Looking to raise attainment in Mathematics, make sure more of our pupils do homework to a higher standard whilst also reducing workload is a bit of a conundrum. We flirted with Manga High a number of years ago but following a visit to Michaela Free School decided to re-engage in a more systematic way.
The work was led by the Trust’s cross phase Maths Lead Heather Martin and the Director of Mathematics at Simon Cox (@MathsMrCox). Here is their account:
The classic excuse of ‘the dog ate my homework’ is one that you may think you will never actually hear from a child, but when a year 6 child actually used those words earlier this year I first thought they were joking until I realised they weren’t laughing; they were telling us the dog had actually eaten their homework. This is one of many excuses I have heard for not returning the standard homework sheet.
Homework is one of those things that many teachers feel they have to set, but as a maths team we have started to question the impact of homework and the reasons it is set. Is it to please some parents? “I want more for them to do at home”, to displease some parents? “They should be teaching them this at school” or to impact on the children’s learning? For us it comes back every time to ‘what is the impact of this on children’s learning in maths?’
In maths I have seen many versions of homework, mainly consisting of sheets of calculations or questions that are often a repetition of skills rather than making the children apply their skills in a different context. The sheets rarely motivate the children, are often lost, or found crumpled up at the bottom of a bag. Teachers time is then spent chasing the work and marking the work for little impact on learning. Once again we found ourselves asking what the impact on children’s learning is and started to explore alternatives for maths home learning provision.
Manga high is an online tool which allows teachers to set differentiated maths tasks for pupils, the programme marks the work in terms of how many points children achieve on targeted games and allows teachers, through simple colour coding, to see at a glance who has gained enough points to pass an aspect.
We decided to roll out the programme to pupils in years 5, 6, 7 and 8 across the Trust after trials with targeted pupil groups received positive feedback. Manga High also ticked a box within the primary/secondary transition where year 7 and 8 pupil voice had highlighted maths homework as an area of concern for year 6 pupils worrying it would be significantly harder when they moved up to secondary school. If our children are leaving primary school knowing what to expect from secondary maths homework and how to use the programme it would be one less thing for them to get to grips with in a time of their lives where there are already many changes and challenges. For us another small step in building the bridge between primary and secondary maths.
Manga High also has the facility for children to message the teachers to ask for help in a skill so teachers time that was previously spent marking can be put to better use in this area. At a glance teachers can quickly see who needs support in certain areas.
Admittedly primary pupils have been more enthusiastic with the facility to message the teacher than secondary school pupils and we have discussed as a staff how we manage this in terms of how and when we respond to pupils.
Children across all maths groups have been motivated to score points and top leader boards, there has been an excited buzz about maths with children talking about how many points they have earned and who has topped the monthly leader board.
The programme also has a wealth of data on each child which we as staff are currently only scratching the surface of as we are also becoming more familiar with all the tools. During the first few weeks of set up I felt like I had a hotline to the team at Manga High ringing with queries and questions that had come from staff, pupils and parents. Each time my question was answered quickly and clearly, their staff have been helpful in getting us up and running.
Feedback from staff, pupils and parents has been positive
Year 6 pupil: “The program is good. It is easy to use and I enjoy playing the games.”
Year 6 teacher, “I have found the program can be set for a variety of different levels within the class. The activities can be access during the lesson if there have been any issues found within the homework. It is easy to target individuals/small groups or whole classes.”
One parent who has told school on many occasions they are unable to support homework due to their own math skills has said they feel they can support with this and the games have also helped them with their own mathematics.
As a Trust we have had to consider how we facilitate using the programme for those children who do not have access to technology at home, in the short term this has been through a lunch club within school Manga High has not been an optional extra; it is the non-negotiable homework for Maths.
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