Mathematics teaching at St Christopher’s aims to develop mathematical curiosity and confidence for every child.
At all levels, emphasis is placed on fluency in key facts and procedures, clear understanding, and the application of knowledge through reasoning, problem solving and investigation. Depth of understanding is achieved through use of the Singapore Maths philosophy, introducing new concepts using Bruner’s ‘concrete, pictorial, abstract’ approach. As such, teaching utilises a range of enticing resources to help children to develop a solid understanding of the strategies taught.
Progression in problem-solving skills is cumulative throughout the school, beginning with pattern spotting and reasoning logically in Reception and building to conjecture, generalising and proof work in years 5 and 6. Mental arithmetic skills are taught discreetly at all levels to aid fluency and mental dexterity. Challenge forms a key element of all lessons and a growth mindset is modelled to build resilience. Work is catered to each individual child to ensure optimum progress. In years 5 and 6, the girls are taught by the Head of Maths, allowing for a consistent approach in the lead up to 11+ exams. Some lessons at this age group are taught in ability sets in order to use the correct approach for each individual and to prepare the girls for senior school.
Mathematical skills are highlighted across the curriculum to help reinforce links with the world around us. For example, using scale when map reading in geography, applying knowledge of angles when programming in computing or looking at symmetry in art. This culminates in one of our cross-curricular highlights of the year: STEAM week. This week of exciting activities celebrates the links between science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Some of last year’s activities included Lego workshops, exploring Möbius strips and designing and building insect hotels.
Mathematics at home
Mathematical play and experimentation form a key part of learning. Each class has a ‘Maths Monkey’ to help the children to understand that mathematics is all around us and that mathematical thinking does not primarily occur when using workbooks. Families are provided with guidance to explore these elements further at home for example through the use of cooking, construction materials such as Lego and Knex, puzzles such as Sudoku and KenKen, and card and board games such as Briscola and Settlers of Catan. Girls have an opportunity to take ‘Maths Monkey’ home over the weekend and then record in a diary the mathematical activities that they have taken part in.
Secondary education and beyond
At St Christopher’s, we pride ourselves on a curriculum that is creative and fosters intellectual curiosity, whilst simultaneously providing fluency and rigour in key skills. As such, the mathematics curriculum discreetly yet thoroughly prepares girls to sit for a full range of 11+ entrance examinations, eliminating any need to ‘teach to the test’. In the Autumn term of year 6, a more structured programme of mock tests and exposure to examination style questions ensure that the girls feel confident and are amply prepared.
Following the examination period, the girls consolidate key mathematical skills and extend their knowledge across the main strands in order to provide the best possible preparation for secondary school. This takes place through a variety of complex and challenging problem-solving tasks: some solutions will be elegant, some fiendish, others will require proof by contradiction and many will stretch the girls’ lateral thinking skills. Independent study skills and collaborative learning are encouraged through child-initiated project work. Recent projects have included ‘Codes and ciphers’, incorporating a trip to Bletchley Park, ‘Gnome homes’, bringing together numerical, 2D and 3D representations of sequences, and ‘Beyond Sudoku’, covering the latest developments in Japanese puzzles.