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Some twenty Wirral primary schools have formed themselves into three working networks. Prior to this present round of Project Planning, representatives from the network schools have met in order to make plans for their collaborative work. In each case this has included the decision to address issues associated with the teaching of mathematics. The Millfields Network features six schools.
This Project was designed to address pupils' abilities to apply mathematics for calculation and problem solving. Investigations into children's attainments revealed difficulties experienced by children in solving word problems. Attention needs also to be given to children's attitudes to this work - for example, confidence and enjoyment. The study needs also to consider target setting in order to ensure that they are sufficiently challenging.
Teachers attending the taught element of the course were representatives of a range of schools within the Millfields network. Most were mathematics subject leaders and most were teaching in Key Stage 1. The management of change and a focus on early problem solving and development were therefore foci of the course.
The sessions were all supported by a wide range of resources and teaching support materials (videos, presentations etc.) and each session included challenging mathematical activities that could be used at the teachers own level as well as being used for starting activities for use in school. Ahmed, (1987), states that mathematical problem solving is more effective when teachers themselves engage in the process. He suggests that teachers attain a personal perspective of achievement and development which makes their teaching more successful.
Activities for use with children in teachers' schools provided a framework for discussion and analysis and teachers' presentations of their achievements in the classroom were a feature of the sessions.
There were clear indications that the "government agenda" was a paramount motivating influence within the programme with a desire expressed by most teachers that SATs results would show a measurable improvement in those areas designated as "problem solving". However, it was also apparent that teachers felt that an "algorithmic" approach to "algorithmic" problem solving was unsatisfactory in terms of children's learning and that the practice of rehearsing children for SATs was inappropriate. Despite this all teachers agreed that they would continue to do "practice SATs" and "teach" approaches to SATs problems to ensure the success of their pupils in this regard. Whilst they agreed in principle that mathematical problem solving was "at the heart of mathematics" (Cockcroft, 1982), and true mathematical problem solving was not reflected in the SATs they stated that they did not feel that they could ignore the implications of indifferent SATs results and the implications of these for inspection.