Girls and Maths Tom Garner
Aims of Session: • To help you identify girls who will potentially underachieve from your data; • To understand the key issues affecting the progress of these girls; • To outline an overview of possible proactive intervention strategies; • To investigate girl friendly teaching strategies and approaches; • To provide a range of resources, activities and ideas to take back and use in school.
Background: • Involvement in a Local Authority working party in 2008-10; • Action Research project in School; • Dissemination of research findings to Head Teachers in 2011; • Primary Maths Specialist Teacher training – 2008-2010; • Masters Degree – Girls and Maths focus for dissertation – 2010 – 2012; • Leading intervention programmes – 2011-12; • Overseeing intervention programmes – 2012 to date.
Background: The data In 2007-2008 the issue of girls underachieving in Maths became an issue for National Strategies. So, what did they do about this?
Background: The data There was a serious lack of research into this issue. Whilst there has been more research since then…
Table 2: Percentage of pupils achieving level 4 or above and level 5 or above in key stage 2 tests and teacher assessments by gender Percentage of pupils at level 4 or above (Test) Mathematics Boys 2007 78 2008 79 2009 79 20106 79 20117 80 20127 84 2013 85 Girls 2007 76 2008 78 2009 78 20106 79 20117 80 20127 84 2013 85 Source: gov.uk statistics website
Table 2: Percentage of pupils achieving level 4 or above and level 5 or above in key stage 2 tests and teacher assessments by gender Percentage of pupils at level 5 or above (Test) Mathematics Boys 2007 35 2008 35 2009 37 20106 36 20117 37 20127 42 2013 43 Girls 2007 30 2008 28 2009 32 20106 32 20117 33 20127 36 2013 39 Source: gov.uk statistics website
Why is this important? Focus on more than expected progress – i.e. 3 levels (from KS1 KS2) – your 2As to 5. Ofsted’s focus on challenging the more able. The new focus on ‘secure level 4s’.
Children achieving a level 2A, 3C or above at the end of Key Stage 1 should be achieving level 5 at the end of Key Stage 2. Boys are making this progress, girls are not. Nationally in 2013 there was a 4% difference between boys and girls achieving level 5. This gap had varied from between 4% – 6% over the last 7 years, but the gap has not narrowed.
Which children? Girls 2A in Maths at the end of KS1.
Your Data Activity 1 Use your tracking data to identify these children in your class/school.
Which children? What about the girls who achieved a 3C? Issues: How well is your data at the end of KS1 quality assured/moderated by your SLT? Are the 3Cs secure level 3s or girls who are really 2A? Should 3C girls be included or not?
Tracking These girls need to be tracked carefully throughout Key Stage 2. You should expect no less than one whole level of progress by the end of year 4. 3C girls should be monitored and, if no progress has been made by the end of year 3, intervention should be put in place.
Activity 2 Read through the 14 comments attributed to boys and girls’ attitudes to / feelings about maths. Decide which fit your impressions of boys and which are more suited to girls (7 each). Which comments will have the greatest bearing on girls who feel that they are not achieving?
Boys • Are less likely to keep using time -consuming strategies for calculations, and will try alternatives for bigger numbers • Will quickly try out a method soon after it has first been demonstrated • Are less worried about rules or understanding – just want to get the correct answer • Will ‘have a go’ without worrying about presentation, consequences and results • Aim to reach the end as quickly as possible even if they have not answered everything on the way. • Will use a new strategy or just get the answer wrong • Are more likely to put mathematical success down to ability, but see failure arising through lack of effort. • Girls • Can often use weak, inefficient strategies, which initially get the correct answer but which need refining • Not confident in taking onboard more efficient mental strategies • Like to have methods clearly defined and explained and to be shown how to use them. • Pay more attention to detail and are more unsettled by the unexpected. • Want to complete what they are being given to do and need time to think about how they can respond. • Prefer to follow rules without developing ‘real understanding.’ • Are often convinced that mathematical success is down to effort, but failure is through lack of ability.
Research shows that girls do well at Key Stage 1 through using strategies taught to answer questions. When moving into KS2, boys are happy to use a range of strategies, including newly taught ones, whilst girls prefer to use previously taught but now inefficient strategies.
Calculation Strategy How well do you know the steps in your school’s calculation policy? Activity 3 Let’s think about the two operations that often receive less teaching time: subtraction and division. On your own or with a partner, write down the teaching steps for both of these operations.
Calculation Strategy Be confident with your calculation policy. Be aware that you may need to go back a step (for confidence building) as well as looking at moving forwards. When encountering decimals or larger numbers, for example, earlier stages of the calculation policy may need to be revisited to ensure children have the understanding.
Problem Solving Generally, girls do not do as well at problem solving activities which are (should be) undertaken regularly in Key Stage 2.
