Sophie Crump, Mathematics Teacher, Burnham-on-Crouch Primary School
Sophie Crump is a Year 5 teacher who has recently studied for a Masters in Mathematics Education, supported by the NCETM. She told the conference about a piece of classroom research she carried out as part of her studies, evaluating the effectiveness of an ICT programme in teaching mathematics. Sophie used a dynamic number line programme to teach algebra in a child-friendly way.
Ms Crump explained: “The programme encouraged the children both to give reasons for their choices and to make predictions. It can also be used to encourage them to record their workings in a systematic way. Creativity and talking risks is very important and on the computer children can try things out and not worry about getting it wrong as they do when writing it down in their exercise book.”
In studying at University, she particularly enjoyed the freedom to read around the subject and the opportunity to talk to others about teaching: “Time out of the classroom to read has really helped my teaching in class. Both the discussion and the ‘doing’ of it are important. I discovered different ways to do things, and working in groups with the children supported this.”
During working with the group on the programme, it was essential not to tell the children everything they needed to know in order to make sure that they explored the subject for themselves: “In fact,” Ms Crump said, “they had to ‘teach’ the computer, because with the numberline they had to really do the learning and have the understanding – the computer wasn’t just giving it to them.”
In order to ensure this happened, the children were gathered around one computer and encouraged to discuss their ideas with each other. Ms Crump made clear that she would be listening to make sure they talked to each other. She listened to the discussions, recorded the key points and noted whether the computer was responsible for the discussion. She also asked the children whether they thought the computer had helped their learning.
The programme was effective in developing the children’s mathematical understanding in the following ways: they observed patters and connections; were keen to make predictions; learned from the feedback; thought logically and developed problem-solving skills, and formed their own rules. But she stressed that, “Just having the ICT there is not enough – it needs to suit the children’s ability and fully involve them.”
Ms Crump explained some of the barriers to teachers using ICT: the need to develop how to use it with the whole class (she had worked in small groups and this could have been why it worked); finding time in the school schedule (she had been fortunate in this respect, having full support from colleagues); it would not necessarily be relevant for all schools; there was often difficulty in integrating ICT tools in single lessons, and teachers could worry that it might go wrong and thus need technical support.
However, Ms Crump felt the benefits to her teaching and the CPD she gained from the experience had been great. She had not only found a resource to use in the classroom but had a better understanding about the effectiveness of ICT. She had seen the children respond positively to the mathematics – they were really enjoying it! Another effect of talking to others about ICT was that she was reassured to find that they also experience difficulties using it.
Finally, Ms Crump said that the research “inspired me to work even harder to overcome the barriers to using ICT. I have been sharing what I learned with colleagues and have recently become a subject leader. All this was made possible through the NCETM.”
Listen to Sophie Crump's speech in full: