Do any of these sound familiar?

40% of students are anxious about maths at least ‘sometimes’, with 10% of primary and secondary school children being likely to experience high levels of maths anxiety. It’s almost certain you will have heard this type of student talk in your own school.

What is maths anxiety?
Maths anxiety is a negative emotional reaction to the subject – it is not a cognitive problem. We should not assume that maths anxiety equates to being poor at maths. In fact, many high attaining students can struggle with maths anxiety.

A child experiencing maths anxiety is likely to feel a range of emotions including frustration, anger and despair. These combined with physical symptoms such as butterflies and increased heart rate, mean the likelihood of flourishing reduces. Behaviourally, a child with maths anxiety might act out in a lesson, even to the extent of being removed, or become so tearful that leaving the classroom is the only option. These are just some of the reasons why maths anxiety might lead to poor maths performance and this in turn is likely to elicit maths anxiety, thus creating a vicious circle.

Maths anxiety and the brain
Working memory is used to store and manipulate information for short periods of time. Problem solving in maths requires a large proportion of working memory, but anxious thoughts burden this, using up capacity. Children with maths anxiety have been found to struggle to maintain and manipulate verbal information in this part of their memory hindering their ability to perform mathematical procedures.

What are the triggers?
The triggers for maths anxiety are complex. For example, in cases where maths anxiety worsens over time, a common trigger is the transition from primary to secondary school. It’s worth noting that for about one-third of children, maths anxiety starts alongside timed testing.

It’s important to note that all children experience challenges in maths, but those with maths anxiety feel less able to deal with these. Identified triggers include:

  • Perceived ‘hardness’ of the subject when compared to other subjects (many children are simply scared of getting a wrong answer)
  • Transition from primary school to secondary school
  • Emphasis on procedures rather than ‘sense-making’
  • Unfavourable comparisons with peers or siblings
  • Timed tests
  • Concern about lack of progress
  • Concern about peer evaluation
  • Teacher or parent with maths anxiety

The link between maths anxiety and maths performance becomes more entrenched in early adolescence.

Let’s take action!
This isn’t about diagnosing children with maths anxiety. Instead, it is about taking action to inspire all students in mathematics, removing the negative pressure they feel without removing the challenge.

Some people question how this can be done when all children, at some stage, face timed-pressured tests and exams. It’s important that these summative assessments are not our only focus but we also concentrate on consistently great classroom practice.

Before addressing this, as teachers we must be mindful of our own anxieties and beliefs. If we are anxious about aspects of maths, we need to tackle this. If we believe that maths ‘ability’ is innate and fixed, rather than malleable, it is likely that we transfer this to our students.

Jo Boaler has identified the following messages as being key in setting up positive norms in a maths classroom:

  1. Everyone can do maths to the highest levels
  2. Mistakes are valuable
  3. Questions are really important
  4. Maths is about creativity and making sense
  5. Maths is about connections and communicating
  6. Maths class is about learning not performing
  7. Depth is more important than speed

If we embed these norms, celebrating the learning journey, we start to build a culture of deep understanding, confidence and competence in maths – a culture that produces strong, secure learning and real progress. #MathsEveryoneCan

Want to know more? We’re running a ‘Facing Maths Anxiety’ workshop at our Summer Conference on 1st July in London. Book your place!

Selected references:
Boaler, J (2016) Mathematical Mindsets
Boaler, J (2015) Fluency Without Fear
Carey, E, Devine A, Dowker A, McLellan R & Szucs D (2019) Understanding Maths Anxiety, Investigating the Experiences of UK Primary and Secondary School Students, Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge.
Maths Anxiety Summit 2018, Summit Report and Key Messages, The Maths Anxiety Trust (2018)

“Power Maths – it’s every teacher’s dream!”

A Maths Lead’s reflections on Pearson’s new programme – Part 2

See the magic happen…
In little more than a term, Mostaque Kamaly and his colleagues have used the Power Maths programme to make big changes to mindsets, enjoyment and progression at Hague Primary School. They are excited about seeing the change in outcomes a little further down the line, and meanwhile, Mostaque is keen to highlight five of the greatest benefits that Power Maths has brought to the school.

