Mathletics is a multi-award-winning, curriculum-mapped, digital resource for maths, designed for pupils aged from five-16 (KS1-4) using a ‘gaming-style’ challenge and reward system. Currently used by more than 5,000 schools across the UK, it contains 1,200 curriculum-aligned activities, along with courses, eBooks and videos to develop mathematical fluency, problem solving and reasoning skills. It also offers in-built assessment and diagnostic reporting tools for teachers and can be accessed on PCs and tablet devices, at school and at home.
Langafel is an average-sized primary school with 280 children on roll from Reception to Year 6. Pupils in Key Stage 1 and 2 are taught in mixed-age classes. The proportion of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs is above average because the school has a specially resourced provision for 17 pupils who are diagnosed as having autistic spectrum disorder.
We started using Mathletics some five years ago as part of our ongoing effort to improve results – a mission we have since accomplished with our SATs level 4s up from 73% to 94% (including 40% level 5 and 17% level 6) in five years. We also needed to answer parental requests for a resource we recommended they use at home.
Its main appeal is its adaptability and detailed approach to differentiated learning. The teacher retains lots of control and has the facility to tailor the work to suit individual needs, by ‘secret-setting’ – selecting activities matched with each pupil’s abilities. This allows us, for example, to give lower-ability pupils work from a subset below without the child being aware of it and, therefore, with no adverse affect on their confidence. Also, without hovering over their shoulders, teachers can see on screen if pupils finish their work quickly and re-set tasks accordingly.
It offers us a wide range of activities, tasks and challenges to improve fluency in core competencies, including the ‘big 4’ operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, along with shape, algebra, geometry, logarithms, conversions and much more.
Progress-tracking is easy and immediate. Mathletics has very obviously been created and developed by teachers – that attention to detail shines through. Key among the many teacher benefits are comprehensive assessment and reporting tools. A built-in diagnostic testing feature marks assessments in real-time and provides teachers with detailed information on their class and/or individual pupils. Usefully this includes a recommended work plan of Mathletics activities for each student, targeting specific curriculum outcomes. This makes it easy for us to benchmark or track improvement and create individual learning pathways.
It’s great that we can see children’s confidence and love of maths increasing as they become so involved with the competitive elements of the resource. But it’s also good that not all activities are games set against the clock – other exercises require pupils to think deeply about a topic, with the support of the on-line ‘teacher’ to explain if they get stuck. The fact that lots of the activities look the same is great for our autistic children who really enjoy the familiarity.
Before we had Mathletics we did use some ICT in the classroom, but it was not so easy. We would have to use search engines to try and find activities and games appropriate to the topic and the class. This could cause problems, for example, if we were searching for activities linked to fractions, we would have to look at lots of different material in order to find something at the right level for most of the class, which was very time consuming. We also made use of a virtual online maths tutor and a few fun educational e-learning resources from other suppliers.
But we found nothing as targeted and comprehensive as Mathletics, which we use in lots of different ways. Often a teacher will set a task, which could be asking children to do some work prior to the lesson or after the lesson to consolidate their learning. It is also used during a maths lesson to reinforce an individual pupil’s learning or sometimes for whole class teaching. We’ve had a lot of success using the songs, ‘Times Tables Toons’ to help our children master mental multiplication.
The amount of time we spend using Mathletics varies – but roughly teachers use it every other week – we have to schedule slots in the ICT suite which can be difficult with 13 classes across the school. We do have a few computers at the back of the classroom which are used in some lessons.
A teaching tool
As a teaching tool we are more likely to pick and choose what suits our lesson plans, rather than to use the in-built tools which allow teachers to create a lesson by forming a series of activities. In our main school children love the ‘live play’ element – a powerful real-time mathematical “race”, especially as it’s been developed so that they can play a classmate, a school mate or a child on the other side of the world. Winner’s names appear in the on-line, worldwide ‘Hall of Fame’ table, or in the UK Top 50. Its computer-game elements are much loved by pupils who each create their own avatar which they can kit out and really make their own by completing maths challenges and activities to win achievement points to exchange at the on-line shop.
Overall our children love the element of competition and the rewards – the ‘gold bars’ introduced recently have gone down a storm. At school we print out and laminate the certificates and badges that they earn, present them in assembly and display them around the school, which makes them all the more special and meaningful.
Mathletics has definitely helped to raise the profile of maths here and increased the confidence of our children. But the best evidence is that five years ago our SATs were not that great – in 2010 they were 73% Level 4+, 31% Level 5 and No Level 6, whereas in 2014 we achieved: 94% Level 4+, 40% Level 5+ and 17% Level 6. Most recently, following three Ofsted inspections which judged the school as ‘requires improvement’ – our inspection in March 2015 judged the school to be ‘good’ in all areas.
I’m a big fan and rate Mathletics 9/10.