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An investigation into the effects of directly teaching numerical reasoning strategies to year 6 pupils

An investigation into the effects of directly teaching numerical reasoning strategies to year 6 pupils
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Victoria is a Key Stage 2 teacher in a single-form entry primary school in South Wales and carried out this research with year 6. Victoria’s year 6 pupils could answer procedural questions to a high standard but struggled to apply their knowledge when presented with a reasoning task. This was particularly apparent in national tests where the disparity between procedural and reasoning scores was large.

Through a programme of class observations, book scrutiny, pupil voice activities and staff discussions she discovered that the children had little in the way of scaffolding with which to approach reasoning tasks. The children didn’t know where to start because they had never been explicitly taught approaches to tackle reasoning tasks.

Therefore, her project developed an approach to explicitly teach strategies that could be applied to reasoning questions.

The intervention took place over a period of six weeks, during which Victoria spent two sessions each week directly teaching a range of strategies;

  • Guess, check, repeat
  • Think logically/Work backwards
  • Draw a picture
  • Write a number sentence
  • Make a list/table
  • Look for patterns
  • Act it out
  • Use resources

At the end of the six-week intervention the focus group were able to independently engage with reasoning tasks, recall and apply strategies and had greatly increased their confidence.
I’m going to use this strategy…reasoning is easy!

The key message of this research is the recognition that we often expect a child to be able to reason numerically based solely on their procedural skills. This would be akin to saying in literacy that they know their letter sounds so therefore should be able to read the whole sentence. But reasoning, like reading, is much more complex and a range of strategies is required for children to become successful.

© Victoria Girton-Smith January 2016

Additional Info

  • Author: Victoria Girton-Smith
  • Email Address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Project originally written in: English
  • Project Reference: 2011