It ensures coverage
“The yearly overview on the website is useful for ensuring good coverage of all curriculum objectives, and even shows us the relevant objectives alongside each strand, which is really helpful. I’m always concerned about coverage and this overview helps me check that we’re on top of everything.”

Steady progression
“The Power Maths progression has a really steady pace, always building through CPA and deepening understanding. You can actually see children’s insight, confidence and enjoyment growing day after day!”

It promotes thinking and talk
“Children no longer have to simply find the answer to a problem, they are now being asked to explain how they found it. They have to justify, to prove and then explore alternative ways of solving it, too! As a result, children are increasingly comfortable with articulating their thoughts and using mathematical vocabulary to do this.”

Great content and lower workload
Planning and preparation normally takes so much time – and as a one-form entry school that can mean even more work. However, Power Maths has drastically reduced my workload. Online access means I no longer need to trawl the Internet for resources; for example, you can show each page of the textbook on the screen, (so there’s no need to create separate PowerPoints). You can also access the online manipulatives that you’ll need in each lesson. The Power Maths textbooks, Practice Books and the online resources give everything you could ever need – it’s every teacher’s dream and exactly what I need for my class!

Impressive teacher support
The Teacher Guides are excellent. I especially like the way that each unit begins with a starter page, telling you what the children will learn and checking out that they have the prior knowledge they need with some sample problems. It also introduces any essential vocabulary.

These Guides provide a clear and detailed plan for every lesson and explain why tasks have been chosen. They also offer advice and explanation on key issues like interventions and misconceptions. It’s helpful material for every teacher, and especially valuable for building the knowledge and confidence of NQTs. Along with the helpful Power Maths characters (my children love them!), the level of detail makes the story of the lesson beautifully clear.

Mostaque’s top tips
If you’re new to Power Maths, or will be using it soon, then make it a priority for all classroom staff to observe and talk to teachers who are already using it. They’ll be able to offer some great insights on how to hit the ground running with this exciting programme. Below, we’ve picked out some of Mostaque’s own top tips to help get you started!

Mostaque Kamaly, Joint Maths Lead, Hague Primary School, Bethnal Green
  • Get a clear understanding of the lesson structure before you start, and plan your approach. Understanding the purpose behind each lesson section, how to deliver it and the key questions you’ll need to ask sets you up for top quality lessons.
  • Don’t be put off by the idea of whole-class maths teaching. While every child is working on the same activities, one might finish just a few questions while another reaches the final challenge in the same time. In other words, the programme does away with ‘differentiation by task’ and replaces it with ‘differentiation by outcome’.
  • In the Discover section, let yourself step back and take in just what the children are doing. Watching them explore collaboratively and with manipulatives gives you real insight into both their understanding and their misconceptions.
  • I find it handy to walk around the class, and make sticky notes about the methods they’re using, ready for the Share feedback section.
  • Take a good look at the Power Maths users’ website. It’s loaded with interactive books, slides, manipulatives and other materials that help you with modelling and cut your preparation time right down!

Learn more about Power Maths here on our website or alternatively, for Schools interested in buying Power Maths click here

For Parents interested in buying Power Maths click here

“Power Maths – it’s every teacher’s dream!”

Mostaque Kamaly, Joint Maths Lead, Hague Primary School, Bethnal Green

A Maths Lead’s reflections on Pearson’s new programme – Part 1
Mostaque Kamaly joint Maths Lead at Hague Primary School in Bethnal Green loves his subject, and has always encouraged his pupils to share his excitement and passion for the subject. However, he was concerned that as in so many schools across the UK, his school’s spiral curriculum meant that topics were covered only briefly before moving on to the next one. He felt that this often led to rather fragile learning in which children failed to see how concepts connect or how their own skills could build and progress). In addition, confidence and motivation were likely to be poorer, too.

Keen to develop deeper, richer and more enjoyable learning, Mostaque and his team began to use the popular, mastery-driven White Rose Maths (WRM) materials which covered the three key areas of fluency, reasoning and problem solving. Just what they were looking for. What’s more, Mostaque soon saw an opportunity to build on this strong foundation. He explains, “The WRM schemes were working well, but some teachers felt pressured by the challenge of teaching for mastery. I knew that to be even more successful with our maths, we needed a clear and consistent structure for lessons across the school. That’s when I discovered Power Maths – a comprehensive programme designed to synchronise perfectly with the White Rose Maths schemes.”

