This year at IGS we decided to totally revamp the way we teach mathematics in Year 7. The decision for this came about as we were unsatisfied with the current Year 7 program, which tended to focus on skill development, and was a “one-size-fits-all” course for all students, regardless of their experience of mathematics at the primary level. The problem with this was that for some students the program was too easy, for some it was too hard, and for the lucky few it was just right. We wanted a program that was “just right” for every child.
We also wanted to have more of a focus on developing mathematical processes rather than rote learning and skills. Our aim was to develop students’ ability and willingness to tackle unfamiliar, non-routine problems, in order to develop their logical thinking and reasoning skills.
We decided to think of our program in 2 parts, skill development and problem solving tasks. As students come to us at various stages in their mathematical learning, we wanted to have a fully differentiated program for skill development. This is where we decided on the use of Maths Pathway, an online program, instead of a traditional textbook for all Year 7 students.
Maths Pathway acts as a personalized textbook for each student, based on the level of mathematics that student is currently working on. The students start each unit with a diagnostic test, which not only determines the level they are working at, but also any gaps in their knowledge they may have from their work at primary school. Once the diagnostic has been taken, students are given a personalized learning pathway, consisting of skills practice that they need to develop within each unit. There are video tutorials for students to watch if they need to, and of course they are encouraged to work with their peers and teacher to gain further understanding. Each fortnight the students are given an individualised test based on the work they completed over the past few weeks. From that, teachers are able to give students specific feedback based on the concepts they understood, and ones they still need to consolidate. Students will have the chance to be re-tested on anything they didn’t understand the first time around.
The remaining lessons are where we focus on whole class tasks that promote the mathematical processes of mathematical thinking, reasoning, communication, and justification. These activities are carefully planned by the mathematics team to incorporate key skills students are learning. Many of the activities come from well-researched collections of tasks such as Maths300 or RIME.
Early in Term 1 we had a parent information session about Maths Pathway, attended by about 100 of our Year 7 parents. We knew that moving from a traditional textbook to Maths Pathway would be a new way of learning for both parents and students, and so we wanted to inform parents of the change and give them a forum to ask any questions they had. The evening was very well received, and from that we created a list of FAQs for parents about the program: Year 7 Maths Information Evening – Questions and Answers
Through Maths Pathway we have created a fully blended learning environment for our students in Year 7 mathematics. Students are exposed to teaching both online and in-person with their teacher on a regular basis. We have also been able to give students a high level of personalised feedback due to the regular formative assessment on Maths Pathway. This initiative has not been without challenges, and as a year 7 team we have reflected on these and refined the way we integrate Maths Pathway into our mathematics lessons. It has been a learning process, and in my next article I will explore the learning process we have gone through since the start of the year, the challenges we have faced, and where we are now.