Mathletics.

I have been asked to write something for 3P learning’s application for a BETT award. Here is what I have written.

Mathletics at Hovingham Primary School.

Jane Fisher. AHT & Maths Lead. Sept 2011

 

Hovingham Primary School is classed as a Challenging school, it has a high level of social deprivation and over 95% of children speak English as an additional language – and currently the pupils speak 35 different dialects and languages. We are constantly striving to drive their learning and improve progress and attainment.

With current Government policies we are at risk of having academy status forced upon us – although are ultimate dream would be to become a Mathletics Academy!

 

In September 2009 as Maths Lead at Hovingham Primary School, I approached 3P learning with a view to taking on their program – Mathletics.

Their Northern Sales Representative, Steven Phillips came and demonstrated the product to the class – and we were instantly hooked.

 

Mathletics has transformed Maths for our pupils, it has given Hovingham a real buzz about learning – and shown us how we can motivate and engage our pupils through ICT.

Beyond Maths – Mathletics has equally transformed the school – it has created a positive ethos where we know that our children can achieve. The whole school pride at being nominated the first Mathletics Centre of Excellence permeates into all areas – and proves that ‘we can make a difference.’

 

Progress and achievement in numeracy

Historically Maths learning and results have dragged behind Literacy at Hovingham – until the children caught the Mathletics bug! For the first time, last years results showed progress and attainment in Maths was higher than that in Literacy.

The levels that pupils are currently working at in Year 6 is amazing. The class is set 3 ways – with the whole top set targeted for Level 5’s .

2011 will be the year when Hovingham exceeds floor targets in Maths!

 

Differentiating and personalising learning.

Prior to being the Maths Lead, I led PSHCE / SEAL at Hovingham – and in this role became passionate at building children’s confidence and self esteem.

Mathletics does this so brilliantly. While other schemes are labelled by year groups and levels, visible to the children – Mathletics allows teachers to match the level of play to the pupils ability – but the playing experience and the look of the screen looks exactly the same.

In our after school clubs we have children playing Mathletics from all year groups and all abilities – but everyone is working at their level! – everyone gets to feel successful.

This level of differentiation is achieved easily though a straightforward process – it takes teachers very little time and doesn’t require great ICT skills.

Mathletics also encourages children to take ownership and responsibility for challenging themselves, by giving the children the option of choosing something easier, or something harder.

 

Motivation and Engagement

At Hovingham we have a Mathletics Afterschool club every night of the week, every lunchtime and now we have just launched Breakfast Mathletics!

Every register is full! And I have parents and children constantly wanting to know if there are any spaces, and can they attend on more than 1 night!

How else could you get this enthusiasm! If I launched a Maths Homework club – do you think they would be jostling for places!

The team at Mathletics have designed their product to score maximum points, when it comes to pupil engagement and motivation.

·       Creating their own avatars and being able to earn points which allow them to ‘shop’ and personalise their avatars – creates a personal engagement – a sense of belonging in the ‘Mathletes world.’

·       Changing the look of the screen – gives them a sense of autonomy and ownership over their learning experience.

·       Instant feedback – you can’t have a teacher marking every question as you do it – but on Mathletics – that’s what they get!

·       Support – children can ask for help, when they need it – not having to wait for the teacher – they simply click the help button – and can work through the well laid out guidance that supports them step by step.

·       Certificates – the pupils love to be able to achieve a weekly certificate. Achieving 1000 points is achievable – but by limiting the number of certificates to 1 per week – it is manageable for teachers. The set up in the teachers administrator section makes it easy for them to print the whole classes certificates at the click of 1 button.

·       By awarding Silver and Gold certificates, for pupils that achieve 5 and 20 certificates – children are encouraged to keep going beyond that 1 certificate. This gets them in the habit of practising over an extended length of time.

All of the above features are part of Mathletics and require teachers to do nothing – except provide the opportunity to access the program.

At Hovingham I enhance the motivation and engagement through having Celebrations every half term for children who have achieved their Gold Awards.  These have grown into very special events.

Parents arrive early – wanting the front seats. We also invite special guests, with Lucas the Kop Cat from Leeds United, now a regular star.

The team at Mathletics have been amazing and representatives from the company have attended virtually every celebration. This has turned the virtual world of Mathletics in to the real world of Maths at Hovingham.

The northern sales representative even came to a celebration on crutches when he was off work recovering from an operation, and the CEO, Jayne Warburton has travelled from Bristol to attend!

Now we have launched a Mathletics Leader board – similar to the ‘Top Gear’ idea – and in a weekly assembly the children wait to see who gets onto the leader board!

