Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Raising the Awareness and Use of Numeracy Across the Curriculum

I mentioned in my #nurture1314 review post that I would write a blog post about the progress I had made with Numeracy Across the Curriculum. I have been focusing on raising the awareness, and use, of numeracy across the curriculum in my 'Aspiring Middle Leaders' course that I completed this year. Below are the details of what I have done to date and what I hope to continue with further from September.

My school have a series of 'Working Parties' that have been set up by certain members of staff to focus on key areas across our school that have been identified as needing developing. I volunteered to lead the 'Numeracy Working Party' and was soon given names of the 4 colleagues that would join me (each member of staff was encouraged to sign up to a working party as part of our performance management stuff). I set up an initial meeting, which unfortunately some colleagues were unable to attend, to discuss the ways in which we were going to develop numeracy at our school. Having previously been asked to run the ITT/NQT Numeracy session I knew that we had little in place and that we'd have to start with a few ideas and develop things on a larger scale at a later date. To read my post on the session I delivered to my school's new members of staff click here (it is, to date, my most popular blog post).

The first thing we did was to create a new 'Numeracy Across the Curriculum Logo'. Our school, since the start of the year have been using logos for SMSC and we felt that the numeracy logo would fit in well with this existing project. The SMSC logos are there for staff to add to their teaching resources when certain aspects of SMSC come up in their lessons. We also have posters detailing what each of the 4 logos mean and so staff refer to the posters and logos in their lessons when spiritual, moral, social and cultural aspects are involved. Here are our school's SMSC logos...

Our aim was that the numeracy logo would be used in the same way as the SMSC logos; staff would add the logo to their lesson resources when numeracy was being taught in their subject.

Here's the numeracy logo...

As you can see the logo is very similar to the SMSC logos. The idea was that they look like the logos for the 'app's you get on smartphones etc. In addition to the logo we created a poster to be put up in class too, alongside the SMSC posters, or wherever teachers had space (mine's on my whiteboard).

Here's what the posters look like...

The logo is a big part of the poster and the idea is that we were trying to get teachers to get their students to think about, when they were using their numeracy skills, where they may be applied to their other subjects and outside of school.
I used  the logo in my Mathematics lessons as well and would often ask (with one class in particular who I 'trialed' the use of the logo with) when could you use the skills you are learning in this lesson in one of your other subjects, much like it says on the posters. This lent itself to lots of good discussions as to when their skills could be used elsewhere and links I hadn't initially thought of for some topics. The reason for doing this was that we discussed as a working party the problem that students do not always see their skills in one subject being transferable to another and that as soon as they've left one classroom they go to the next assuming they'll be told, there, everything they need to know - not realising they already have learnt certain skills they can use to help them. Our aim with the logo and the posters was not only to raise awareness, but to get students to start using their skills across their subjects and start thinking about where their learning could help them elsewhere - and not just in their Mathematics examinations!

Below is an example of one of my working party colleagues lesson slides they used with their French class...

As you can see they've added the logo to the slide and asked the class what it meant and highlighted that they were about to use their numeracy skills.

This was the lesson after she had introduced the logo to them and on asking them what the logo meant a few students responded with 'we're about to use numbers' or 'it's when we need to use our number skills'.

However, the logo hasn't, to date, been used as much as we'd hoped as its use has been limited to the 4 or 5 of us in the working party. What I'm hoping to do is speak to the heads of faculty in September to start rolling it out to the rest of staff to use where necessary. There are, however, posters up in all the Mathematics classrooms.

In addition to the logo and the posters we decided, in subsequent meetings, that we could also utilise the time we have in tutor periods each week to develop the use of numeracy. So, using the fantastic resources that Emily Hughes aka @ilovemathsgames creates, I started sending round - to Year 9 (my form team) and subsequently Y10 (the HoY10 is in the numeracy working party) numeracy puzzle(s) of the week. These puzzles were to be done in form time, when the tutor could fit them in, and students rewarded for their successful completion of them.

Here's some of the e-mails I've sent to the tutor teams explaining how to use them...