This article summarises how Power Maths works in the classroom, and records Mostaque’s observations, reflections and ideas on the programme and its impact.

A journey through a Power Maths lesson
Each maths lesson is divided into evidence-based sections and set out clearly in the textbooks (with plenty of advice and guidance from the Teacher Guides, too). Lessons are busy and interactive with children working independently, in pairs, in groups and as a class.

The lesson begins with a Power Up fluency task to sustain prior learning, consolidate number facts and establish the lesson’s confident, can-do tone.

Next, children share, explore and learn from a Discover problem, presented with some focused questions to guide their thinking. Mostaque observes. “Children have to grapple with this task, and consider how to show their understanding in different ways. Right there in front of you, the children are taking ownership – it’s fantastic!”

After the Discover stage, children discuss their learning in a Share activity. During this whole-class, interactive learning phase, children share their thinking and look for the best ways to solve the problem. Mostaque adds, “The Share section has the added benefit of allowing children to read the maths. All too often they focus on the abstract, numerical form such as 3 x 5 = 15, but a written problem makes very different demands on the children. I’m really enjoying the fact that we can teach children to use the right language, read the maths and see it in different forms at the same time.”

The lesson then moves into a Think Together section. “I love this!” reflects Mostaque. “It begins with a teacher-guided question followed by a problem for children to solve in collaboration with a partner, and finally an independent question. It develops the concrete problem through the pictorial and abstract (CPA) stages and there is clear progression within each lesson. The online guide gives fantastic scaffolding here.”

In the Practice section, children use the cleverly devised Practice Books to apply and rehearse what they’ve learned. “The carefully varied questions help children to understand the essential features of each concept and build their fluency.” notes Mostaque. “They push children that bit further. The questions are not what they’re expecting and they have to think a bit more! There’s always an ‘Even Deeper’ challenge question that links to other maths areas, too. Not every child will get to this point in every lesson but it’s great to have it readily available to further learners’ thinking.”

Finally, a Reflect section brings each lesson to a conclusion. “It’s not a traditional plenary: it involves everyone looking back on what they feel they’ve each learned, and it’s a great way of helping each child to understand and consolidate their learning.” observes Mostaque.

Read Part 2 of Mostaque’s blog to find out what effect Power Maths has had on progression and learn Mostaque’s top tips for implementing the programme.

How would your children tackle these questions?
1997 + 998          96 ÷ 4

All too often, we see children automatically turning to a formal written method rather than taking a moment to consider whether this would be the best approach.

There is, of course, a place for written algorithms – they are often the most efficient way to calculate with large numbers. However, if we want children to become true mathematicians, if we want them to reason mathematically, they need to be asking themselves these questions:

  • Can I do this in my head?
  • Do I need to use a formal written method?
  • Is there a more efficient strategy I could use?

Consider the first calculation:

Here, two alternative methods are shown.

Using the column addition method here involves three lots of exchanging. This could provide lots of scope for error. If instead, we consider the number 1,997 and realise that it is only 3 away from 2,000, we could partition the 998 into 3 and 995. We can then combine the 3 with the 1,997 to regroup the numbers into 2,000 + 995 which can be calculated mentally.

Similarly, 96 ÷ 4 could be solved using short division. However if instead, we partition the 96 into 80 and 16, or 40 + 40 + 16 each part can be divided by 4 using our knowledge of times table facts.

This idea of flexible partitioning is not just for children in KS2. Children can use concrete manipulatives to explore how numbers are made up of smaller numbers almost as soon as they begin school. For example, using counters in the part-whole model below, they see that 6 can be made up of 5 and 1, 4 and 2 or 3 and 3.

As they begin to add and subtract across the ten boundary, they can use this idea of flexible partitioning or regrouping to make a whole ten. Consider the calculation 8 + 7. Using the ten frames below, the children see that if they partition the 7 into 2 and 5 they can regroup the numbers to make 10 + 5. They can now see that there is fifteen in total.

