What Zahawi’s focus on numeracy and technology means for teachers

In addition to his focus on literacy and numeracy, Zahawi also has an interest in technology and promoting artificial intelligence (AI) as a teaching tool.
Here, Paul Carter, former teacher and VP of product at maths edtech platform Mangahigh, explores what this shift in priorities may practically mean for teachers. How might schools best utilise technology by making maths fun, personal and a time-saving mechanism? Carter also explores Zahawi’s emphasis on early education provision and how his agenda taps into the wider levelling-up agenda. Schools can pre-empt Zahawi’s education shakeup by following these practical steps.

Make maths fun

As teachers know, students are more likely to invest their time and focus in subjects they enjoy, but it can be challenging to ensure maths classes are fun for everyone in the class across a wide range of abilities.

Edtech can help teachers overcome this difficulty by accessing curriculum-aligned maths content such as games through online platforms. These educational games can effectively engage students because they help associate maths with fun, while keeping them challenged and curious about what tasks they will need to complete to reach the next level.

Additionally, students spend an increasing amount of time watching videos on their mobile devices following the rise of platforms such as TikTok. Students are used to online interfaces and engaging with information virtually, and so online games should help them understand information quickly and easily in a familiar format.

Make maths personal
Students will be most engaged with maths when they make a personal connection with the syllabus and can combine their studies with wider interests.
Edtech helps teachers achieve this, and these online maths activities can use AI to recommend activities unique to each student’s abilities and interests. For example, if a student regularly chooses games about negative numbers, the platform will remember they prefer this topic. In future, the platform will suggest other games which explore negative numbers and how they relate to other mathematics principles and theories, so the student continues to learn while enjoying the topic they know well.

These platforms also progress in difficulty at a gradual and tailored pace, so every student can learn at a speed which suits them while still being challenged. This customised approach builds confidence and excitement about maths.

Make sure technology saves teachers’ time

More than ever before, it is important to ensure teachers are equipped with the tools they need to save time. With rising levels of burnout, teachers leaving the profession and cyberbullying, educators need as much time as possible to focus on the classroom and the delivery of their lessons.

Edtech can act as a time saving tool. As soon as students begin their online maths games, teachers can track progress through analytics tools. This helps teachers identify where students excel, struggle, and may need extra support.

This feature also helps teachers save time as it shines a light on student knowledge gaps, which can help inform future lesson plans. Teachers should then see a difference in future analytics, which will indicate how effective their lessons have been and how much time they may need to dedicate to topics students continue to struggle with in the future.

Focus on early years

The above tactics can be used by schools catering to all ages. However, the education secretary has indicated he may focus on early years numeracy and literacy provision in particular, to equip children with the foundational knowledge they need to thrive throughout their academic journey. Furthermore, when students have a positive interaction with maths at a young age, they’re more likely to sustain a good understanding of the subject throughout their life.

Many edtech platforms will help primary educators achieve this. For example, Mangahigh offers maths games for students as young as five years old. These games include addition exercises and animations which help students visualise addition, subtraction and multiplication with bright colours, friendly, funny characters and encouraging noises. There are also positive interstitial messages throughout the activities to motivate them and help form a positive association with their learning experience.

Levelling up

Finally, it’s important schools view Zahawi’s commitment to maths and technology in the wider context of the levelling-up agenda.

The education secretary believes he can help the Government achieve its levelling-up promises by equalising access to educational technology, opportunities, and tuition for fundamental subjects like maths. He argues that only then will “a child’s background will never obstruct their future potential”.

To help achieve this, he has provided 500,000 laptops and tablets to disadvantaged children across the UK, through the Government’s get help with technology programme. Additionally, he has boosted the broadband capability of schools which had the slowest internet connection.
Zahawi’s intention to achieve the Government’s levelling-up promises through education indicates his strategy may be both long-term and interdepartmental, which is good news for schools.

All schools will be able to utilise this newly distributed technology, and that which schools already had access to, by following the above practical steps. I hope this advice will help schools across the UK boost their maths provision by utilising the edtech solutions they have access to.
 
23/11/2021