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Key Elements (Primary): Learning Environment and Resources

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 18 November 2009 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 07 April 2010 by ncetm_administrator

Features of effective practice

Effective policy and practice for the use of resources:
  • ensures that corridors and classrooms are vibrant learning environments enhanced by stimulating displays which reflect the ethos of the school
  • ensures that classroom displays are continually evolving to reflect current learning. They involve learners by posing questions and eliciting discussion
  • employs resources to drive a change in teaching and learning in the school
  • employs resources to support the needs of the development plan
  • ensures that resources and activities are written into medium term plans with suggestions for their use and the experiences of the staff that have used them
  • considers the most appropriate layout of the classroom to support effective learning (eg. seating arrangements, group work and different teaching and learning styles) in line with the school’s and teacher’s vision of what a good lesson looks like
  • allocates rooms to ensure that staff (especially recently qualified and peripatetic staff) are located close to more experienced staff who can offer support and advice.

Case Study 1: School A – Creating a stimulating learning environment

In our school, every classroom is used to support the learning of mathematics by having:

  • a working wall linked to curricular target setting

  • models and images to help pupils access the learning

  • challenge of the week


Case Study 2: School B – Managing resources

The discussion and construction of an agreed policy for the use of resources amongst the staff has been a significant element in improving the provision for mathematics.
Here is our policy.

The mathematics policy at the school clearly states the expectations and availability of resources as illustrated below:


Resources for the delivery of the Mathematics curriculum are stored in the storeroom in the ICT suite on the first floor (listed below). Please take great care with these resources.

Attainment Target Resource
Number Class set of counting teddy bears
Class set of counting dinosaurs
Number Fans
Digit Flips
Digit cards
Base 10 apparatus
Class set of Equivalent Fraction and Decimal Dominoes
24 Game (Single digits, Double digits)
Target Boards
Shape, Space and Measures Class set of clocks and teaching clock
Pattern blocks
Construction Kits
Tessellating shapes
3D models
Centimetre Cubes, Strips, etc
Litre set
Tape measurers
4 Trundle wheels
Weighing scales
Handling data Large playing cards
Dice (4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 20 sided)
4 big foam dice
General Mini-Whiteboards

ICT resources

Hardware: Mobile trolley of 30 laptops; 1 class set calculators


  Target Description
Primary Strategy Spreadsheets KS1/2 Interactive teaching and learning activities (flagged up in the medium term plans)
Primary Strategy ITPs KS1/2 Interactive teaching and learning activities (flagged up in the medium term plans)
Mathswhizz KS1/2 Interactive teaching and learning activities
Logo KS1/2 Position and movement
Excel KS2 Handling data

The Mathematics classroom

Every classroom should have:

  • pupils' work
  • 1- 100 square
  • number washing line
  • key words
  • A4 fact cards
  • curricular target setting
  • Puzzle of the Week
  • mathematics dictionaries

Please also use the many different environments in the school to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics ~ e.g. classrooms, outdoor learning spaces, gym, ICT suite, hall, music, art and D&T rooms.

During Terms 4 and 5, I also ask all staff to complete this Resources Audit. The responses to the audit inform budgeting priorities and the Mathematics Improvement Plan.

I also give the staff the opportunity to give me their three ‘wish list’ resources.


Case Study 3: School C – Effective Use of ICT to Secure Pupils’ Mental Recall for Division

As a school, we have identified that the mental recall of division facts is a barrier to progress for our pupils. Following support from the LA mathematics consultant at a recent staff meeting, teachers now have a bank of resources, including ICT, to use with their children to improve their mental recall of division facts.  

A staff meeting will be used to review progress and personalise the document by adding other resources.


What does Ofsted say?

(Excerpts from the Ofsted report Mathematics: understanding the score)

This report offers a range of external perspectives, examples of good practice and indications of national trends and standards which can be very helpful to a subject leader.

Here we have included elements which are relevant to this section on resourcing.

The interactive whiteboard featured in many (but not all) primary and secondary classrooms, bringing positives and negatives to teaching and learning. Good practice included the use of high-quality diagrams and relevant software to support learning through, for example, construction of graphs or visualisation of transformations. Pupils enjoyed quick-fire games on them. However, many of the curricular and guidance documents seen did not draw sufficient attention to the potential of interactive whiteboards. Additionally, too often teachers used them simply for PowerPoint presentations with no interaction by the pupils.

Prime practice: ICT Use of the interactive whiteboard and internet to scale a picture from very tiny to extremely large
A Year 7 class, working on scales, was shown a website using the interactive whiteboard where a picture was scaled from 10-16 metres to 1016 metres, that is, 10,000,000,000,000,000 metres. The pupils were amazed; they became animated and excited, discussing the effect of scaling by powers of 10. The teacher posed questions, asking pupils, in pairs, to describe and explain their thinking. Some presented this from the front of the class with their peers critically appraising it in a lively discussion.

57. A negative effect of interactive whiteboards was a reduction in pupils’ use of practical equipment: software is no replacement for hands-on experience, for example in measuring angles and lengths. Teachers generally underused practical resources and games to develop pupils’ understanding of mathematical ideas and help them to make connections between different topics.

Weaker factors: visualisation A Year 1 lesson about the properties of three-dimensional shapes was based on images displayed on the interactive whiteboard but gave no practical hands-on experience of the solids.
A teacher used an interactive whiteboard to teach Year 1 pupils about three-dimensional shapes. The pictures of the shapes caused confusion, between spheres and circles for example. Although pupils enjoyed a matching activity using the interactive whiteboard, they did not develop knowledge and understanding of the properties of three-dimensional shapes, such as the nature of the surfaces of a cone. The teacher did not adapt the teaching to take account of pupils’ responses that showed their difficulties in using the two-dimensional representation of the three-dimensional shape.
How might it be improved? Pupils would benefit from handling a range of real shapes so that they could feel and see the difference between two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes. They could be encouraged to use their knowledge of properties of two-dimensional shapes to help describe the three-dimensional ones.

Reflection and next steps

  • reflect on the features of effective practice and think about what key areas within ‘Learning Environment and Resources’ you want to develop now
  • look through the case studies and the excerpts from the Ofsted report Mathematics: understanding the score and decide whether there are any tasks or actions you might want to take that are prompted by these
  • use the NCETM Personal Learning Space to record any personal reflections, actions or tasks
  • from policy to practice.

Use this pro-forma to support you in planning your next steps.

Going further

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13 November 2012 15:10
Those interested in how the use of certain materials (notably place value counters) might support older primary children in using a written procedure for division with understanding might like to take a look at these short videos:

They were made by some participants on Cohort 1 of the NCETM Primary Professional Development Leads Support Programme (they chose to do this as an element of their interim task which all participants in the programme undertake.
More details of this programme can be found here:
By petegriffin
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14 May 2010 11:38
Print this list off as a check list! Practical resources are essential... why do we STILL see so many classrooms without them?
By rachelspray1
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12 May 2010 02:16
Very interesting resource! Made me think! I was thinking are visualisers becoming an essenatial classroom resource?
By alexwingham
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