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Research School Network: The Power of Intervening Interventions that allow children to thrive and grow as mathematicians by Tracey Adams, Naila Younis and Simone Pringle

The Power of Intervening

Interventions that allow children to thrive and grow as mathematicians by Tracey Adams, Naila Younis and Simone Pringle

by St. Matthew's Research School
on the

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)’s recent guidance report: Improving Mathematics in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 recommends that teachers/​practitioners: use high quality targeted support to help all children learn Mathematics. This idea of high quality evidence based interventions to support learning can also be seen in the guidance report: Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants (recommendation 6). In the EEF toolkit, they suggest a best bet programme, which is 1stClass@Number. It was developed by the Every Child Counts team, at Edge Hill University, and from the EEF trial, pupils who received this programme made 2 months’ additional progress in Mathematics, on average, compared to pupils in the control group. This result has a high security rate.

So what is 1stClass@Number?

It is a Mathematics programme, with a suite of highly scripted lessons, which are delivered to small groups of children in Year 2 (and if necessary Year 3) by a trained Teaching Assistant. The groups are made up of no more than 4 children, who receive 3 x 30 minutes lessons (over 10 weeks) on:

The Number System
Place Value
Mathematical Procedures, Signs and Language.

At St Matthew’s Teaching and Research school, we are lucky enough to have two teaching assistants who deliver our Maths interventions. They not only deliver 1stClass@Number but also Success@Arithmetic, another programme from the Edge Hill team, that focuses on Upper Key Stage Two and develops their understanding of the mental/​written calculation strategies around the 4 operations. Here are their thoughts on the power of intervening.

Igniting a passion for Mathematics

We have a real passion for delivering Maths interventions and we are fortunate enough to work at a school that recognises our strengths, understands our areas of development and supports us in any way they can. For example, we felt that we needed a refresher course to help us update our knowledge on the current interventions we deliver. We knew it was important to revise areas that we were not sure about and address gaps in our delivery. We also believed it would help us to reflect on ourselves and ensure that we are not developing any habits that would be detrimental to the programme delivery. Completing a refresher course (in the first few weeks of September) increased our understanding of the programme and our sense of ownership and responsibility for delivering it. Receiving training early also meant we have been very responsive to the needs of our children; it has been great to see the children we work with make such rapid progress, grow in their confidence and fall back in love with Maths.

The power of the programme

Four of the most powerful tools within these interventions are:

1. The use of assessment gives clarity of starting points.
2. The use of games to embed mathematical skills, strategies and procedures
3. The use of manipulatives and representation to explore mathematical concepts
4. The use of oracy within Mathematics

1. The asssement process for these interventions are rigorous. For 1stClass@Number, we use the Sandwell Early Maths materials and, for Success@Arithmetic, we use a set of diagnostic questions, provided with the materials.

Where possible, we complete the assessment in pairs. This is important because it give us a colleague who can make observations of mathematical behaviour and talk, as we administer the questions. It also gives us someone to discuss our findings with and to unpick what the assessment has revealed. We also love the practical element, embedded within the assessment, which gives children the opportunity to show and explain their thinking.

If you do not have a colleague to work with, we would suggest using an iPad or camera to film the sessions, as when you administer a test alone, there are so many key observations you can miss.

2. The games are such a joy to play with the children because they are a chance to use the skills, strategies and procedures we are developing in the sessions. On many occasions, the children have come to us and asked to play the games, independently, outside of the interventions, because they have learnt so much from them.

3. These interventions work so well because they provide the children with many opportunities to practise and demonstrate their mastery of key concepts, strategies and procedures, through the use of manipulatives and representations. The interventions provide models, which represent the stages of the children’s learning and this is extremely helpful, as it helps us, as practitioners, to be clear about how understanding develops in a progressive way.

From delivering the interventions ourselves, we have noticed that when children develop their understanding of mathematical concepts through the use of manipulatives, it is easier to link their conceptual understanding to an abstract representation. We noticed that our children could then draw pictures to replicate the manipulatives, for example: base ten, bar model, Cuisenaire and place value counters. This also gave our children the chance to develop a strategy to support their ability to problem solve, back in the classroom.

We have also found that the intervention will fail if the use of manipulatives is not carried back into classroom, alongside the teaching they see everyday. This is something that must be cohesive across the school in terms of everyday practice.

4. The way in which Maths is taught at St Matthew’s helps to empower the children to explore mathematical thinking through talk. These interventions work powerfully alongside this model. In both programmes there are plenty of opportunities for the children to talk through their understanding of the mathematics. They are also given plenty of space to explain their thinking, using the key vocabulary that is explicitly mentioned and taught within each programme.

Our top tips

Embed the games into the classroom and at home – they are a powerful tool for engagement and create a bridge between the intervention, the classroom and home. We would recommend starting a games club, where the children from the intervention group can bring along a friend and just play the games for enjoyment.
Give the children time and space to explore their thinking through talk. It is a powerful tool for exploring children’s understanding of the concepts and language of Maths.
Be very consistent with the intervention and the timescales – the children really value this time with you and it is making a difference.
Celebrate success and be specific with your praise – be clear about what is getting better.

What we have learned

From delivering these interventions, we have learnt that the earlier the children are introduced to manipulatives and representation (with understanding), the easier it is for them to construct their own cognitive models of mathematical concepts and procedures.

Attending an intervention should not be a chore for the child. It should be a place where they can thrive and grow, as young mathematicians.

Naila Younis – 1st Class@ Number/​HLTA

Simone Pringle – Success@Arithmetic/HLTA

Tracey Adams – Assistant Research School Director and Maths Lead

Power of intervening 2
Power of intervening

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