The arrangement we have for our number groups in Year 4 is “flexible”. This means, that often, I will have children in my class for part of a term, or if I am really lucky, a whole term. When the unit changes , so does the group.
For the current unit, my “lower mainstream” group is made up of 10 gorgeous children, who start off in my class either believing that they are “in the dumb” group or that maths is hard for them.
We spend a great deal of our lessons engaged in provocations about thinking, learning, making connections and reflection. The unit comes second. It takes a great deal of time for some of the children to get to know me and for me to get to know them.
J seems rather disengaged from the beginning. If he is upset with a child when he walks in to the class, we have to work on moving along and focussing on maths. But J doesn’t love maths. What he loves is drawing. So I have to find a way to ‘draw’ him. The spark flies in the second week of the term.
I start the lesson sharing this blog post and ask the children what they notice, what they wonder. Josh is mesmerised by this image. He can draw like this and he wants to show me!
I go with the flow and when the drawing is complete, it shows his dinosaurs, holding a banner saying “maths”. We discuss the picture and he tells me why he has created it and what it means. I put it in the wall in my office and I think about it. A lot.
So this week, as the unit draws towards its final classes, the provocation is to look at disconnected images and see if we are able to pose addition and subtraction questions connected to the images. J chooses an image that is colourful and his questions are about the number of windows and the number of people left on the benches after some leave the scene.
The children go off to discuss the strategies that they use to solve addition and subtraction problems , but J begins to draw. He draws animals, with expressions so clear that they tell their own narrative. And while I really don’t want to stop him, I want to know what he knows about the various strategies we have discussed. So I ask him how his image is connected to what we are doing. And he tells me! He creates word problems about the image and then he makes a video to solve the word problems, explaining the strategy he has used to arrive at his solutions.
I think about what J will take away from the unit, and I cannot guarantee that he will be able to use the most effective and efficient methods of adding and subtracting. I do believe, however, that he sees “the point” of maths. That he sees that it is real and that it is a part of he is and what he does.
I hope that J will be in my next number group. Would love to see what he creates for multiplication and division!