“Doing mathematics should always mean finding patterns and crafting beautiful and meaningful explanations” – Paul Lockhart, mathematician, author
‘Fit for Life’ through Mathematics
‘When am I ever going to use this in real life?’ is the question that haunts the dreams of Maths teachers worldwide. Mathematics is not simply about learning to add and subtract, find the length of a hypotenuse, or solve a quadratic equation; it is to develop thinking skills, logic and an ability to solve problems. Through the delivery of our curriculum at John Spence, we aim to show our students that mathematics exists in many forms, make sure students are numerate, and develop their fluency, understanding and application of fundamental skills in complex problems.
Skills and Knowledge
Our whole curriculum is about the depth of understanding of mathematical concepts.
In Years 7 and 8, students are exposed to all different strands of mathematics. With a strong focus on fluency of skills in Year 7, students build on this understanding as they move on to more difficult aspects of the same strands in Year 8. This spiral curriculum is designed to challenge and support all of our students, with appropriate content for all ability ranges. There are also ‘Maths Help’ sessions in the timetables of those who need extra support.
Firstly, we teach number work and the skills which underpin all other strands of mathematics. It is important that we start here in both year groups to reinforce those key skills that will be used throughout the rest of the year. We then move on to algebra in order to explore the strong links between algebra and number work. Thinking algebraically is vital in the ability to solve mathematical problems, so developing strong skills early is key to helping our students develop in the remaining strands. Next, we handle data and probability, before moving on to fractions, decimals and percentages. Shape and geometry are covered before we end the year with ratio and proportion.
It is core to our values that our students see how wide ranging and different the strands of mathematics are. The intermittent strands we cover are number based, which we have purposely interspersed with other topics to make sure our students regularly revisit and review their number skills and understanding.
In Year 9, we move away from the spiral strand structure used in Year 7 and 8 whilst continuing with our philosophy of teaching for depth of understanding as we begin the delivery of some higher order content, skills and thinking. New concepts are introduced in number, algebra, shape, proportion and geometry. With the order carefully structured so that key knowledge is introduced, practised and then established, this coverage suitably grounds student understanding to enable any future challenges in mathematics.
At Key Stage 4, we deliver our GCSE specification; securing and then building on the knowledge gained at Key Stage 3 and maintaining the focus on depth of understanding. Strands are broken down into more detailed units, including trigonometry, Pythagoras’ Theorem and circle theorems. Each teaching unit is carefully structured so that knowledge is fluent before the introduction of new ideas.
Communication and Community
It is important that our students are able to communicate their reasoning and understanding in mathematics. Through modelling, discussion and worked examples, we show students how to think mathematically and then guide them in their own practice. We have high expectations, both in class and with homework, and make it clear to students that they must show working out and reasoning in their work and not just focus on finding and then writing their final answers.