Online learning: the Cambridge Maths Hub’s response

By Cordelia Myers (April 2020)

In my last blog post I wrote about the sorts of mathematics parents and children might be able to do together and the ways we might be able to use different types of tasks to build mathematical thinking skills and reasoning.  I finished by saying:

I’m not brave enough to suggest we abandon our curriculum but could we intersperse it with activities such as these? A week of videos and a week of alternative activities away from the screen. If it needs to be monitored perhaps a photo would do?

At the Cambridge Maths Hub we have been pondering our own response to this challenge and how we might be able to help.

We have set up a working group to write and collect possible activities. We will collate them in a form that is straightforward to disseminate to parents and students. You may want to share particular activities with parents or to direct them to the relevant pages on our website. For secondary students, it may be appropriate for teachers to incorporate some of these tasks into the work that is being set.

It is early days in this project, but we hope it will grow into a useful resource.  (See our current progress here.) If you would like to recommend materials for inclusion (using the format from our pages), then please do email them to mark@cambridgemathshub.org

Some further reading:

Mark Dawes’ blog summarising how local secondary school departments are setting work.

A blog by an English HoD considering whether we should be introducing new content at this time, along with a call to the DfE to provide us with some guidance: are year 10 going to be expected to cover the whole curriculum?

Andy Hargreave’s very helpful article in the TES

Here is an example of a collaborative maths activity designed by our LA. More activities are available here.

Rosendale Research school has produced an interesting article sharing their key principles for online learning. The first three are:

  • To promote positive mental health and well-being in children and families
  • To continue to develop children’s thinking and reasoning skills
  • To provide opportunities for children to revisit and consolidate knowledge already taught to achieve fluency

Some responses from readers of the previous blog

From a Head of Maths:

Our department is going to see how this works. We are very concerned about widening the disadvantage gap. Racing through the curriculum will do just that and we are thinking of having one lesson of curriculum followed by an enrichment lesson alongside space for support. This will be available for those who struggled in the previous lesson. We’re not sure what that will look like yet but maybe 1-1 tuition via Microsoft Teams.

From a secondary maths teacher:

The majority of ITT courses take a year to complete. They have an immense amount of rigour built in. We cannot expect parents to become teachers overnight. We all failed in the classroom when we started and still stumble now. Parents are not subject experts and some of the content is beyond what many/most parents are confident with. Providing something which supports families and which has the potential to change the nation’s view of maths is an incredible opportunity. One that we should rise to. I would certainly rather be doing that than setting the work I am currently setting and chasing the missing work that I am currently chasing. I would go further, I think, and say that we should scrap the curriculum. By sticking to our curriculum we may do great damage (as you suggest). We will certainly widen the disadvantage gap.

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