“Mathematics equips pupils with a uniquely powerful set of tools to understand and change the world. These tools include logical reasoning, problem solving skills, and the ability to think in abstract ways. Mathematics is important in everyday life, many forms of employment, science and technology, medicine, the economy, the environment and development, and in public decision making.” (The National Curriculum – Handbook for Primary Teachers 1999 p60)
Mathematics is relevant and is useful in the real world around us, it can be found in practical tasks and it can be applied in order to tackle real-life problems. It can be used to explore and to investigate within itself, thereby creating new mathematics (National Numeracy Strategy). The Open University states that children learn mathematics if their attitude towards the subject is positive and they regard it as an interesting and attractive subject. Children are far more likely to remember the innovative rather than the mundane, so a teacher’s imagination can be vital if pupils are expected to engage well with a subject.
They need an awareness of the uses of mathematics in the world beyond the classroom and that mathematics will frequently help them to solve problems they meet in everyday life or understand better many of the things they see. According to Fruedenthal (1997), mathematics must be connected to reality, stay close to children and be relevant to society in order to be of human value “Pupils should choose and make use of knowledge, skills and understanding outlined in the Programme of Study in practical tasks, in real-life problems and to investigate within mathematics itself.” (NCC, 1991 p2)
Student Number 03920910 Investigational work as a way of involving pupils in using and applying their mathematics encourages children to involve themselves in mathematical thinking. Pirie (1987) claims that this can promote pupils enjoyment of mathematics and give them the understanding that even in a maths lesson, opinions and personal ideas are valued. It also offers variety to the pace and presentation of the lesson, enlarges conceptual understanding and increases pupils willingness to ‘have a go’.
Maths lessons should be a chance for pupils to engage with technical and inventive skills by linking the subject with a wide range of oral, written and even physical activities. S Cowley (2002) How To Identify When a Learner is Experiencing Difficulty in Acquiring Mathematical Concepts “Children with serious learning difficulties in mathematics do not learn, despite adequate social and cultural pre-school experiences, initial motivation to succeed and appropriate instruction” (C. Aubrey 1999 p11).
Strong and Rourke (1985) have suggested three categories of mathematical disability. The first involves fact retrieval and memory for arithmetic tables. The second involves difficulty with procedures and delays in learning basic number skills and the third is visual spatial difficulty in representing and interpreting arithmetical information. C Aubrey (1999) states that although children come into school with a developed informal mathematical knowledge, many have difficulty with formal mathematics. These difficulties accumulate over the years, and children lose motivation and lack self esteem. They are then unwilling to talk about strategies and, when observed some are reluctant to use their fingers to support counting.
Student Number 03920910 “Perhaps because maths is a subject in which it is very clear when you get something wrong, many people are made to feel unduly depressed about their performance and believe themselves to be ‘bad at maths’. This belief tends to make further learning difficult and it is important to avoid it. Getting things wrong can be an important part of the learning process as long as you morale has not been broken. The importance of encouragement can hardly be overstated”. (R Russel 1996 p86) According to Geary (1993) the most persistent characteristic of children with learning difficulty in mathematics is struggling to remember basic number facts. Normally developing children shift gradually from reliance on counting to retrieval of number-fact strategies until retrieval eventually dominates choice.
Appropriate Support Strategies The Classroom Assistant should aim to support all the children in the class. Some will need targeted help and others will need access to the assistant throughout the day. Support staff should try and remain one step behind, allowing the child to take calculated risks and therefore allow cognitive challenge. As Fox (1993) comments “It is a difficult task to maintain the balance between giving support and promoting independence. This involves being clear about your expectations and firm in your directions without pressurising the child, However, sensitivity should tell you if and when to intervene.”(Lorenz 1999 p19)