of our job is to dismantle those preconceived ideas and sell children a different version of maths. Mathsteasers provides a welcome challenge by helping to get across
the idea that maths isn’t about rote learning. The books offer challenging problems that require pupils to think laterally, and even creatively.
The Mathsteasers booklet series follows the national curriculum and is suitable for Y4-6. Order yours at mathsnoproblem.com/mathsteasers.
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