Similarly to develop efficient mental strategies for subtraction, it is useful to be able to partition the number which is being taken away in order to cross the tens boundary more easily. For example 32 – 5 can be seen as 32 takeaway 2 to reach 30 then takeaway 3.

This idea of flexible partitioning does not come naturally to most children. It needs to be modelled and practised. Comparison of different methods, through discussions, is essential in order to develop the children’s reasoning and enable them to consider the best approach to use as they meet each calculation.

As teachers, we all want to arm children with the tools to become efficient and confident mathematicians who have a range of strategies at their fingertips and the reasoning ability to help them select which to use when. In order to do this, developing these flexible partitioning strategies right across school is key.

Jane Brown, Maths Specialist at White Rose Maths

Why travelling the UK and meeting teachers from around the world has its benefits!

So far as a White Rose Maths trainer, I’ve had the pleasure of working with 843 delegates across 22 sessions. From Southampton to Newcastle, Liverpool to Ipswich I’ve covered vast areas of England. Some members of the team have worked even further afield! Delegates also regularly fly in from around the world, and this is how we first met Amy How, now one of our Primary Specialists. Our Eventbrite CPD sessions are a melting pot of fantastic ideas from our content together with existing ideas from delegates.

From the moment they arrive people begin to network and talk about maths over a coffee. There is often talk of teaching for mastery, resources and progress. I enjoy hearing people’s reflections on mathematics teaching and often find myself contemplating them when driving home, and later recounting the various anecdotes to the team at White Rose Maths.

CPD Training for Teachers of Maths
Simon Bond, Maths Specialist at White Rose Maths

One of the most powerful aspects of our Eventbrite sessions is that they attract delegates from across multiple key stages. Looking at continuity across the curriculum is a great professional development opportunity. During my career I have benefitted from understanding how concepts can be first introduced to children in EYFS and KS1 and developed in a consistent, coherent manner. These principles can then be developed and synthesised as children progress through KS2, 3, 4 and even KS5.

My favourite example of this is in our Bar Modelling: Deeper Learning full day session. We begin with moving from pictorial to abstract approaches, and rapidly show the progression through from representing the four operations in KS1 to modelling complex problems at KS3. Everyone has the opportunity to see the benefit of incorporating pictorial representations not only in their year group but throughout the mathematics curriculum.

I thoroughly enjoy delivering all our sessions, but far more important than that is that delegates themselves invariably enjoy the sessions. Are they able to take ideas from each session back to their schools and have an impact on the children that they teach? Overwhelmingly, according to their feedback, the answer is yes!

  • 99% agree or strongly agree that the sessions enhance their knowledge and understanding (76% strongly agree)
  • 99% agree or strongly agree that the sessions provide them with practical ideas that can be used in everyday work (84% strongly agree)
  • 100% agree or strongly agree that the delivery of the sessions was engaging and professional (87% strongly agree)

The use of research to inform teaching is so important and drives so much of what we do at White Rose Maths. The sessions strike a fantastic balance between looking at the research and exemplifying it using practical examples and ideas for the classroom. In most cases delegates have the opportunity to try the ideas on the day using concrete resources that we bring with us. One example of this is in our CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) session, where we construct a number in a variety of ways and analyse the merit of using each concrete resource in turn. We then go on to look at flexible partitioning and can reflect on which partitions were best exemplified with each manipulative.

In my experience senior leaders, maths leads, classroom teachers and teaching support staff have all taken a great deal from each of the days. Some are often daunted about disseminating back to staff, but this is supported by the provision of a PDF copy of the slides that you will be sent at the end of the day.

Delegates often keep in touch with White Rose Maths trainers to let them know how ideas from Eventbrite sessions are being implemented in their schools. Having attended a Bar Modelling: Deeper Learning session earlier in the year, a maths lead recently emailed me stating that children had really enjoyed using bar models to solve problems. We regularly get updates from schools via Twitter such as the one below showing strategies in action. 

If you’re interested in booking on to one of our Eventbrite sessions, click here to find out more details on each of the courses we have available and book your place. Our Summer Extravaganza sees a bumper crop of CPD events taking place nationwide. I can’t wait to meet teachers from around the country and have the luxury of taking a whole day out to talk maths!

Simon Bond, Maths Specialist at White Rose Maths