My son is 7yo and has particular ability in Mathematics. For the last year, every month or so I spend an hour or two with him to teach him some interesting maths. Anything I show him at year 10 level he picks up within a few minutes, and he enjoys year 11 work (he is comfortable factorising quadratics in his head, and works with imaginary numbers from first principles.)
After discussion with my school, they agreed on an IEP to extend him in mathematics. However, he has been targeted by the school's Numeracy Police. They are adamant that a pure numeracy curriculum is the absolute best thing for him, as with everyone.
The problem was he was given a question sheet that told him to demonstrate several ways of solving some extremely easy multiplication problems. He quickly wrote the answers down and handed it back. This was interpreted both as defiance - refusing to follow instructions - and an inability to do the task.
The teacher is also angry that when he goes to one day school or any other gifted activity it disrupts his classroom work.
As a result the IEP has been scrapped, and I've been told that I should be thankful that they let him go to one day school, and that if I want him to do anything other than the numeracy project I should consider transferring him to home schooling.
I feel like I'm in some strange universe where the numeracy parasite has infected the teaching population and is slowly eating out their brains, until all they can do is mindlessly repeat "Numeracy ... numeracy ... numeracy" as they slowly walk with their arms outstretched, seeking to obliterate anyone with any genuine mathematical ability.
My child adores maths. Not numeracy. The elegance of solution when written down. Getting from a problem to a worked solution. Not in your league - just long division, multiplication, algebra and problem solving.
She is not enjoying maths at school. She now comes home and sets herself maths problems for fun. She sees them as a leisure pursuit and distinct from school maths.
We try to back up the classroom teacher with school maths whilst giving her access to the really fun, interesting stuff at home to keep her interested.
I see that the numeracy project may stifle creative thinking in maths. I know numeracy is important but for some children there is a lot more to maths than that. And they like the really meaty stuff cos it gets them going. What also worked for us what branching into physics and chemistry. Meanwhile, maybe he has to learn that maths might be dull at school but he gets to come home and do some fantastic experiments?
I am really sorry for you having to deal with such a school, it doesn't have to be the norm and in my opinion this attitude has nothing to do with the numeracy programme.
I also have a gifted son who loves maths. Last year at his North Island state primary school they met his maths needs by putting him into a Year 5 class just for maths (when he was in Year 4). This worked well for him and for his main class teacher!
We moved to the south island at the beginning of the school year and have equally found the local school happy and keen to meet individual children's needs. This school actually streams all maths sessions (and have just starteded similar word work) across the year 5 and 6 syndicate. So he is in the top maths groups with year 6's. He tells me his group are doing some of the year 8 curriculum.
Both schools are advocates for and have been implementing the numeracy programme. Both of the schools he has attended are also supportive of one day school.
At my daughters school (college starting at yr 7) they use the online maths buddy programme with the teacher setting the maths tasks to the appropriate level for each child, and for each maths area, so some may be doing Year 7 curriculum areas while others may be doing year 9 or 10.
Maybe your school is worried that he is not getting foundation maths for later years and you need to have a conversation about exactly where he is on his PAT and ASTles for each maths area and then mutually finding a way of allowing him to progress at the appropriate level to give him challenge.
There are certainly good models around of how other standard state schools are dealing positively with similar issues.
The key word is THEIR level and building on that. If a child is working at an elevated level then the teacher is required to extend on that, not make them work at a level they are not at. That is not what the numeracy project is about!
Is it time to contact the Ministry and ask what your next step should be? (An acquaintance of mine did this re being moved up a year and the school promptly responded.)
My understanding of the numeracy project is that it was introduced so that children could build on their numeracy concepts to deeply understand higher order mathematics. It seems to me that your child may have already moved to higher order thinking, and you should be able to establish that this is so. (Does he fully understand what factorising a quadratic actually means?) One can learn the steps without deep understanding.) Can somebody else administer the testing, making it clear to you son what he is being asked to show. ie not just getting the answer, but how many ways he can manipulate numbers to get the answer?
Be aware that the other strand elements at primary level also may not be very stimulating. Lots of tiny steps again and repetitive action rather than deep thinking.
You could look at problem challenges, like Otago University Math Challenge (you can buy books of problems), Junior Olympiad and similar offerings from other countries. Also geometry proofs like sums of angles on shapes, circle geometry and proving Pythagorus' theorem. Magic numbers like pi, ratios for right angled triangles, series eg fibonacci and sum to infinity paradoxes. Moving from place value to different bases (eg base 2). Perhaps this sort of task could be given to your son when he completes the set tasks, to get him through the tedium?
I suspect there aren't many mathematicians teaching at primary schools.
