Low Attainers in Primary Mathematics: The Whisperers and the Maths Fairy

By Jenny Houssart | Go to book overview

5

Practical work

Each child was given a large pile of plastic money. Sean announced with a smile, 'I'm rich.' This was followed by an estimate of how much money was in the pile and a discussion of what it might buy, closely followed by speculation about how much money he might be given on his birthday.


Introduction

Practical work has, for a long time, been seen as a 'good thing' in English primary schools. As the background reading section to this chapter shows, this view was being questioned slightly at the time this study was carried out. The classroom section of this chapter illustrates the range of practical equipment I saw in use and the way the children responded to it. In common with the representations discussed in the last chapter, practical equipment did not always help all the children. Nevertheless, it often had a positive effect on the mathematical content of lessons. In particular, such lessons sometimes included more challenging aspects of number than were met in ordinary number lessons. Practical lessons also sometimes offered opportunities for problem-solving and decision-making. These things did not happen automatically and the role of adults was crucial.


Background

Practical work in primary mathematics

For many years there has been a view in English primary schools that practical work has an important place. This can be seen in teachers' guides such as the Nuffield guide with the slogan 'I do and I understand' and its emphasis on active learning (Nuffield Mathematics

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Low Attainers in Primary Mathematics: The Whisperers and the Maths Fairy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Children 8
  • 2 - Maths Talk 24
  • 3 - Mental Work 41
  • 4 - Number Equipment 57
  • 5 - Practical Work 74
  • 6 - Written Work 91
  • 7 - Calculators and Computers 109
  • 8 - Easy Tasks, Hard Tasks, Elastic Tasks 127
  • 9 - Assessment Tasks 145
  • 10 - Conclusion 163
  • Index 177
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