The Teaching Sequence Review Teach Practise Apply Evaluate
Leicestershire Maths Team undertook a major study of girls’ maths attainment and found that… Girls enjoy the routine practicing of skills and techniques more than boys. However they often get too little opportunity to consolidate what they know when lessons are dominated by the response of attention seeking boys. The quiet hardworking girl is often hidden by her own silence and desire to please.
Strategies Do your KS1 staff understand progression in calculation (both written and mental)? Children are often taught one strategy rather than a range of strategies.
The biggest issue… Confidence
Negative Perceptions Many girls tend to lack confidence in Mathematics. Studies have shown that negative perceptions of Mathematics from mums, and especially female teachers, makes almost no difference to boys’ but a significant difference to girls’ attitudes and confidence. Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100125172940.htm
When? Early identification and intervention is key. Girls need to be identified at the end of year 2 (from KS1 data) and intervention put in place in year 3 and continued in year 4. Action research shows this works. One cohort achieved expected progress with a number of girls having moved from a 2A to a 4C by the end of year 4 as a result.
Why? In my action research project, intervention starting in year 5 and year 6 made NO difference at all. Years 5 and 6 are too late to address this issue.
A tried and tested approach… • All girls group (ideal size is 6-8 children). • Once a week – best done outside of normal maths lessons. 20-30 mins. • Teacher or Teaching Assistant, Male or Female. • Two ground rules: • No question is a silly question • You can ask the same question as many times as you like (because if • you don’t understand first time it is my fault for having not explained • it correctly, not your fault for not understanding). • Games based approach. • Focus on weekly in class objectives – a second attempt to have a go.
Staff Who will lead the session is important. • What doesn’t matter: • Whether it is delivered by a Teacher or Teaching Assistant. • Whether the Teacher/TA is male or female. What does matter: Whoever is delivering the session must have a good subject knowledge and must show an enjoyment of Maths.
The difficulties • Not enough staff. • Support needed in year 6. • Other interventions take priority. • There are only 5 days in a working week. • Etc.
Teachers Negative attitudes to Maths impact on girls but not boys. Activity 4 What can we do about this? Discuss on your tables an come up with a list of strategies.
Teachers Negative attitudes towards Maths normally exist because of preconceptions based on past experience. In other words, teachers who didn’t like or understand Maths at school will not like teaching it and will spread their negative perceptions. • Changing Perceptions • Coaching and Mentoring support: • Pedagogical/Subject Knowledge support; • Teaching support; • Planning support: • How to extend the more able; • How to support those that don’t understand.
Break • Tea, coffee, juice and biscuits available at the back of the hall.
Trying to ‘empathise’ with girls who have negative perceptions of maths doesn’t work. What does work: Giving the same girls the impression that maths is ‘easy’ if we: Have time to think about it Have time to discuss it Have resources to help Have a variety of approaches, especially for calculation Can organise our thinking It is also extremely important to show an enjoyment of maths and link it to real life.
Girls feel you gain mathematical success through effort, and that failure in maths is through lack of ability. Boys feel that mathematical success is down to ability and that failure comes through lack of effort. Failure linked in the child’s mind to lack of ability has a greater negative effect than anything else on further performance. Therefore failure in mathematics is more likely to impact on a girl’s future achievement than on a boy’s.
Also… Girls are adverse to risk taking, whereas boys are not!
Strategies Children will fail if we teach them one and only one method. They need to be taught a range of strategies from which they can choose the most appropriate. Model Imitate Apply
Strategies Activity 5 Let’s sort some sums! With a partner, work through the calculations on the yellow sheet in the middle of your table. DO NOT SOLVE THEM! For each one identify the most appropriate strategy that should be used to solve it.
How would you solve it?(calculation sorting) There is no right or wrong answer. The point is… About stopping and thinking; Making things easy for yourself; Using known facts to solve the problem (by doing as little maths as possible!)
How would you solve it?(calculation sorting) • Should be used to develop lateral thinking about strategies Should be introduced from year 3 • Should develop and build on . previously learned strategies.
Mental Maths Practise Tests Use as a teaching opportunity to discuss strategies
The most important part isNOT the testing or the mark achieved, but the discussion that follows the test.
Lancashire Project A project in Lancashire found that overall the most successful strategies in improving girls’ confidence, engagement and achievement in mathematics were: The use of talk partners and thinking time (no hands up); The development of an ethos in the class dialogue about difficulties and a ‘team approach’ to overcoming these; The use of success criteria, learning prompts and working walls; Giving frequent praise and encouragement; Maths club aimed at girls.
Lancashire Project Other key findings were: 80% of girls preferred paired and group work; Biggest successes were in Schools using BLP; Plenaries and reviews where time was taken to go over strategies used, demonstrate, talk and explain were highlighted as a contributory factor; The use of games also increased enjoyment and achievement in maths; That marking was an important factor. It revealed that girls respond better to questioning statements in marking, e.g. Could you explain the strategy used in question 6? If you know this, what else do you know? Do you think there is a quicker way of finding your answer? Etc.