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Website URL : http://www.swansea.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=52733

Children in Swansea are getting their essential maths skills into shape

SWANSEA Council has teamed up with schools to boost numeracy by changing how maths is taught and developing programmes to identify and support children who fall behind.

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It comes after figures showed Wales lagging behind other European nations in maths at school and a survey of adult basic skills found 51% of adults had numeracy levels below that expected of an 11-year- old.

Lynwen Barnsley, the Council's Mathematics Adviser, said: "Too many children and adults are afraid of maths and have difficulty with numbers. We live in a culture where it is acceptable for people to say 'I'm hopeless at maths'.

"But numeracy is essential. Pupils need it to succeed in a range of subjects and courses. We need it for everything from budgeting for household bills to working out when a bargain is a bargain. Most jobs need maths at some time too.

"Mathematics also provides the language and tools underpinning scientific and industrial research and development so it essential for the future of our economy and society.

"That's why we want to improve numeracy and ensure children understand and can use maths from an early age through into adulthood."

As part of the numeracy strategy teachers from all schools have attended training led by the Council to look at more effective methods for teaching mathematics.

Teaching is moving away from a focus on just getting the right answers to sums. It's now about ensuring children are throughly grasping mathematical ideas and are able to use them.

Teachers are using practical materials to explain maths concepts so pupils better understand the maths they are doing and are able to use these skills in a variety of different contexts both in school and in real-life.

Children in the Foundation Phase are having fun while learning maths through the use of Numicon shapes.

The Council has provided starter sets of Numicon shapes which consist of ten colourful shapes each representing a number. The shapes make numbers real for children and help them see how numbers work.

Catch up numeracy programmes have also been set up in all schools to identify children who are having difficulties with maths before they fall too far behind their peers.

Karen Richards, Maths Co-ordinator at Cadle Primary School, said: "We introduced Numicon for infants in the autumn term. It is designed to give children a hands-on approach to developing their numbers skills. The children are really enthusiastic because the system is bright and colourful. We now want to introduce it throughout the school."

The local numeracy strategy builds on work already being done in schools to raise standards and also responds to Leighton Andrews, Welsh Government Minister for Education and Skills, priorities for improving standards of literacy and numeracy.

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