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Mixed Ability Maths Classes

A look at the history, politics and recent research into mixed ability maths classes. This presentation asks the question: "Are mixed ability classes the best solution for all pupils?" 1st presented at the Scottish Maths conference on 7/3/15
by

Stuart Welsh

on 15 March 2015

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Transcript of Mixed Ability Maths Classes

Mixed Ability Maths Classes
Stuart Welsh
swelsh78@gmail.com
Why a workshop on mixed ability Maths classes?
Putting Problems First
Dan Meyer
Worries
A Crude Awakening (film)
Ken Robinson
More worries
Higher order skills
Love of Maths
Self-belief
Confidence
"I can't do Maths"
So.....
Is setting maths classes by ability the best strategy for all pupils?
Attitudes toward learning
Food shortages
Mathematical Development
Social Development
Expectations
Finland
Denmark
Japan
China
Singapore
Why are mixed ability Maths classes so uncommon?
What's in the news?
"Put all pupils in Maths sets based on their ability to improve performance"
David Cameron - Feb 2014
Mixed ability classes a "curse" on bright pupils
OFSTED - September 2012
"Blair rejects mixed ability teaching"
Guardian - 1996
Ditch trendy teaching for "chalk and talk"
Nick Gibb (Education Minister) - 2014
What does the research say?
Setting helps brightest but nobody else
Institute of Education - London 2014
Setting in Primary school leads to lower marks for middle and lower sets compared to mixed ability classes
www.theconversation.com (Millennium Cohort Study) - Sept 2014
"Low attaining learners fall behind by one or two months a year, on average, when compared with the progress of similar students in classes with mixed ability groups. It appears likely that routine setting arrangements undermine low attainers’ confidence and discourage the belief that attainment can be improved through effort. Research also suggests that ability grouping can have a longer term negative effect on the attitudes and engagement of low attaining pupils."
Education Endowment Foundation - Feb 2015
"Setting is more detrimental to low attaining pupils in mathematics, who do better in mixed attainment groups"
Education Endowment Foundation - Feb 2015
Only 6% of pupils in the UK are not grouped by ability within their Maths classes.
PISA study on educational outcomes in OECD countries - 2012
Compared with:

OECD average - 49% not set
South Korea - 28% not set (5th)
Japan - 54% not set (7th)

Poland - annual improvement rate of 2.6 points
"There is no consistent and reliable evidence of positive effects of setting... When ability groups are formed by setting, the disadvantages are well documented: reinforced social class divisions, increased likelihood of delinquent behaviour in the later school years, lowered teacher expectations of the less able, anxiety for pupils struggling to keep up with the pace of the class..."
Harlen and Malcom - 1997 in a report commissioned by HMI.
"Maths ability-grouping in education systems tends to be linked to lower maths scores and that, overall, education systems that “group students, within schools, for all classes based on their ability tend to have lower performance across all participating countries and economies, after accounting for per capita GDP.”
PISA study on educational outcomes in OECD countries - 2012
PISA study on educational outcomes in OECD countries - 2012
The setting of students has zero-effect on achievement and a profoundly negative effect on student equity.
John Hattie in "Visible Learning for Teachers" - Nov 2008
Why are mixed ability classes so uncommon in this country?
"There is no consistent and reliable evidence of positive effects of setting... When ability groups are formed by setting, the disadvantages are well documented: reinforced social class divisions, increased likelihood of delinquent behaviour in the later school years, lowered teacher expectations of the less able, anxiety for pupils struggling to keep up with the pace of the class..."
Harlen and Malcom - 1997 in a report commissioned by HMI.
In primary schools, attainment groups should be the principal means of organising pupils in Mathematics.
In Secondary schools, setting should be introduced in English and Maths from S1.
All schools should promote direct teaching as the principal role of class teachers.
"Achievement for All" - HMI (1997)
Improving Mathematics Education 5-14 (HMI, Edinburgh 1997)
Move from mixed ability to setting

Adopt more teacher-led whole class activity

Increase facility in mental calculation
"easier to deal with a small range of ability"
"a way of separating out pupils with behaviour problems, allowing others to learn"
"it will improve results"
"more able can be challenged more easily"
"more whole class teaching can take place"
Setting or mixed ability? - C Smith & M Sutherland (2003)
"it doesn't stigmatise pupils"
"it reduces the possibility of bullying"
"pupils helped one another and contributed to a more positive class ethos"
"setting is a devisive and elitist approach"
"it is easier to maintain the motivation of pupils working at a slower rate"
Setting or mixed ability? - C Smith & M Sutherland (2003)
Teachers' Expectations
Pygmalion in the classroom
What's happening in other countries?
www.ted.com
Support for Setting
Finland
It is notable that in Finland, a country which consistently performs at a high level in international tests [12th], there is a consensus that setting would encourage low expectations for some children. The Finnish education system is also extremely equitable, with very little difference in outcomes for students from different backgrounds.
PISA study on educational outcomes in OECD countries - 2012
Paths to Math
http://pathstomath.com/
Our Approach to Trigonometry
Teachers prepare and plan together
Preparation time divided up
Extension and support throughout
Real-life relevance and application
Focus on solving problems
“join-up” the thinking
Whole class time spent on intro and recap only
Group-work
Contain an element of research
Higher order thinking skills from the start
Hours of Daylight
Estimate the number of hours of daylight today? Will there be more/less or the same tomorrow? What about next week? Next month?
Make a prediction as to how the number of hours of daylight changes (if at all) over the course of one year?

What is latitude and longitude?
How does latitude affect hours of daylight?
What is meant by the land of the midnight sun?
What is a polar winter?
What is an Equinox?
What is a Solstice?
What will go on the x and y axes and why?
What scale will you use for the x axis and why?
What information will you need before deciding on a scale for the y axis?
What scale will you use for the y axis and why?
When in the year will you start your graph? Why start it there?
Make a rough sketch showing your prediction of how the graph will look.

Predict how the graph would look if the values on the x axis had started at:
(a) The Summer Solstice
(b) The Autumnal Equinox
Make a small sketch and describe in your own words what you think the graph would look like for the following cities and justify your answers in each case:
(a) Cairo (b) Helsinki (c) Auckland
(d) Singapore

Big Wheel
Mill Wheel
Unit Circle
Spaghetti Graphs
Similar Triangles
How has it gone?
Final Thoughts
Questions?
swelsh78@gmail.com
There needs to be more discussion on why we set by ability

Explore what it would mean for teachers to teach mixed ability classes

Primary

Junior Secondary

Senior Secondary
Robert Rosenthal & Lenore Jacobson - 1965
Climate Change
Energy Crisis
Increasing divide between rich and poor
Virus Pandemic
Support for mixed ability
Full transcript