At the start of the school year: part 1

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This post is part of our ‘At the start of the school year’ series. The start of the new school year is just around the corner, so we asked our community of authors, trainers, and teachers to share their experiences.

“At the start of the school year, I think about the layout of my new classroom”

Before the start of term, I think about how maths lessons are going to work in my new classroom. I can teach lessons using the Singapore approach but I need the learning environment to work for me or every day will be a struggle.

Children need to be in mixed groups. So I ask myself, how can I seat all the children so they can see the whiteboard or Smartboard, collaborate with each other, and move easily around the class to reach resources?

Partner and groupings should be flexible so there should be boys and girls on each group of tables. I want them to be able to walk around, share ideas with each other rather than sit in rows in a designated seat.

The layout and atmosphere of the room should feel easy for the children and allow learning to happen without any major upheaval. Attention spans will be maintained! Gathering the whole class together facilitates chat so there also has to be a ‘carpet area’ where this can happen.

As maths is important, it needs to be visible in the classroom. A maths learning wall can record ideas and discoveries and grow throughout the year.

I always get muddled between Holly, Lulu, Charles, and the rest of the Maths — No Problem! gang, so they’re also displayed on the classroom wall (preferably in my eye-line). If I get it right, the reminder will last me all the way through to July.

Roger Hitchin, Head of Singapore Maths at Wellington Prep School, Somerset.

See how other teachers have created a flexible learning environment and made maths visible in their classrooms

If she wasn’t a teacher, Katie would definitely be an interior designer. Top marks!




Take a look at this colourful carpet area from Mr B.




Mrs T brings maths to life by putting the MNP characters up on a working wall.

“At the start of the school year, I make sure that my classroom resources are in place”

Part of an effective mathematics classroom is having manipulatives organised and accessible. While many of my own classroom’s resources are usually in place, I also make sure that this is true across the school.

I’m lucky enough to only teach maths so my maths resources don’t have to compete with resources for other subjects. In my classroom, it’s all about visualising mathematics. Part of this is displaying real examples of excellence from children, so to start, I’m going to keep a couple of journal samples from the previous year.

Unlike my design from two years ago, I don’t feel that last year’s bar modelling display has been effective. Looking back, I realise that I didn’t refer to it much in teaching and the children didn’t use it regularly to support their learning. I’m all about useful displays so I try to avoid anything that becomes wallpaper!

Another thing I plan to have in place is a series of assemblies that build greater links with industry. Introducing children to different STEM career options is not only inspirational, it helps them to see that the maths that they are learning now will still be important when they grow up. First on my list is a personal connection: my best man is an aerospace engineer!

Joe Jackson-Taylor, primary maths mastery specialist and specialist lead in education for mathematics.

Have a look at how other teachers encourage journaling and maths working walls

This Year 2 teacher’s maths working wall is all set up to teach place value.




Evaluative journaling with Year 3 using concrete materials to reinforce understanding in Mrs McG’s classroom.




Mr B’s learners starting their day the mathematician way!

“At the start of the school year, I like to spend some time with my new class looking at maths journals”

Journals are a huge part of our learning journey in every lesson and I think it’s important to revisit them and lay out expectations with the children at the start of the year.

First, we will look at expectations in terms of presentation and the non-negotiables: date, lesson number, a title for every lesson of ‘How does a mathematician…’, children writing in full sentences, and tidy presentation. We will talk about experimentation and what this will look like in a journal (the messy pages!).

Then I plan to take some time to experiment with the four styles of journals which we use in school: investigative, descriptive, creative and evaluative.

We will spend some time looking at each style. Initially, I will provide a scaffold for the children to follow and then gradually remove this to allow them to work independently. Where possible, we’ll spend a week looking at each journal type at the beginning of the year to reinforce the ideology and potential learning.

At this point, children will be encouraged to take all tasks to greater depth. We’ll provide extra tasks for the children, for example, can you write a letter to our friend to explain what you have learned today? Can you create a similar problem to the in-focus task?

Lastly, I like to celebrate the brilliant work in journals. Children’s journal work will be shared with other classes, sent home for parents to see and on display in class during the autumn term. Children are then able to feel confident in their journals and able to work independently.

Jane Hopwood, Year 5 teacher at Selby Community Primary School.

is an author, maths tutor and the Blog’s Commissioning Editor.
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