Maths at HPS


Pattern sniffing

Maths is all about patterns - finding the pattern and noticing the similarities and differences.  As toddlers, we find and create opportunities to unwittingly develop our natural 'mathematical powers' (Mason, 1998), which come about through touching and feeling, observing, exploring and classifying. This uninhibited curiosity allows children to notice 'maths' in daily life without ever giving it a name!  Soon after children start school, they are introduced to the formality of maths (procedures and memorisation), which has been responsible for leaving many children feeling scared and confused by the subject.

"... [T]hey have been sent on the wrong path, from an early age, of trying to memorise methods..." (Boaler, 2015)

Maths has the potential to be a very abstract subject. For this reason, it is essential that maths is taught in creative ways to support understanding.  At HPS, we support mathematical understanding through concrete, visual and abstract representations during our lessons. The resources we tend to use the most are as follows, but don't be surprised if a Mars Bar, banana or a slice of bread, cut up into 100 pieces, ends up being used to support thinking in the classroom.

Using actual resources

Using images

Imagining/ Expressing

Counting sticks
Cuisenaire rods
Base-Ten apparatus
Place value counters

Number lines
Bar models
Place value grids
Ten frames
Hundred squares
'Cherry trees'


At this school, we teach for mastery (depth of understanding), so that all children have the opportunities to 'master' the subject - improve their skills, build their confidence and develop their understanding. Contrary to popular opinion, 'mastery' isn't a special type of curriculum: it's a way of teaching maths that encourages children to make connections across the subject matter in ways that develop thinking. For this reason, maths becomes all about exploration and discovery - opportunities to develop work with fluently with number, reason mathematically ('prove it/ explain your thinking') and apply this to problem solving questions.

Workshops for parents
In February 2017, we ran a workshop for parents, to explain the way in which we are now teaching maths at HPS, involving plenty of opportunities to explore the resources and use these to solve maths problems! Please let us know if you would like us to deliver this workshop again.

How can parents support their children with maths, at home?

1. Encourage your child to play maths puzzles and games - anything with dice will work!  
e.g Snakes and ladders, Yahtzee, Monopoly
2. Find ways to use all aspects of measurement (time, mass, distance, capacity)
e.g. measuring ingredients for cooking, duration of tv programs/ movies, bus/train timetables, weighing produce at the supermarket
3. Encourage your child to use the methods that they are learning at school (e.g. bar models, the cherry-tree, fraction bars)
- these methods enable children to develop a deeper understanding of maths, which will eventually support the more abstract, rules-based approach that they will be introduced to at secondary school
4. Never associate maths with speed - it has the potential to create anxiety
e.g Don't use timed tests, speed drills or flashcards to test automatic recall
5. Rather than focus on a wrong answer, try focusing on the logic involved in the calculation.
6. Encourage number sense - the size of numbers and how they can be flexibily separated and recombined to make calculations more user-friendly
e.g. When working out 38 + 42, add to 38 to make 40 + take two away from 42 to make 40 
e.g. If I don't know 6 x 4, I know 3 x 4, so I can do that, then double it
6. Never share the idea that you were bad at maths at school!
We believe that everyone has the potential to be good at maths, through hard work and believing in themselves  With rich learning opportunities in the classroom, we support all children to become confident and capable mathematicians.

With special thanks to Professor Jo Boaler, Stanford University