IF you are going to learn something new then learn from the best - that has been the ethos behind an exchange of ideas that now sees North-East schools teach maths 'the Shanghai way'. Education editor Andy Richardson finds out how it could help revolutionise teaching.

A SCHOOL in Darlington is taking ideas gleaned from teachers in the Far East to spearhead a drive for North-East children to be equipped with world class maths skills.

The Archimedes Maths Hub at Carmel College has adopted methods used in Shanghai and Singapore to implement the teaching of ‘mathematical reasoning’ which aims to give pupils a better grasp of how the subject works and to become more adept at problem-solving, rather than learning by rote.

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Carmel plays host to one of 34 hubs across the UK which were set up by the Government in 2014 to harness maths teaching expertise within a local centre of excellence so it can spread best practice to nearby schools.

The drive to improve attainment in maths at all key stages prompted ministers to look at which parts of the world were best at teaching the subject, with Shanghai and Singapore coming out top. Subsequent fact-finding missions between the UK and Asia has led to valuable new ideas being implemented in British classrooms, says Helen Keough, Carmel’s Maths Hub lead.

She explains: “One of the things we learned from Shanghai is to take a lesson and mark work on the same day so that if one of the children hasn’t picked it up you can go straight back to them and give them more help. This means none of them are left behind.”

Another of the ideas taken from Shanghai is that instead of maths homework consisting of a recap of the things learned today pupils are asked to spend time the night before researching the subject they are due to study the next day.

Other traditional notions of maths teaching have also been challenged, such as when more able pupils complete a particular topic they would normally go straight on to the next one. Pupils using the Shanghai method continue working on the topic in hand to develop a deeper understanding.

Ms Keough adds: "This isn't about taking everything we saw in Shanghai or Singapore and applying it here. Some of their very rigid streaming of children is not something we would want to take forward here as we are very much about inclusion and ensuring every child has an opportunity to succeed. But we saw many things that work over there that we can use in the UK."

The written materials used in Singapore, for example, have proved very useful to teachers in the North-East, she says.

Carmel's Archimedes Maths Hub, and the Great North Maths hub in Wallsend which covers the north of the region, are encouraging the region’s schools to tap into their services and gain mastery in mathematics.

Ms Keough concludes: “We want to make sure that we are not just among the best in the country but that our pupils are able to compete with the best in the world.”

For more information, and to find out how your school can tap into funding for maths projects, visit:

www.carmelarchimedesmathshub.org.uk www.ncetm.org.uk www.mathshubs.org.uk