# This week’s message (Friday 28 January 2022)

Friday 28 January 2022

It’s been a tough week! In ten of the twelve classes at Scholes (Elmet) Primary, there have been positive cases of Covid. At Moortown Primary, one third of staff have been absent (though not all with Covid). St James’ CE Primary has similar problems, though thankfully not 25% Covid amongst pupils as is the case with another Wetherby school. With Covid cases still so high in our schools, please do stay vigilant to symptoms and get them tested if they’re not feeling quite right.

This week’s message comes from Mrs Allaway, who leads on Maths across Sphere Federation…

This year, Sphere schools are taking part in a new national programme for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2: ‘Mastering Number’. The programme aims to secure firm foundations in the development of good number sense for all children. The aim over time is that everyone leaves Key Stage 1 with fluency in calculation and a confidence and flexibility with number.

Why is fluency with number facts so important?

We want all children to develop fluency with number facts because we know this makes a huge difference to their progress in maths. For children who find maths difficult, it’s often the case that their only strategy is to count. They don’t see the relationships or make the connections that make maths easier. For example, if five and two is seven, seven minus two must be five – that’s the relationship within the maths.

An over-reliance on counting not only makes maths more difficult, it also inhibits flexibility, thinking and the development of problem-solving strategies. It doesn’t just affect calculating, it affects maths much more widely. We need children to have stopped counting by the time they move into Key Stage 2.

What is number sense?

Alongside fluency in number facts, we want our children to develop ‘number sense’: a flexibility with number where they reason; they see relationships; they see mathematical structures; and they see such things as if six and three is nine, then nine minus three is equal to six. These relationships won’t change in Key Stage 2 and beyond, the numbers just become bigger and more complex.

We want to support all children to think mathematically, make connections and see relationships because we know these are the characteristics that make maths learning successful.

Mastering Number sessions

In our short focused sessions for children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, we give children opportunities to think deeply about mathematical relationships and time to practise and really embed fluency with number facts. These 10 minute sessions are in addition to our main daily maths lesson.

In some sessions, we focus on deepening children’s understand of the composition of number: inside numbers there are other numbers. For example, inside eight there’s five and three, there’s six and two. Knowing that inside numbers are other numbers enables children to develop fluency skills.

We’re also developing skills in subitising. This is the ability to look at a small number of objects (often a maximum of about five) and instantly recognise how many there are without needing to count them one by one. This plays a key role in helping children see how numbers are made up, avoiding an over-reliance on counting.

One of the key resources children use in Mastering Number sessions is a rekenrek – a type of abacus or number rack.  It supports children to feel and visualise numbers as well as noticing how numbers relate to each other. Children begin to build up strong visual images by first doing, seeing and noticing the maths.

How can I help at home?

Regularly accessing NumBots will support children to practise and really embed and develop crucial number facts. If you need help accessing this, please contact your child’s class teacher.

Children in Key Stage 2 who struggle with Maths could use NumBots too – ask your child’s teacher. (And don’t forget the importance of knowing times tables – including division facts. You don’t need to use Times Tables Rock Stars, but it’s one way to practise at home.)

For those of you with a child in Early Years and Key Stage 1, don’t forget there’s a Zoom session about our updated provision for learning phonics and practising early reading skills: 6pm on Monday 31 January. Contact us for the Zoom details in case you missed them.

Have a good weekend.