You need to consider moving your son! Our job as parents is toadvocate for our children - if your gut instinct is that things aren't right, then they probably aren't. My daughter aged 6 drew a water desalination engine in her scrapbook - it covered 2 pages and had turbines that compressed the sea water flow etc. and ended up with fresh water coming out of a tap and flowing around the world .... later that week at school they asked her to cut out A, B, C and D, colour them in with a pencil and glue them in order on a page ..... I moved her! The school we go to now extends children without making a fuss; if they need extension they get it - they also do teacher aides and don't believe in composite classrooms. No-one gets angry, it isn't inconvenient when my child sits in a corner writing an essay on Entomologists, everyone is happy. My child isn't extraordinary because she does these things and has gifts - she's just being who she is - and I am grateful that the school we go to gives her the environment to be just who she is. Your son (and you) are being punished for who he is. Have you heard of the article "Is it a Cheetah?" - google it, interesting reading - you sound like a Cheetah family in Lion country. Best wishes.
Isn't it great when your child shows such an interest in wanting to know how harder maths works. I am both a aparent of gifted children (age 12, 20 and 21) teacher - Secondary - maths, also yr 7 and 8 maths including numeracy.
Numeracy was a wonderful thing for helping students to understand how numbers fit together, what adding and multiplying etc really mean. I tend to agree for bright students it becomes annoying and repetitive.
My older two missed th enumeracy system and had wonderful extension maths classes at their school.
My youngest has full on numeracy teaching. when he was younger I did have to "train" him to give the teachers the answers they needed so that he could progress to the next level. (meanwhile as a 7 year old he'd sit in on year 10 maths and tell the kids the answers to their trig questions, all the teaching he'd had was what the kids had just had from me in class that day!!)
It was all patently obvious to him, of course you can "double and halve" you can use "tidy" numbers, you can use traditional algorithms. But I did explain to him why it was useful to have many different methods that you could use - eg double and half is great, really speedy, tidy numbers are excellent as a pre-cursor to estimating etc.
Once I was able to convince him of the benefits he agreed to show his teachers that he could do several methods and so they cheerfully moved him on, and quickly, to the top levels.
As a teacher, we do have to be able to "tick boxes" and know that students can do the work at each level. However, once mastered it's really important that we also then extend them. Show them the wonderful properties of numbers. Let them explore Fibonacci, golden ratio etc etc, Pascal's triangle, so much wonderful maths, especially geometry that really isn't given a lot of time in the school curriculum.
For your child, I'd say go back to the school again, talk to whoever you initially spoke to to set up the extension classes and get them back on your side. Your child's teacher needs a wee nudge in the gifted direction and also needs to be given permission from above (the Numeracy police) that it's ok to make exceptions. Your child will still need to be tested (teachers are required to have records that show where students are at compared to others, in terminolgy that is common to all schools) and will need to be able to demonstrate a good understanding of numbers, which I'm sure he could do easily, especially with a little coaching of what he needs to say and do. (ie, what it is that the teacher need to see he can do).
If your achool is unwilling to budge, then yes, you probably have to move your child.
hope some of this helps
We have not had a very positive experience with the current approach to numeracy.
DD would give a correct answer to a problem but her explanation (along the lines of “Well, I went up a bit, then along that way, and then up again”) would not be “acceptable” because she had her own visual way of working it out which did not make sense to the teacher.
DS was in the top maths group in his last year at primary and we were under the impression that he was working at his age level. Due to circumstances, we home-schooled the intermediate years. When I assessed his maths for home-schooling, I found out that he could not get the correct answer for a question like 51-39=?, did not know all his times tables, and could not answer any basic division or fraction questions. I was horrified! He was about to start intermediate with a huge gap in his mathematics knowledge. We went right back to basics and started with 7-8 year old maths – basic addition and subtraction. We used an international curriculum which did “old fashioned maths” (used borrowing, carrying etc.). During the two years that he was home-schooled, he worked his way through 3 ½ years of that curriculum so that when he started high school, he was only a year to 18 months behind his age level. I was still worried that he would be too far behind. However, in his first year at high school, he was in the school’s Cantamaths team and was one of the best maths students in his class. Having a really good grounding in the basics seems to have helped him adapt to the numeracy project way of doing things.
Thanks soooo much to everyone for your ideas and support. There are tons of good ideas here.
I did contact the ministry who confirmed that we should be expecting something a little more from the school.
Over the last week I've done a bit of reading up on the Numeracy Project, and although I used to think that it was a good idea, the Ministry's own research does not bear out that the Numeracy Project is having a positive overall effect on Mathematics in NZ. In fact, automatic recall of facts is far worse than in 1997, even though that is a major emphasis of the Numeracy Project.
From what I can see, the emphasis on conscious strategies is a little like training rugby players by having them narrate the game as they play it, and interferes with developing an intuitive grasp of numeracy. I would think that visualisation and kinesthetic/tactile strategies may work better with many students, as is standard in sports training. Anon - I liked your “Well, I went up a bit, then along that way, and then up again” - that's what maths is like for me too.
I had a talk with the teacher again, and suggested that he would be able to develop his own intuitive numeracy strategies, while he was doing an alternative curriculum. He will still be regularly tested so the teacher can tick the boxes.
So my son is OK - for the rest of the year - but I'm now very concerned that the Numeracy Project is being forced on students when there is evidence that there are students that this is not working for.