Thorne Grammar School

This is the abstract of an evaluation report written for the British education ministry that funded the project. Project leader was Andy Martin, Thorne Grammar School. The complete official report is available as a PDF document. It is short, very readable and very useful.

Good Practice Case Study

Case Study Name/Title: Mathematics Home Lending Project School: Thorne Grammar School Partnership: Doncaster Author: Andy Martin

What was it like before the work and why was the work undertaken?

When pupils join the school at the end of Key Stage 2 they are placed into one of three bands based on their ability. Many of the pupils who were identified under the "Gifted and Talented Initiative" were being placed in the A-band. Those pupils achieving level 5 in English, Maths and Science formed the basis of one teaching group 7A1.

In order to provide an aspect of the mathematics curriculum that was distinctly different to the mainstream provision I decided to instigate a G&T programme aimed at involving parents with mathematics in a secondary school. The project was funded under a Best Practice Research Scholarship (BPRS) bid. I was trying to research how parents could become more involved in mathematics education by providing a home-lending service of mathematics tasks, complete with the necessary equipment required to solve the problem.

What was planned?

There were some distinct phases to the planning of this project.
  1. Some BPRS funding was used to provide INSET on the identification of able pupils in mathematics and to update me (the G&T Co-ordinator) on the current thinking behind brain based learning, thinking skills and accelerated learning. This phase would help the focus behind the BPRS research.
  2. A meeting with parents was held at the school to explain the project and to familiarise them with the materials and different methods of support they could give to their child.
  3. I purchased some practical mathematics tasks from Curriculum Corporation, Australia complete with parent support laminated cards with hints and ideas from teachers. The pupils then took one task home per fortnight and worked on the task with their parents.
  4. A "buddy" system was set up for the pupils using e-mail. The task ideas were shared with the G&T Network and with other schools world-wide through the use of the Maths300 website. In this way pupils from 7A1 could request help from other pupils in Doncaster, pupils from Sweden, Australia and Tasmania.
  5. Pupils kept a journal of their work with the tasks. This included e-mail correspondence with other pupils and the contributions made with their parents. The journal was collected by me and "marked" with extra hints and avenues to explore.

What was done and when?

The G&T co-ordinator spent one day in London attending a SfE course entitled "How to Challenge, Engage and Extend More Able Students in Maths; Practical ways to meet their Learning Needs and Raise Achievement". Following this a meeting for parents was arranged for early December 2001. During this meeting parents were given the opportunity to work with their child on two tasks; Number Tiles and Domino Sums.

From early January the pupils were taking one task home per fortnight (simply because the school was then operating a two-week timetable). Progress within the task was recorded in a journal and checked on a regular basis. At this time the project had already extended to the G&T Network and the 5 other schools had set up e-mail addresses for "buddies". At Thorne the tasks were sent home with the pupils. The network schools all operated differently, including the use of lunchtime or after school clubs and small projects with identified pupils.

From late February 2002 contact was made with schools in Sweden and Australia. Pupils began to send and receive e-mail, including photograph attachments showing them working on the tasks in their home country.

The LEA G&T Strand Co-ordinator interviewed some of these pupils during a Student Forum in May 2001. This was one teaching and learning programme that had huge impact and that the pupils had really enjoyed doing. During June 2002 some of these pupils attended a G&T Mathematics Day at Sheffield Hallam University. Here they were also given the opportunity to talk to the BPRS Mentor about the progress they had made and the involvement of their parents. Examples of the pupil's journals are kept at the school. These have been used as reference material for the BPRS report.

What has been the impact and how verified?

The project has had a high impact in terms of changing the teaching and learning styles with pupils in the Year 7 cohort for mathematics. This can be verified from the conversations between the pupils and the LEA G&T Strand Co-ordinator.

At the start of the project the parents completed a brief questionnaire to measure their perceptions of problem solving skills. At the end of the project the parents also completed a "strength of feeling" type review against some of the more specific objectives of the programme.

The Head of Mathematics was also able to measure the "value added" in terms of National Curriculum levels for the class by comparing the performance in Key Stage 2 with the levels achieved in the Year 7 Optional Tests produced by QCA.

All three strands of verification show that the project had positive impact on the target cohort, but statistically I cannot show that this project was the only factor responsible for the changes. There was also much in terms of anecdotal evidence from parental comments made during visits to the school.

What has been learnt and next steps?

The significant key issue to emerge was that the project did start to change the perceptions of parents towards working with their child. The practical nature of the tasks, and the use of e-mail buddies when the family was stuck, were very motivating. Many parents, although initially reluctant, began to contribute some mathematics in the pupils' journals.

In terms of basic organisation and management I would want to retain both the G&T Network of schools and the international dimension to a future project. The differing curriculum requirements and structure mean that like minded teachers need to plan in advance so that holiday patterns do not disrupt the pupil contact.

Much more than mathematics emerged from the e-mail contact with international schools. Some ideas for classroom practice to help teachers (and parents!) could appear in the "Classroom Contributions" pages on the Maths300 site. This great resource for the teaching of mathematics needs to be greater used by schools that want to approach mathematics in this way.

Allowing school equipment to go home for pupils and their families to use creates resource management issues. The use of classroom support to assist the teacher I believe would be very beneficial.

My experience is that the project is very beneficial in providing challenge for G&T pupils in mathematics. The tasks have been carefully chosen. Each one is the "tip of an iceberg" and allows the able child to link different aspects of mathematics through a problem solving approach. Parents find the hints from teachers useful and like to respond to many of the challenges.

Contact Name/Point

Andy Martin
Trinity Academy (formerly Thorne Grammar School)
Thorne
Doncaster
Email address: amartin@trinityacademy.org.uk

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