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Primary Magazine - Issue 81: Maths in the Staff Room

Created on 22 October 2015 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 03 November 2015 by ncetm_administrator


Primary Magazine Issue 81'Pigeonholes in the staffroom' (adapted), some rights reserved by GerryJ10

Maths in the Staff Room – Short Professional Development Meetings

Maths in the Staff Room provides suggestions and resources for a professional development meeting for teachers, which can be led by the maths subject leader or another person with responsibility for developing mathematics teaching and learning in the school. You can find previous features in this series here

Understanding key mathematical structures. Part two: ‘Doing and undoing’ across the curriculum

Last month’s magazine contained the first part of looking at ‘Doing and undoing’, starting in the context of mathematics. This session follows on and assumes the activities in part one have taken place. The two parts could be merged if the introduction to the first part is adapted

Meeting aims

  • To consider the importance of structure in mathematics and how it has relevance across the curriculum
  • To make explicit opportunities to embed the aims of the National Curriculum both within mathematics and across the curriculum.


  • Ten minutes initial input
  • Ten minutes, thirty minutes, sixty minutes or ninety minutes follow up after two weeks.


  • Essentials of Numeracy for All: Being Numerate diagram (from National Numeracy)
  • Large sheet of paper from part 1, containing ideas for ‘Doing and Undoing’ across the mathematics curriculum
  • Second large sheet of paper for display in the staffroom with ‘Doing and Undoing across the curriculum’ in the middle.

Ten minute introduction

  1. Explain that you are going to start to explore opportunities for mathematics across the curriculum

  2. Share the ‘Being Numerate’ diagram (click to enlarge), and read the statement which accompanies it:

    Being Numerate (National Numeracy)

    ‘Being numerate’ means having the confidence and ability to use the right mathematical tools and processes in everyday life. This involves reasoning, solving problems and making decisions and requires a willingness to persist with different approaches. Say that there are more connections than are shown between the different elements, such as searching for pattern and identifying structure.

  3. Suggest that focusing on being numerate across the curriculum - attitudes of mind, problem solving, reasoning and decision making - is one way to embed the aims of the National Curriculum. This is different to trying to cover mathematical content in other subjects. Say that you are focusing on one important structure - doing and undoing - which you have already started to explore in mathematics

  4. Remind everyone of the work you have already done, thinking about the mathematical structure of ‘Doing and Undoing’. Use the sheet from the previous sessions to revisit ideas that were shared in the earlier meetings

  5. Introduce a second sheet with ‘Doing and Undoing across the curriculum’ written in the middle. Invite everyone to think about this theme across the curriculum over the next two weeks and whenever they notice it, to add it to the sheet, which you will come back to in a future meeting. Suggest that one example of this might be in computing; programming a toy or a sprite to turn clockwise and then back to where it started. Write this on the sheet.

Follow up meeting two weeks later (you may need to prompt people to add to the sheet and model this by adding ideas during the two weeks).

  • Have the two large sheets which have ideas connected to ‘Doing and Undoing’ both from within mathematics and across the curriculum
  • Ask: Are there any more examples of doing and undoing in different subjects that you can think of? Add these to the sheet. Ask people to explain one of the items in turn. This might prompt further ideas which could include:
    • Science
      • changes of state (heating and cooling)
      • dissolving and recovering a substance from a solution
      • mixing and separating mixtures
      • forces (push and pull)
      • switching off and on in a circuit
      • attracting and repelling.
    • Computing
      • programming movement forward and backwards
      • programming turn.
    • PE
      • movement patterns in dance
      • shape and balance in gymnastics (stretching and returning).
    • Music
      • scales – up and down.
    • Design and technology
      • application of science knowledge in mechanical and electrical systems
      • application of computing knowledge in programming products.
    • English
      • giving instructions and reversing the instructions
      • blending sounds to read words and segmenting spoken words into phonemes.
    • Geography
      • moving between two places using locational and directional language (right, left, forward, backward) or following compass directions (e.g. travel North) and then retuning.
    • Languages
      • translating from English to French and then from French to English.
  • Choose one idea relevant to your children and discuss how to support understanding.
    • What might the children physically do to demonstrate this relationship?
    • What contexts make sense of the relationship?
    • How could it be modelled with different resources/pictures/drawings?
    • How could it be recorded?
    • What would you want the children to notice and be able to explain?
    • What sort of questions would show if the children have understood?
  • Ask: Does undoing what you have done always take you back to where you started?
    Can you think of any examples where it doesn’t or where it can’t be easily done?
    • Science - some changes of materials result in the formation of new materials and this kind of change is not usually reversible, e.g. burning
    • Geography - reversing human impact on the environment
    • Design and technology - cooked food cannot be returned to its raw state
    • Languages - some words when translated can have more than one meaning, for example piano in Italian.

Image Credit
Page header by GerryJ10 (adapted), some rights reserved


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