 One of the 1st e-mails I sent to my form team (Y9). Where necessary I pointed out links to the answers to puzzles or gave a bit more information that some students may need to solve the puzzle(s). Originally, I got the tutors to e-mail me names of those students who had answered them correctly, so that I could reward them via SIMS or with small 'prizes' of confectionery.
This is one of the more recent e-mails (Y10 now included too). Tutors are now rewarding students themselves as it's better for students to see an immediate reward for their success, rather than have someone behind the scenes 'apparently' giving them reward points on SIMS that they may not see or be aware of.
This also alleviated some of the work I was doing!

Here's an example of what the Numeracy Puzzle(s) of the Week look like...
you can see all of @ilovemathsgames puzzle(s) here-

I have added the logo to the home slide (and 'Numeracy Puzzle(s) of the Week') as to start with students, when surveyed, still did not realise they were doing 'numeracy' when they were doing these puzzles. Now, there's no mistaking that that's what they're doing!

For the puzzle(s) themselves, check out Emily (@ilovemathsgames)'s blog above! Thanks once again, Emily.

Having already had our year team briefing about next year, I can report that numeracy will now be included once a fortnight into the year team schedule and my HoY is keen for me to continue sending round the puzzles. I am hoping that he can convince the other year teams to do similarly!

As one of the numeracy working party suggested, it would be best if we could try and get the puzzles for each year group to match up, as far as possible, with the skills they'd need for their subjects in that particular fortnight. This is our 'end goal', if you like, with the puzzle(s) of the week and will look to get this in place at some point next year.

That's what I/we've been up to this year to try and develop the use of numeracy and raise the awareness of it. There is plenty I still want to develop and look into too. Some of the other ideas I have are:

 - assigning members of the Mathematics department to each other department, so they have a point of contact when needing to get advice on teaching numeracy in their subjects
 - trying, as much as possible, to match up Schemes of Work across the curriculum. We have a problem whereby certain subjects need students to be able to do certain skills, which they are not taught in Mathematics until later in the school year (according to the schemes of work).
- having a bank/website of resources for staff to use/get ideas from when trying to build in numeracy activities into their lessons. I have created a few starter videos for my teacher of French colleague in the working party to use with her Y7 class. The video involves me giving the class a short starter task based on what the students would need to use in that lesson. The teacher just needs to play the video and then discuss the answers and later use of the skills in their lesson. This way it is like the students' Mathematics teacher is 'popping up' in their other subjects to give them a bit of a task/help - I like this concept and would love the rest of the Mathematics department to do similar videos for other subjects to use - perhaps with their 'link' department, as above.

There's so much to be done/that could be done. This is all having to be done in an unofficial capacity, but I do feel there is a strong need for this to be done and so will continue to do as much as I can when time allows. The basics are there to go from and it's a case of trying to get the above ideas/activities spread out across the rest of our school.

I hope, if you're in charge of numeracy at your school, that you've found the above post worthwhile reading? It'd be great to hear how other schools are approaching numeracy (if at all) and where you are in your process(es). Tweet me @mrprcollins or comment below.


  1. Raising the profile of numeracy is important, especially across the whole school. Thank you Paul for writing about your recent experiences and methods. I particularly like the video idea and can see this going down well, especially for non-maths teachers who may not be confident with particular skills. How these teachers react can have a lot of influence over the students ("I'm not good at maths" or "I'm interested to learn about this too").

    We've just started having 15 minutes everyday geared towards literacy or numeracy for Years 7,8 and 9. It alternates each week between the two and addresses the main issues that the heads of department have discussed with others (a common theme for the week, eg. punctuation, times tables). Resources are given to teachers in advance and it is expected that all teachers can deliver the sessions (if they're not sure, support is available).

    The Head of English had (blank) badges for students as part of the punctuation week. Students wrote down what they were confident in explaining to others (and I even recorded some audio interviews during the week). I'm sure it can be adapted to elements in numeracy too.

    I also agree with you in that it is quite a challenge trying to align schemes of work between different departments (especially when joint-time is in short supply). I'm sure it would free up quite a few hours of teaching time if they were co-ordinated well.

  2. Thalia Alexander7 August 2014 at 14:34

    Hi Paul! great blog! I sourced a logo too which I use on our resouces! I have collaborated, created and shared Maths Across the Curriculum resouces on a Pinterest board, with links to download files, stored on google drive