Tackling Tricky Maths

Ah, Maths. That dreaded subject that always seems to have the worst reputation, 'the boring subject' as we often hear in our secondary schools. In reality, describing Maths as 'boring' is entirely inaccurate. The description often stems from pupils being over challenged in a difficult subject resulting in disengagement, as opposed to finding the subject so easy it literally becomes boring.

The truth is, about 8 million adults in England have the numeracy skills of primary school children, according to government figures. In fact, just under 50% of 16-19 year-olds study any maths at all, and as we see across the board in the UK, disadvantaged pupils bear the brunt of this with over 60% lacking basic maths skills by age 16. This issue was highlighted in Rishi Sunak's speech early this year where he announced his intention to implement mandatory Mathematics education until the age of 18 in the UK.

But where does it all start? Learning and understanding the most basic concepts of Maths starts as early as preschool, if not earlier depending on a child's background. However, the onus falls on primary schools to ensure pupils are receiving a robust curriculum of Maths in an attempt to offset the disadvantage of pupils who may not have the luxury of learning at home or otherwise out of the classroom. So, of course, it's understandable that many pupils find it incredibly difficult to develop the skills required to tackle basic Maths problems, which leads to that lifelong resignation of, 'I hate Maths, it's boring.'

Gregory Macur identified an interesting hurdle pupils face in primary school Arithmetic in a recent article for TES Magazine. He highlights pupils' ability to recognise the quantities in a problem when a more complex question structure is presented.

In an effort to better understand and combat the obstacle, Macur created a very basic version of a visual game for pupils, offering the ability to see the problem as a visual representation and begin to build the skills to solve similar problems by visualising examples once the game isn't available.

Interestingly, we see a lot of The Outdoor Classroom concepts at play in Macur's experiment. The experiment was based on the work of researchers Cristyne Hébert and Jennifer Jenson (2019) to develop a pedagogy framework for teachers. Some of the key points included focused and purposeful gameplay, collaborative gameplay, cohesive curricular design, teacher knowledge of (and engagement with) the game and connections to prior learning and the world beyond the game environment.

Maths is one of the most used subjects with The Outdoor Classroom. Teachers have created problems for pupils focusing on BODMAS, Arithmetic and other core principles of Maths. The multiple media content options supported by The Outdoor Classroom enable teachers to present problems to pupils not only as visual imagery, but audibly, by text or even video. Likewise, pupils have the ability to respond to set questions with the same media.

An excellent example we've seen with one of our schools was for the teacher to set a variety of questions requiring pupils to work as a group and record a video of themselves demonstrating basic addition and subtraction by running into and out of frame. For example, the teacher sets the question as:

1+2 = ?

At which point, one pupil appears and an additional two join to form a group of three giving the answer. Although seemingly simple, we've found this presentation of a problem to pupils to be highly engaging. They're physically active, running in and out of the frame as more problems are presented, working as a team and learning those core concepts in a fun and exciting environment: The great outdoors.

Moreover, once returning to the classroom for review, pupils are able to watch back their recordings on the board and absolutely love to interact with their feedback. Creating rewarding learning experiences for pupils and combating difficulties pupils face is at the very centre of our ethos here at The Outdoor Classroom. So when we read Gregory Macur's article we were delighted to see that our app is creating opportunities to aid teachers and pupils in tackling problems that span the globe!

If you'd like to find out more about how The Outdoor Classroom can enhance your school's education, contact our Outdoor Learning Expert, Ferne for tailored advice and a free trial. We've also got an exciting national competition coming up this Summer: The Big League, supported by British Orienteering and The British Schools Orienteering Association.

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