Math high-achievers may still have areas in which they are not as strong. Steph King, a math educator says it’s important for teachers to identify those areas and provide support. King also recommends that teachers help gifted students learn a variety of strategies to solve math problems.
In my role as a mathematics education adviser for a local authority I am frequently asked to provide training for schools focused on the more able mathematicians. In too many cases these pupils leave key stage 1 above or well above national expectation, then make insufficient progress at key stage 2 and fall short of their potential. Here are my key considerations when supporting more able students in mathematics at key stage 2.
Even the able learners have weaknesses
The first step that we so often forget is that even the more able pupils have weaknesses in their mathematics. It is vital to identify these as well as their strengths. There are a range of indicators that I use to help teachers identify more able pupils in the primary phase such as “needs fewer steps in each process”, “enjoys increased pace” and “thrives on independent study”. I always try to be careful that the identification of these behaviors is fair and transparent, without discriminating against particular groups.
Don’t rely on the column method
As children advance through key stage 2, many are taught algorithms (for example, column methods), a step-by-step procedure to calculate the correct answer. In my experience, I find there is an over-reliance on column methods. For example, in one year 6 lesson, the children had the task of finding the difference between 400 and 250 as the first step in a problem. Virtually every child carried out their workings using a column method of subtraction. While this is certainly one way of answering the question, is not the most efficient and should be challenged by teachers.
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