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How to make up for lost time in the maths mastery classroom

Do you feel like you’ve lost precious teaching time as your learners struggle to adapt to school at home? Make up for lost time in the new school year with this essential advice from Dr Yeap Ban Har.

In every school year level, the number of Maths — No Problem! lessons is less than the number of days available for teaching. This is especially true in Year 1 and Year 2, because we know that in those years, children have more issues and need for support. The ability level might be a very, very wide range.

So for that reason, England’s national curriculum has fewer topics in Year 1, as you would expect. The number of lessons in Year 1 is a lot less than the number of days available for teaching so that you might be able to spend three days on two lessons, instead of one lesson a day.

To put it simply, there are buffer days.

But of course, it’s not that simple. To be successful, you’ll need to plan content carefully and deliberately — making sure you skip the right lessons without sacrificing teaching quality.

1. Avoid skipping chapters

Let me use an example from Year 2. If you’re leaving out lessons, my first suggestion is not to leave out entire chapters.

Let us use the example of subtraction.

The first lesson is 28 − 3.

The second lesson is 40 − 10.

The lesson after that is 36 − 20.

Do you see the progression? Every lesson is different. The first day’s lesson is really just taking away the ones, it’s actually a Year 1 lesson: counting back.

The second day’s lesson focuses on the 10, and only the tens. The third day’s lesson looks at taking away the tens, but there’s a distractor of a ‘one’s’.

2. Choose which lessons to skip

So, do you notice there are some lessons you can skip if you don’t have time? You probably would take out lessons that you know, “Oh, if I miss this, the other lesson will compensate for it”.

For example, if I have left out 40 – 10 in this lesson, but I still teach 36 – 20, my students are not missing out because in doing 36 take away 20, I am still covering three tens, take away two tens, which was in the lesson before.

In designing a lesson for younger learners, we try to make the gaps between lessons very, very small for Year 1 and Year 2. But if you are running out of time, you can sacrifice some of these. Using your judgement, choose easier lessons where the mathematical concept will be dealt with in a future lesson anyway.

3. Collaborate with colleagues

Sit down as a team (if you have a team teaching the same year level) and decide, “We are running out of time, so for that chapter, which are the ones we might want to leave out?”

I don’t think there’s a blanket answer to that decision, it varies depending on the type of students you have.

England’s national curriculum is consistent with international research: children are better off if they get a lot of inputs on number topics.

For that reason, the curriculum is pretty heavy on number topics. And hence you notice in the book, a lot of number topics, so that’s consistent with findings on children’s learning.

Maths — No Problem! Textbook 1B tends to have very few number topics and therefore include chapters that are less critical. It’s mostly application of measurements or graphs.

In these cases, I would still not recommend that you sacrifice the entire chapter, but for certain chapters like measurement, you kind of know that. If I don’t do every single lesson it’s quite alright. But you still give them a flavor of that chapter so that they have some sense of what measurement is.

Measurement of length for example. I may not do every single lesson because I know in the later lessons they might be using, adding in measurement. So adding has been dealt with, if I give up adding, they’re not missing anything.