Start with the curriculum and focus learning around a 'Big Idea'
Derrimut Primary School's approach has been heavily influenced by RMIT University Professor Dianne Siemon's 'big ideas' in Number. These are mathematics skills that identify the key learning which should expected to be in place by the end of key levels in school to progress learning.
The Assessment for Common Misunderstandings assessment tool together with the Victorian Curriculum F-10 inform this approach. Derrimut Primary School teachers use these 'big ideas' to determine where their students are at in their thinking around number and numeracy and identify gaps in their learning which may need revisiting.
'In primary school, we focus on just four of these Big Numeracy Ideas: Trust the count, place value, multiplicative thinking and partitioning,' explained Assistant Principal Jen Briggs.
'So in our planning we look at the curriculum first, and we say: what is the big idea present here?'
'Once we have it, we take that element and use that as our base from where we start our teaching. We revisit this big idea over and over, and the rest of the curriculum wraps around this concept.'
'So in practice, we're teaching the big idea of 'Trusting the Count' or 'Place Value', through authentic contexts in geometry or measurement or space.'
In action: creating an authentic numeracy task
Authentic tasks are those that are meaningful to the students, are targeted at their age, interest levels and experience, explains Year 1/2 Teacher Danielle Stasinowsky.
'I think authentic tasks are those that really allow students to be collaborative. So they're working with other students, there's lots of discussion going on and they're also sharing things with everybody,' Danielle said.
'These are also tasks that have a bit of context. This is "real world" maths; problems they're going to encounter every day and things they're going to be able to role play and solve for themselves.'
Authentic tasks are open and accessible and can add value to a student's learning, no matter what their stage of learning. The main priority for Derrimut Primary School teachers is ensuring that their students are engaged as this drives their students' growth.
'We want to make maths meaningful for our students. We don't want it to be just "school maths", but to make them realise that maths is in real life that they're using it every day.'
'If it's more authentic, it becomes more relevant to them.'
Practical activity: Prep to Level 2 – Fruit points. Fruit points are a counting investigation, motivated by rewards such as access to the 'Spider playground' or free reading time.
Students earn counters each time they eat a piece of fruit and are encouraged to display their additive counting skills as well as their ability to Trust the Count. They then consider the value of the fruit points they have earned against the potential rewards on offer. So they're practising counting everyday but they're motivated by a purpose, saving up to buy something which is a reward that goes with the task,' explains Foundation teacher Alex Berry.
This drives that authentic, genuine motivation to do the activity, as they're not just rote counting.
Supporting numeracy in the classroom
If you're interested in additional resources or ways to support students in their numeracy, explore the Birth to Level 10 Maths Curriculum Companion.
This resource is a learning and teaching resource that is aligned to the Victorian Curriculum F-10 and Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF).
Explore the maths curriculum
Guides, resources and more in the Birth to Level 10 Mathematics Curriculum Companion