According to OECD standards, the UK is underperforming in mathematics education both in teaching and quality of leadership. As a result, it is not meeting the needs of either the lowest-performing or even the most able students. A new project set up by RSA Fellow, Ezra Blondel, seeks to address this situation through his project 'Maths in the Garden'.
In 2013, Ofsted reported that one third of the mathematics teaching observed over the previous 4 years in the UK was not good enough. The lower attaining children were the most affected and the aspect of mathematics most neglected was application to real life. Conceptual understanding and problem solving were under-emphasized and insufficient focus was given to the ‘why’ of classroom activities. Further to this, children’s misconceptions in mathematics were missed or not acted upon by teachers and there was an overall poverty of expectation especially among the lower income white ethnic group.
‘Maths in the garden’ is a project working to improve this situation by building on existing pockets of good practice in mathematics teaching. Founded by Ezra Blondel FRSA, an accomplished mathematics educator and Winston Churchill Fellow, this start-up social enterprise offers a unique opportunity to learn mathematical problem solving through real-life garden activities. The project is currently being piloted in a level 5 RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Award primary school in Leyton, East London.
Through 'Maths in the garden', students work with master gardeners and their classroom teacher on all aspects of gardening from mathematical auditing of their school environment to creating raised beds, making compost, propagating, mulching, organising a farmers’ market and working out the profitability of raising chickens.
The RHS, in its research report into the effects of gardening on education in 11,500 primary schools, found that children’s experiences working in the garden assisted their levels of attainment in mathematics and science. Teachers covered aspects of numeracy, from simple exercises in measurement, counting and sequencing to more complex skills such as estimation and use of graphs. During such exercises, teachers were also sometimes alerted to other gaps in pupils’ knowledge. Sadly, in most schools, this approach to teaching in the garden has not since been officially embedded into the curriculum.
The team at 'Maths in the Garden' are currently looking to address this by developing a mathematics garden curriculum and an accompanying assessment framework. Learning Maths through garden activities in this way has the potential to positively affect the attainment of millions across the UK who currently find mathematics difficult.
If you are keen to support this work then there are four ways you can get involved. Maths in the garden are looking for:
- Master gardeners to donate four, 2 hour sessions (in total) for curriculum planning
- Successful entrepreneurs to donate four, 2 hour sessions (in total) for business planning
- A website developer
- A social media expert
Please contact Ezra Blondel to find out more about the volunteering opportunities.