The ‘Mathematics flow’ at Solefield

Mr Budden, Assistant Head, Head of Mathematics

18th November 2022

Mathematics at Solefield is a serious but enjoyable affair. It not only permeates other curriculum subjects (eg. STEM, Science, Geography, PE), it is also integral to the boys’ lives. That is one of the key tenets of learning Mathematics: it is an essential, relevant life skill and Solefield pupils understand that. 

The Mathematics curriculum at Solefield has a flow to it, from Pre-Prep all the way up to Year 8. The students’ mathematical journey is well-planned, well-delivered and tailored to each pupil’s needs. While we are mindful of the fact that the boys do take important exams during their time at school, especially in Years 6-8, that is not the main driving force behind our vision. We aspire to produce competent, confident mathematicians with a love of learning who are well-equipped to problem solve. Teachers and TAs support and encourage all learners; consolidating the basics with some students and stretching those who thrive on the challenge. As such, boys are given the responsibility of selecting work that they feel provides them with the level of stretch they need during each lesson. Sometimes they require a helping hand in choosing which work to attempt, but that is all part of the learning process. 

Pre-Prep provides the cornerstone of Mathematics at Solefield, covering the basic number concepts using a cyclical curriculum. Regular review of topics enables the boys to keep their mathematical skills sharp and build on prior learning in a sequential manner. Practical activities play a huge role in ensuring concepts are embedded using the ‘concrete, pictorial, abstract’ approach to learning. Group work and discussion also provide opportunities for pupils to deepen their understanding and develop their collaboration skills. However, the Pre-Prep also prepares the boys for their Maths lessons in Year 3 and beyond. They start to record their work carefully and methodically from Year 1, learning the importance of presenting their working out in a logical manner. 

Years 3 and 4 build on all of the hard work already put in during the boys’ time in the Pre-Prep. The biggest focus during these years are times tables - the foundation of much of their future learning. Through the use of interactive games and websites such as Times Tables Rock Stars, students learn these in an engaging manner. By the end of Year 4, times tables should be recalled forwards, backwards and inside out! As their mathematical understanding becomes more sophisticated the boys are able to tackle increasingly complex concepts as they focus on fractions, percentages, properties of numbers and a wide range of data handling tools. It is during these years that we enter the First Mathematical Challenge in which our pupils score highly, some achieving a treasured Full Marks certificate. 

During the key years of 5 and 6, the boys work at pace, with accuracy and a focus on their presentation. The curriculum becomes increasingly complex, with more abstract concepts introduced. Their work involves mastery of topics as we aim to work above the National Curriculum expectation for their age. Throughout Year 6, pupils are introduced to some of the well-known (and often intimidating) ideas in Maths - solving equations in algebra, Pythagoras’ Theorem, and circles. The fact we can tackle these concepts, sometimes up to GCSE level, at this age is only possible through the hard work and challenge they receive from their time starting in Reception. These skills are put to good use in the Primary Mathematics Challenge that all pupils enter. We have great success in this with many students progressing onto the Bonus Round. Project work is something else the boys enjoy at this age. We spend blocks of lessons perfecting the use of a calculator, designing and costing a Lunar Theme Park, and creating comprehensive budgets based on future earnings, accommodation, savings and even holidays (if there’s enough left in the pot!). 

For those pupils who elect to stay on for Years 7 and 8, the learning becomes even more individualised to suit their needs. We follow the Common Entrance syllabus, which prepares them well for the GCSE curriculum. As the boys’ behaviour for learning continues to mature, so does the level of responsibility we give them in guiding their own mathematical journey. Some benefit hugely from revisiting some of the concepts learnt in previous years, becoming increasingly proficient in the four operations, fractions, decimals and percentages, and algebra. Meanwhile, others are now ready to expand their mathematical knowledge well beyond what would normally be expected at this age, studying quadratic equations, trigonometry and geometric proof. Fortunately, at Solefield we have the expertise within the department to really challenge and push those for whom Mathematics is a passion and a talent. We also enter them into the Junior Mathematics Challenge and subsequent Junior Kangaroo. Through this tailored approach, our 2022 Year 8 cohort achieved exceptionally high marks in their end of year Common Entrance results, with 11 out of 12 pupils achieving an A or A* in their papers.  

Our vision at Solefield is to produce confident and competent mathematicians who can solve real-life problems. This guides what we teach and when we teach it, from the first day a boy starts at school until their final lesson. Not only does this mean they develop a love of learning, and a love of learning Maths, it also enables them to perform well in the exams they take. Our boys leave Solefield ready to tackle the mathematical world around them, the one they currently inhabit and the one they will encounter during the rest of their lives.