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Primary schools’ early learning maths goals are changing. What’s new?

In September, new early learning goals will be piloted in 25 schools before being rolled out to the rest of the country. But, what will the changes involve, and how can primary teachers ensure their pupils meet their new maths goals?

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A pupil’s early learning years are some of the most critical from a learning and development perspective. The Department for Education, therefore, has very specific goals for primary school pupils to ensure their developmental needs are met within the curriculum.

Recently, the DfE proposed a series of changes to these early learning goals. In September, a pilot will be launched in 25 schools across the country to test out these changes, and if successful, rolled out to the rest of England.

The DfE invited a number of schools to take part in the pilot based on a range of criteria: size, Ofsted rating, and Free School Meal eligibility. The final 25 were chosen specifically to ensure a good balance in the pilot.

Whilst the majority of goal changes relate to language, changes to maths goals also deserve attention. So, how do these new goals translate to real learning practices, and how can technology in the classroom help pupils achieve them?

What are the DfE’s early learning goals?

Currently, there are 17 early learning goals. These goals take into account pupil development, language and communication, reading and writing, numbers, art and design, physical development, self-confidence and relationships, and understanding of the world.

The current goals range from being able to count to 20 to recognising unacceptable behaviour, aimed at helping pupils develop a well-rounded understanding in these formative years.

What are the proposed changes to early learning?

The DfE’s changes, meanwhile, aim to reduce the workload on formal assessment procedures, and free up teachers to focus on child development and interaction. It also attempts to tackle the problem of children struggling to grasp language and communication.

Primarily, there will be a reduction of the number of early learning goals from the current 17, and heavier emphasis on strengthening literacy and numeracy in early years.

How will early learning maths goals change?

Whilst the principal changes to early learning goals focus on literacy, there are significant changes to the maths goals for teachers to consider.

In numeracy, for example, pupils will no longer be expected to count from one to 20. Instead, they will be expected to show a better understanding of numbers whilst counting from one to 10. Concepts of space, shape and measurement, meanwhile, will be removed from the maths goals entirely.

To break it down, the goals for mathematics are separated into two areas – numbers and numerical patterns.

For numbers, children will be expected to:

  • Grasp numbers 1 to 10, linking names of numbers, numerals, their value, and their position in order
  • Recognise quantities without counting up to 5
  • Recall number bonds (eg. 5+5) for numbers 0-5 and for 10, including corresponding partitioning facts

For numerical patterns, children will be expected to:

  • Recall double facts up to 5+5
  • Compare sets of objects up to 10 in different contexts, considering size and difference
  • Explore patterns of numbers within numbers up to 10, including evens and odds

How can edtech help with these changes to early maths?

For primary school teachers, it can be tricky to engage all their pupils in numeracy and mathematics, especially if they are struggling with a mixed-ability class. By using interactive tools and digital applications, pupils of all abilities and levels of motivation have the opportunity to approach early maths problems in a medium that is fun and exciting.

On the Promethean ActivPanel, for example, teachers have the ability to allow classes to work in groups on simple numerical tasks. With an endless number of free or cheap apps available from the Play Store, teachers can choose the most appropriate for their early learning maths goals. ActivInspire, meanwhile, is an excellent resource for creating interactive and collaborative number activities for pupils.

This allows teachers to use different platforms and tools to bring about the same learning outcomes, and give pupils greater confidence in their numerical skills. Here’s two inexpensive apps that teachers can use:

  • Number Monster is a simple, low-cost app for young pupils that teaches children to recognise numbers from 1-20. With a simple click-and-drag interface, the app is incredibly simple to play so your pupils can focus on understanding number bonds, facts and patterns.
  • EduGuru Maths is aimed at 3-5 year old pupils and guides teachers through their pupils’ early learning goals. The low-cost app has been developed and built to support the English National Curriculum.

So, these changes to early learning maths goals may require a new approach for primary teachers. These changes should, in theory, open up more time for interactive teaching by removing the burden on paperwork and assessment.

With a more collaborative and digital approach to primary school maths and numeracy, teachers can engage a wider base of children in early learning maths and ensure more pupils meet their goals.