Denton primary school pioneers maths learning scheme

A DENTON primary school is leading an idea that helps children learn maths through storybooks.

Story Time Maths is being piloted at Dane Bank Primary School, on Thornley Lane South, and during its first year, staff will work with parents and teachers to develop a complete curriculum.

In year two, this will be introduced into a further 10 schools in Greater Manchester.

Year three will see the project rolled out to more, meaning an estimated 1,770 early years children will benefit.

And almost £85,000 of funding from education charity SHINE is helping Helen Clarke develop it after examining American studies.

She said as she works with the school’s nursery teacher and early years lead to craft a curriculum and training programme: “We’ve looked at what works best for nurseries and studied the research – including a lot of the work carried out by Stanford University – into how storybooks can be a really good driver of early maths.

“Maths can really help develop language and vice versa.

“The new curriculum will have a focus on school readiness and getting children prepared for starting reception.

“However, it won’t simply replicate what is taught in reception, which is what many schemes do. This is a bottom-up nursery approach.

“We have picked out some high-quality stories and have pulled the maths from them.

“We’re not trying to force maths into this. We’re not just asking children to count the number of things they can see on a page – we have looked for books in which key maths ideas are naturally embedded.”

The project seeks to bridge the gap in maths understanding between disadvantaged children and their peers and if successful, it will help put these children on an equal footing with their classmates when they start school.

Evidence shows that using storybooks to teach mathematics is particularly effective.

On average, children involved in communication and language approaches make seven months of additional progress in a year.

Parents are also involved in the project as workshops will give them skills to share stories with their children while developing their understanding of maths.

It is also planned to work with libraries and baby and toddler groups to create bespoke packages for groups outside of school.

“It’s important that these books contain rich, high-quality language, because here in Tameside, and across Greater Manchester, language is one of the biggest barriers to school readiness,” Helen added.

“This is not just about some free books and a few new ideas. It’s about changing mindsets of how maths is taught in the early years.”

One recent session was based on the acclaimed book Jasper’s Beanstalk.

Parents were encouraged to talk with their children about measuring height and length when reading about the growing beanstalk in the book.

Each child then received a copy of the book and a bean to take home and plant. Parents were then encouraged to help their children measure the bean plant as it grew, take pictures, and send them to us.

“It acts as confirmation for us that maths talk is now extending into the home,” said Helen.

“It’s working. We’re debunking myths and they’re actually talking about maths with their children.

“And anecdotally, we can see an impact already, but we want to verify that with some hard data.”

Helen says the funding from SHINE has ‘made a massive difference’ to the school.

She is excited to expand the project into new schools and ‘get other teachers really fired up about early maths.’

SHINE’s chief executive Fiona Spellman said: “Maths is a subject where a lack of confidence can really hold pupils back.

“We’re proud to support this project, which aims to embed positive experiences with maths right from the earliest stage of school.”

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