students on the sofa

Maths Adventures in Kahlo Class

As you enter the year 4/5, Kahlo classroom the room radiates warmth and a sense of belonging, with neutral colours and space for work yet to be created covering the walls. The large windows along one side of the room allow light to stream in, filling every corner. Sitting on tables, chairs, or the floor, some students remove their shoes to really get comfortable as their approachable, deeply caring teacher Ellie welcomes them back from break time.

As the children settle, a clicking sound draws your attention. Ellie quietly uses a hole punch to track and give credit to the students who remember their class agreements. Get enough holes in the cards or if the whole class settles and another pompom goes into the class jar, being ready and able to learn quickly is just one opportunity to inch them one step closer to choosing a class reward when the jar is full.

The maths lesson begins, not a groan or moan is heard as students find their books and a comfortable place to sit. Ready to embark on their projects the group separates, around half the class heading upstairs to the textiles room with their dedicated and inspiring teaching partner Rachel and the ever present and supportive Emily. The two groups and additional staff to support them in maths allows every learner to be met where they are so, without fear or hesitation, they can develop skills that will last them a lifetime.

“It’s time for a five minute flashback.” Ellie shares flashback cards, with each group having their own set of five questions relating to maths concepts from previous projects and lessons. Far from the pressure of a test, it does not matter if the students can compete all or any of the questions, this is simply a fast and effective way to assess where the learners are today and what needs to be refreshed.

Five minutes passes, through the windows you can see some year 7 and 8 students actively engaged in a filming project for one of their International Baccalaureate lessons.

It’s time to review the flashback questions and it quickly becomes clear that there is a range of understanding. Openly sharing the methods and results, it is striking how open the class are with each other, students are invited to share their thoughts and if they get stuck can ‘phone a friend’ for help. There is no shame to not knowing or getting an answer wrong, every learner is respected for their willingness to contribute and to try.

The beginning of a new term brings new maths projects for each of the two groups. It’s Donut Shops vs planning a country multi stop trip around the world!

Last term the students who remain in the classroom today completed the Donut Shop project, successfully and strategically budgeting their resources to buy tables, chairs, ingredients and pricing their imaginary donuts to sell well and make a profit. Today those same students will be planning their trips while the other group embark on the entrepreneurial endeavours of the donut shop challenge.

Armed with three pages of research focused questions they have given, the students move to work in an environment that suits their learning needs. Many remain in the classroom, some move out to the communal space of the oval piazza and others choose the peace of the ‘Zen Den’ next door.

“For today, continue with the questions, if this is really hard right now that’s ok because I can tailor my skill slams later on to meet you where you are and help you, if we need to break down any of questions then join me on the carpet.” reassures Ellie.

The room hums with a quiet buzz of excitement and conversation as students choose to work in pairs or alone and dive into their investigations. Struggling on question two, five students join Ellie on the carpet to dig into what the question is asking for and how they could find or work out the answers to the information they need. Every student is empowered to find the answers for themselves before coming to ask, Ellie answers a question with another question to build curiosity, self-directed learning and research methods – core skills the students will need as they progress into the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) taught in the upper school and relevant for the rest of their lives.

As the lesson draws to a close, I am curious how the students find this type of teaching. Confidently and enthusiastically the group unanimously agree …

“It’s harder but it’s much more fun and interesting and I understand why I need to learn the maths now, its not boring or just numbers any more.”

As the lesson draws to a close, it’s evident that this pioneering approach to education is yielding remarkable results. With enthusiasm and confidence, the students express their appreciation for the engaging and challenging learning experiences they encounter. Their parting words, ‘we wish everyone got to learn like this,’ resonate deeply with teacher Ellie, reaffirming her commitment to shaping empowered and resilient learners. As the classroom empties and the lesson comes to an end, the warmth and camaraderie linger, a beautiful and heart warming testament to how transformative learning experiences can be on all of us.