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New maths programme adds up to success for public schools

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A chart showing increased primary student results on a percentage basis in a baseline study following the introduction of a UK-based math programme (Image supplied)

A UK-based maths programme that was piloted at Harrington Sound Primary School is resulting in significantly improved outcomes by Bermuda’s public school students.

The programme was piloted in 2018-19 and fully introduced by the Department of Education the next academic year after the primary school’s Cambridge Checkpoint results jumped from the third lowest out of Bermuda’s 18 primaries to the top.

It is run by Primal Academic Innovations, a company that has created materials, training, school monitoring and assessments as part of the package.

After the pilot, funded by the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, produced such promising results, the department entered into a consultancy agreement with PAI to work with all primary schools, then in September with the middle schools and more recently with the senior schools.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said during his ministry’s Education Connection series streamlined on CITV: “From the results that I have been shown, it has had a tremendous impact on our maths students, especially at the primary level, and we are in the process of implementing this at the middle school level and senior school level to provide math interventions for our children.”

Mr Rabain was joined in the televised Zoom meeting by Llewellyn Simmons, Director of Academics for the Department of Education, Crenstant Williams, maths officer at the Ministry of Education, Adam Unwin-Berrey, math consultant at PAI, Antoinette Hollis, a primary schoolteacher at Harrington Sound Primary and Tamashwar Budhoo, maths teacher and leader at Whitney Institute Middle School.

Mr Unwin-Berrey explained that a baseline assessment was carried out on P1 pupils at the end of the school year and another assessment was carried out at the end of the following year. A chart was produced showing comparative result percentages with the assessment results jumping from just above 20 per cent to more than 60 per cent.

Mr Unwin-Berrey said: “In that trial year, Harrington Sound’s Checkpoint results jumped from the third lowest in Bermuda to the highest and assessments in all years were the highest in Bermuda. It shows how successful the programme is. One way of looking at it is those children in P2 know three times as much of the P2 curriculum than what they knew when they finished the P1 curriculum.”

Dr Simmons said that teachers would also benefit from the programme. “As we have improved some of the student’s performances, we are also improving the quality of teaching and learning. We want our teachers to be maths masters,” he added.

Mr Williams, who was a teacher at Harrington Sound Primary, met Mr Unwin-Berrey who was leading a workshop at Warwick Academy in 2017. Mr Williams said the programme was designed to be fun and engaging.

He said: “Adam showed the audience how to solve simultaneous equations using pictures of a hamburger and fries. I thought, I wish I was taught maths like this at school.

“It is a mind shift. It’s not the traditional way of teaching maths – they use representation. The children are not just told that five times three equals 15, they are challenged to demonstrate how they know how five times three equals 15. Children are more engaged and the teachers develop a more hands-off approach.”

Ms Hollis, who teaches at P2 level, described how the programme uses numicrons, colourful math resources designed to create confidence in learning.

Numicrons are colourful tools used to explain math concepts (Photograph supplied)

“I used them to help build on existing knowledge by introducing abstract concepts in a concrete way,” Ms Hollis explained.

“Numicron shapes are designed to help communicate mathematically – the children illustrate their findings and talk alongside concrete pictorial representations to explain and justify their thinking.

“The bright colours and brick like shapes are more like toys than teaching aids which can help them stay engaged. I use them for a range of concepts including number sense, basic addition and subtraction, and place value.

“I have seen tremendous improvement with all students.”

Dr Budhoo echoed Ms Hollis when it came to teaching at middle school level.

He said: “Why is the maths mastery approach important in teaching mathematics? The answer is simple – it helps students to build self confidence and it creates resilience in learning, which is one of our core values at Whitney.”

Mr Unwin-Berrey added: “Since the programme is tailored to Bermuda, it integrates all system-wide practices. For example, it adapted the curriculum to incorporate standards- based grading assessment.

“Assessments are provided three times a year to establish what pupils are retaining and to establish where they need further support.”

The programme comes with online tools including Method Math which provides hundreds of questions and tasks for students.

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said in 2019 that mathematics in Bermuda’s public education system was an area that required “dedicated attention and intervention”.

The average score by public primary school pupils in maths in 2018-19 was the worst in eight years.

The full Education Connection programme is available here.

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Published May 20, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated May 20, 2022 at 7:56 am)

New maths programme adds up to success for public schools

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