We first realised that something special was happening at Boroondara Park Primary School through a parent. Amanda wrote:Am I able to order one set of Poly Plugs. My child is using them at school and wants a set at home. My son is in Grade 2. He ... loves the Poly Plugs - don't think he realises he is learning!!Around the same time staff requested an after school PD session to 'see if they were on the right track'. They were - and are - as these notes taken at the meeting confirm. Excitement about learning and teaching mathematics was evident throughout.
Working Mathematically with Infants Review
Level 1 & 2 Teachers
The school teaches infants (Years K, 1 & 2) in multi-age levels based around Levels 1 and 2 of the Victorian government curriculum document. It is a large school with 11-12 teachers involved in mathematics teaching at these levels. Teachers began work with the WMI resources from Day 1. As a consequence, 5 - 7 year old children were using Poly Plug and calculators within the first week.
From the beginning children kept journals, just as a mathematician would. The date on this one from Alison Warton's Level 1 class is 25th February - barely three weeks from the opening of school!
Digital cameras were another handy tool. They provided stimulus pictures for the journals and plenty of material for a mathematics display wall.
Clearly there is a huge enthusiasm among children for learning with the Poly Plug.No. Whenever I introduce a new threaded activity the response is Wow, something new we can do with them. And they love returning to old favourite activities.
Do you think the shine will wear off?
Emma Chiera, Curriculum Coordinator
Having organised the PD, Emma was unable to attend because she was running a session for teachers of Year 3 & 4 to introduce them to Maths With Attitude, the resource that continues learning to work like a mathematician through to Year 10. A week later she wrote:
I have written some reflections from my own experiences using WMI this year. Ali mentioned you were keen for any additions. I am also keen to be involved in a small group that presents at the MAV conference ... we have lots more stories to share.My initial thought when I began thinking about my experiences of using Working Mathematically with Infants was how simple it was to differentiate each task as they are all open ended and give children so many entry points.
Tasks such as Buttons, Number of the Day and Cross Off have been differentiated to cater for children achieving between 0.5 up to 2.5 in a multi-age classroom of grades 1 and 2. Here are some examples of how Buttons has been differentiated.
Buttons has become a class favourite. The children ask for the 'dancing maths' activity and they can recognise patterns, factors and make connections in ways that I never dreamed. Their ability to check for accuracy by making models or using their calculator has developed so much in such a short period of time.
'Cross Off' has been another favourite and again I have been blown away by what they have shown me. They are demonstrating their understanding of each of the operations in a highly sophisticated way. They are learning from each other and prompting each other to 'check it in another way.' Again this task is so simple to differentiate, simply by changing the values on the number line.
Rory's Pattern Game has been a winner as well. The children loved the physical element (as they have with Buttons) and again I was surprised by their ability to visualise and share their thinking. The recording of number stories to match their patterns has again shown me what they know and it has enabled me to question and extend their thinking in a meaningful way.
I completed Number of the Day just recently and I watched one child include three operations in his number story, check with his calculator and then make the necessary changes. When I asked him to explain his thinking he said:
I know that when you divide by 2 that is just halving, and when you divide by four that is just halving again. If I add 10 and then take away 11 it is just one less than what I started with so it works.I have really enjoyed watching the children approach these tasks as I can clearly see there are so many different ways children can approach a task and solve a problem - so different to what I would have anticipated.
And Amanda ... well she has passed on the information to other parents and there are now several families with Poly Plug at home.