Getting the numbers
By introducing an inclusive and interactive maths policy at her school, Erin Dunn has been able to reinvigorate maths teaching and learning and, as a result, is improving outcomes at every level.
Having had a less-than-perfect maths education when she was at
school, Erin Dunn was determined to provide a more positive maths
learning experience for her students in her new role as maths leader at
the west campus of Spring Parks Primary School.
Erin was also well aware of the research that shows how just one
negative experience when learning maths can have long term detrimental
effects on a child’s confidence and capacity to learn in this area.
And although willing and able to take on all her new
responsibilities, when Erin’s principal suggested that she attend the
Leading Numeracy course at Bastow, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I was only in my second year of teaching, and when you are
surrounded by people who have 15 or 20 years’ experience, being a leader
can be a bit daunting,” says Erin.
“I was also aware that I was going to need the confidence to show
that I knew what I was talking about and also how to approach things if I
didn’t - this was a completely new area for me.”
Erin’s first task in the Bastow course was to review her school’s
current numeracy policy. This initially seemed to be straightforward
process, but after some investigation, it actually turned out to be the
first step to transforming maths’ teaching and learning at her school.
“After discovering that we didn’t really have a formal policy, I not
only had to create one, but I also had to propose how to implement it,”
Directly as a result of Erin’s new knowledge - including vital
understanding of the stages of children’s numeracy development - and
recommendations, the whole-school maths’ lesson structure was changed.
“We implemented a much more flexible and differentiated way to
teach,” explains Erin. “The approach is about knowing your students,
targeting their needs and understanding that they can change.”
Assisting Erin throughout this process were the Bastow facilitators
and other participants. Learning about other teachers’ first-hand
experiences with different numeracy assessment policies and teaching
practices was particularly helpful.
“When someone can actually tell
you ‘this works’ or ‘this doesn’t’, that’s really valuable,” says Erin.
“And because we all presented our projects to the group, we had the
opportunity to hear from so many different people - from rural schools
with less than 100 kids to those from huge secondary schools with five
One of the most successful elements of the new program at Erin’s
school is encouraging everyone - teachers, high achieving students and
those at lower levels - to become more involved in maths.
“We are running challenges with prizes and more interactive
activities in the classroom and everyone is completely re-engaged and
re-energised,” says Erin. “I’ve heard students who were previously
struggling with maths actually saying ‘I love maths’ and ‘I want to do
more maths’ - it’s awesome!” says Erin.
Erin is also convinced that this new attitude to maths will have an
effect on learning in other areas and is “really looking forward” to
seeing this in the results down the track.