The TRG in action
We visited St Marylebone on a Wednesday, when the Year 8 TRG meets after lunch, in a 60 minute lesson period. The discussion was led by the KS3 coordinator, Megan Bailey, and began with a review of the week’s lessons on equation solving. In Year 8 lessons before the meeting, many common approaches were evident. Teachers used a common method and notation for talking about equation solving, and they moved at a similar slow pace, all encouraging thorough explanations from students, using precise mathematical language. Within this commonly agreed planning framework, and using shared slides, teachers were still able to respond to the needs of their own classes in terms of pace, material covered, and questions raised. Some teachers focused more on different methods to reach the same result for one equation whilst others chose to address a larger variety of types of equation.
Reviewing their lessons, teachers queried the use of the bar model in equation solving. One teacher had found it very useful whereas others felt that, unlike the new Year 7 cohort, the Year 8s were not sufficiently familiar with bar modelling for it to be useful. The discussion led to a joint decision that bar modelling should be less of a focus in the slides.
The meeting then moved on to the next topic on the scheme of work – rearranging equations. Teachers considered important learning points and anticipated likely misconceptions. Commonly a daunting topic that students often struggle with, there was a sense that, with their approach, ‘rearranging’ would follow on seamlessly on from ‘solving’ equations: students comfortable with manipulating equations for solving would be able to transfer their skills to change the subject. One teacher reported having deferred a child’s question during a lesson on solving equations with unknowns on both sides:
“What about if the unknowns on each side are not the same letter?”
(for example 2y + 3 = x)
and it was suggested that this question could form a starting point for lessons on rearranging. Students would be given the equation and asked to discuss what they think they could do with it using what they know. After this starting point, teachers decided that the initial lesson should focus on one-step rearrangements and agreed on
2x = z and a + 7 = b
to build the lesson around. For lesson two, they agreed that
x – a = b
should be the focus, introducing the difficulty of negative terms.
It was decided that the procedure should be called ‘solving for y’ to draw the clear connection with solving to produce a numerical answer, and that the language ‘rearranging’ and ‘changing the subject’ would be introduced later. With these bones of lesson plans agreed, volunteers took on the job of finely planning the lesson and producing whiteboard slides. It was striking how particularly useful this way of working would be for inexperienced colleagues, allowing some measure of short-cutting the ready knowledge that experience brings. Contributions included knowledge of common misconceptions and difficulties, important learning points, ideas on sequencing, and bits of history of maths.
There was a real sense that these teachers are regularly and meaningfully involved in continuous professional development that directly impacts on, and is informed by, their current teaching. The approach is collaborative, supportive, high-quality and developmental. It is evident that the lack of experience to tackle all-attainment classes in the beginning has been rapidly overcome by this approach.
If you’d like to offer your views, or experiences, on any aspect of teaching for mastery, please contribute to the discussion threads in the NCETM’s Maths Café Community. NB: To access and make posts in the Maths Café Community, you need to be registered with the NCETM and logged in.