Missing the obvious

Missing the obvious is something that I seem to do all the time. I have been writing about how Representation and making things more concrete for the children in maths has been one of the areas that I have been really interested in this year but then I miss obvious connections.

My year 5’s were looking at areas of complex shapes made of rectangles last week. Some of them could manage by drawing the shapes and dividing them into rectangles on paper but some of them had got very confused by shapes in which all the measurements weren’t present. They kept ending up with larger areas because they were multiplying the wrong figures.

The following day I was at the final network meeting and we were discussing Representation and I suddenly had a brainwave. It was obvious when I thought of it but sadly I hadn’t managed to think of it before or during the lesson. If I got the children to cut the shapes into their rectangle parts, then it should be much easier for them to see what numbers needed to be multiplied.

I tried it this morning with almost total success. By cutting the complex shapes into 2 or 3 simple rectangles, the children had a much better understanding of the whole area. They could then go back to working on a piece of paper and it still made sense.

As I said, blindingly obvious when you think about it.

I need to try and think more in advance of how I can make maths more concrete for my children before they get bogged down over an idea. I think it is a danger with teaching higher or middle ability children that you can assume that they will understand what you are teaching.

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