said Dr Georgie Hart, Education Director of Sparx, 'and we needed to work alongside teachers not deliver an off the shelf package to them. Teachers require enormous emotional intelligence and we want to create something that frees them up to do better.'

Homework is a case in point. Gone are the days of, 'Page 245, do exercises 1, 3, 4 and do exercise 7 if you have time' and piles of books for teachers to mark. Every student has bespoke homework where the algorithms identify the exact point for that individual student and sets questions from its vast database which are not too hard, not too easy but which will stretch the learner a little, and be satisfying.

The homework follows on from what they have been studying in class so our year 7 were to have an hour's homework around equations which they had worke d on in class. This could include questions they had not finished in class, similar questions and some taxing. These would

be interleaved with work which were a little more

across different topics from earlier lessons to check that they have remembered and understood the concepts.

Spaced repetition is important to build memory skills. The class had worked on finding the area of shapes from perimeter several weeks earlier so there might be a small piece of homework with questions designed to retrieve their memories of how to do this.

Personalisation m necessarily have the

same questions as the person eans that students will not

they sat next to in class. The questions are

predicated on their ability and the speed at which they work as some young people are good at maths but work very slowly. Each homework should take about 60 minutes so some will have fewer questions, some more and students reap the rewards. Everything they do in Sparx earns points, every question they answer in class, every piece of homework and every optional question too .

Schools decide how to turn those points into rewards. It might be in the form of certificates, prizes such as stationery, badges to wear on the school tie or lapel or – a very popular approach at one school- students collect discs which allow them to jump the lunch queue. This is tangible proof that it pays tomake an effort in maths! Talking to students after class revealed that

some liked to do all the questions straight through while others would save some for later in the week. Some would watch a video before doing the questions as a reminder but most choose to use one once they had tried and were One girl told us: 'My mum is quite g maths but thinks she isn’t. She got a D

and had to ood at stuck.

do it again at college. I feel much better about myself when I do the optional targets. I feel really confident then and understand it more.' A parent testimonial says similar things in

parent speak: ' I am really impressed with the new Sparx maths platform, it feels like a great step up...and more importantly my son is really engaged with it. It is SO great to see him feeling confident and enthusiastic about maths, One criticism of using technology for

homework is access for children from poorer families. St James seems to have it covered. hildren can get onto Sparx from smartphones. ptops, desktops, iPads and Android tablets or even an Xbox. There are very few children who do not have any technology at home. In an emergency the school might lend a student a device but in case they have a problem or their wi- fi is off, teachers try to set homework so students can go to homework club during the lunch break. A stunning 99%of children at St James'

l a C

complete all their homework which usually must

be submitted by 8.30 a.m. on the morning it is due. The teachers can check online, see who has done it, see the results and the clever software will pick out the three questions most students struggled with. This is based on a combination of whether they got the answer right or wrong and whether they needed to call up a video. This means that teachers go into class armed with evidence and can give timely advice on the problem areas instead of giving feedback a week later when students have forgotten what they did. This approach raises standards right across the class. Philippa found that her year 7 class has moved up to a new level as a group. Because she has instant access to results in class and from homework she has evidence of pupils' speed and confidence as well as their knowledge and ability so she can accelerate the learning, knowing the children will not be left behind.

Sparx was designed to give students the chance to work at their own level and at their own pac e so they would all feel challenged but also they would all experience success, regardless of their starting point.

'It is important to talk about maths anxiety and about how to develop resilience when problem solving,' said Dr Hart. 'We need to explain to children it is normal and usual to sometimes feel uncomfortable with a maths problem but it is a wonderful feeling when you find a way through the challenge and think 'I did that! '


MathsWeek London, which will take place from 10-14 June 2019. This is set to become an annual event dedicated to improving children’s attitudes towards maths and inspiring more pupils, teachers and parents to improve their confidence in the teaching and learning of the subject. WhileMathsWeek itself is only open to schools in London, the resources and activities will be available for all schools t o access and download.

At the Education Resources Aw March 22, 2019,

Sparx and the TedWragg Awards on

MAT won the Collaboration Between School and Supplier Award.

34 www Apri l 2019 2019

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