For the last 4 years our school has adopted a Singaporean approach to teaching mathematics which is centred on student collaborative exploration when problem solving. Since embracing this approach we have seen our students’ mathematical reasoning and understanding flourish tremendously. Our results in both KS1 and KS2 being consistently above national expectations with over 40% of our students being considered ‘greater depth’ by the end of Year 6.
A key element to this pedagogical approach is the concept of ‘maths journaling’. After an initial ‘anchor’ problem, students are required to complete a journal task based upon the mathematical concept that is the focus of the lesson. We often alter the anchor problem slightly allowing students the opportunity to record their thinking, which reinforces learning but also acts as a way for children to think metacognitively about their learning. This is a valuable tool for formative assessment as well as an opportunity for the teacher to see the students ‘thinking’.
When first exploring maths journaling we encouraged a framework for pupils; including multiple methods in their journal with an explanation of at least one (often to a friend who is absent or in another class). However, our approach to journaling is beginning to evolve after our recent Lesson Study which focused on ‘challenge for all’, where some of our teachers had the privilege to work collaboratively with Dr Yeap Ban Har, a leading expert in Singapore maths. From this research we have begun to explore 4 different types of journaling: descriptive, where students explain the different ways to answer a problem; explorative, where students are asked to make a judgement on method efficiency or preference; investigative, where students may be required to explore in a method will always work; creative, where students create their own problem for a friend to answer.
This has, and continues to be, an ongoing journey of professional collaboration, dialogue and reflection. We teachers work together to generate journal problems and share reflections with each other, as we would expect our students to do.