An inclusive approach to maths teaching

|4 min read

Editor’s Note:

This is an updated version of a blog post originally published on June 29, 2019

Different thinking styles, high expectations, and support for every learner in a safe environment. This isn’t a dream, it’s what inclusive teaching in the maths classroom looks like.

Meeting the individual needs of 30 pupils in a class is quite a challenge. Luckily, inclusive teaching doesn’t mean having 30 levels of differentiation in every lesson. It’s something every educator can achieve.

Set an inclusive maths policy

Making your maths policy inclusive is a must. Inclusive teaching in the maths classroom considers:

  • Language factors
  • Speed and pace
  • Multi-sensory and developmental work
  • Consistency of approach
  • Safe learning and risk
  • Different thinking styles
  • Marking, feedback, feedforward, and praise
  • Expectations of pupil involvement and interactions
  • How the content needs to be structured for revisions, reviews, and recaps
  • Empathetic teaching

The National Numeracy Strategy might seem like a long time ago, but this resource: Inclusive teaching in mathematics is still useful.

Use nine key elements of an inclusive lesson

Special Educational Needs (SEN) specialist Natalie Packer defines nine key elements of an inclusive lesson. The elements are jigsaw pieces which combine to strengthen teaching. If one of the pieces is missing, then high-quality provision is likely to be incomplete.

The elements of an inclusive lesson are:

  1. High expectations
  2. Developing relationships and knowing pupils well
  3. Inclusive learning environment
  4. Age, interest, and ability appropriate curriculum
  5. Quality feedback
  6. Engagement through hands-on approach
  7. Questioning and modelling for challenge
  8. Scaffolding learning
  9. Developing independence

These elements are fundamental to inclusive teaching in the maths classroom, supporting not just pupils with SEN but all pupils.

Weaving together the nine elements is essential. The first four are the foundations that a lesson is built on. The last piece completes the inclusive picture.

The jigsaw model is a useful model for lesson planning. For example, you can differentiate with real intent when you know your pupils well.

Other methods to consider are:

  • Making available resource packs of additional information
  • Frequently asking open questions
  • Challenging pupils’ assumptions
  • Increasing the use of teaching assistants
  • Encouraging pupils to self-pace
  • Setting tasks with no single correct answer
  • Using role play
  • Setting tasks with increased demand
  • Removing unnecessary repetition
  • Promoting self-marking or self-reflection of work by pupils

Know your pupils to determine scaffolding

The success of any inclusive lesson boils down to knowing your pupils in your classroom. It allows you to assess their readiness levels and anticipate learning barriers. Knowing their back-stories will help to determine what scaffolds your pupils need. This helps you to select methods that balance support with challenge.

Keep in mind that all children are ‘differently able’. Knowing their ‘diffabilities’ helps to plan for success.

Regularly evaluate the learning profiles and needs of individual children. Negotiate any decisions with the children themselves and their parents.

Deliver whole class inclusion and whole class teaching

It might be tempting to group children into ability groups, but this can cause more harm than good. Those in the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ group have very different expectations. For some pupils, this will leave them stuck at a level of learning they have the potential to advance from.

Inclusive teaching is at the heart of a whole class mastery approach. The advantages of whole class teaching lets pupils enjoy learning without labels. Whole class inclusion centres on the idea that children will learn from each other and lets teachers spend more time interacting with everyone.

When inclusive teaching in the maths classroom takes place then pupils will:

  • Be more involved, absorbed and keen to learn
  • Enjoy their maths, have a growth mindset and unafraid to make mistakes
  • Be more flexible and learn to adapt
  • Expect obstacles and challenge
  • Understand where they are at, and what they need to do next
  • Be hardy and independent
  • Recognise progress
  • Develop skills, knowledge, and understanding incrementally

Inclusive maths lessons give every child the chance to take part in lessons and feel valued. It’s a crucial responsibility to ensure everyone has fair access to the curriculum.

Every primary teacher is capable of being a diversity, equality, and inclusion champion, by implementing inclusive teaching in the maths classroom.

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Packer, N (2016) The Teachers Guide to SEN