As a busy Assistant Head, I am able to put these extra incentives together easily because the teacher and administrator parts of the Mathletics program provide you with so much information, well organised and easily accessible.

 

Involving parents.

Parents support our Mathletics clubs every night of the week. Some of these parents would admit to having a poor knowledge of Maths themselves, but because Mathletics is so brilliantly designed their role at the club is one of supporting the children by giving them words of encouragement rather than maths support – they show the children how to use the help button and then together they can work through the exercise.

Parents have been able to use the experience of supporting the Mathletics club at school as an important addition to their job applications.

With Mathletics being an online program children are able to access it at home, if they have the Internet. The previous governments scheme for providing lap tops and internet access for low income families increased the number of families at Hovingham who do have home access, although unfortunately this program has now been scrapped. Families at Hovingham share computer access across families and many children tell delightful tales of visiting aunts and uncles or grandparents on a regular basis and playing Mathletics there.

At Hovingham we have families who keep files of the certificates that their children have achieved in Mathletics, and who set an alarm on their phones for Sunday at 3pm – to remind them that it’s a new Mathletics week!

This year we have extended our Mathletics clubs, and invited ex pupils to join as Mathletics Buddies – they will support their younger siblings, but will also get to access Mathletics at the level they are working on at High School. I think this will be a brilliant new strategy at keeping the whole family ‘into’ maths.

 

 Improve IT skills.

Our pupils are growing up in a fast changing, digital age. Mathletics supports the development of their ICT skills. Children at Hovingham start Mathletics in Year 2. Before their first Mathletics session they are given lessons on Internet safety – and these are repeated at regular intervals. Children quickly learn their usernames and passwords and the importance of keeping this information safe.

On the leader boards of Mathletics only the children’s first names and an initial are displayed – modelling the practise of internet safety.

The live section of Mathletics while building up the speed of a pupils mental maths recall also builds up their speed in keyboard skills – which soon become quite amazing!

With the computers at Hovingham being quite old and temperamental the pupils also learn skills rarely taught in ICT – fixing their own adobe and java script problems, refreshing pages, and being patient when the internet is slow!

 

Global awareness

The ‘Live’ section of Mathletics shows the children a picture of the world and children are selected from across the globe for them to compete against. Many of our children have Pakistani origins and there is always excitement when it selects a child from Asia.

Their knowledge, awareness and interest in other countries has been increased.

Children even have developed an understanding of changing time zones as they know that 3pm here is the beginning of the day in Australia and hence on a Sunday afternoon, there scores go to zero and a new week begins – a new Mathletics week – based in Australia!

 

AfL and APP

While the merits of Mathletics are undoubtedly excellent for pupils – as a school we also reap the benefits as teachers.

The program is put together so that it is easy to navigate the teacher’s interface. When introducing Mathletics to the staff it took only one staff meeting to help staff familiarise themselves with it. The series of excellent, printable guides also means that staff can access support themselves.

Teachers are able to set work at the click of a button, and receive detailed feedback of the pupils scores. A summary is put together for each pupil, and teachers can print this out for their whole class, without having to select each individual child. We use this information to support and evidence judgements when Assessing Pupils Progress.

 

Value for money

Mathletics is undoubtedly the best resource we have ever used at Hovingham – but like all schools we have to balance our books. However I have actually been able to reduce the amount of money I need allocated to the Maths budget as Mathletics does so much – at such a reasonable price.

 

Conclusion.

Mathletics is a truly inspirational product. 3P learning has thought of everything – as a Maths teaching tool, if has invaluable features such as the Maths Dictionary and Maths concept search, and then it has exercises, activities and games that cover all Maths learning from the beginning of school, though to accomplished Mathematicians levels at High School.

However they are so much more than an Internet learning resource – as a company they are constantly working on their product, improving it and updating it. Every phone call or email I make with a query is replied to and responded to quickly and efficiently. I have even been able to give their helpline number to a parent who was struggling with Mathletics on their computer at home, and know that they supported this parent in the same professional manner.

3P Learning is now putting all the skills and ideas that they have used to create Mathletics into their spelling program, ‘Spellodrome’ and their reading program ‘Reading Eggs.’ At Hovingham I have started to work with staff showing them how Spellodrome works… now all I need at Hovingham is more computers and for the current government to support all families in having Internet Access at home.

Thank you to Mathletics for helping us to ‘make a difference’ to the progress and attainment of our children at Hovingham.

Jane Fisher Sept 2011.

 



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