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Genazzano – growing the next generation of mathematicians

22 Nov 2019

Promoting interest and careers for girls in STEM is a key priority of our nation, and Genazzano FCJ College is a champion of encouraging young women in these fields. For many schools, the challenge is to keep girls engaged in these studies as they move up into high school. At Genazzano however, students in Years 5 and 6 love their maths classes and enthusiastically tackle the challenges presented, leading to outstanding growth in their learning.

‘Strong skills and confidence in learning mathematics in primary school is crucial to building a foundation for future engagement in maths’ says Mary Jones, Head of Junior School at Genazzano. Mary believes that a key to building this foundation is expert teachers with a passion for maths, who are motivated to make an impact. Genazzano is blessed to have such a team of dedicated teachers in Years 5 and 6, who have implemented an innovative program to boost student learning, with profound results. 

Rebecca Ryan, Genazzano’s Numeracy coach, says, ‘When it comes to learning, it is the growth that matters. Whilst we hope that students will have a year’s worth of progress for a year’s teaching, we are seeing results that are exceeding that.’ Mary Jones agrees. ‘Some students are already very strong performers in maths, and it can be challenging to achieve that very high growth, to take them to the next level. Seeing this outstanding growth over the last two years is the result of explicit and targeted teaching strategies. ‘

Genazzano measured the student learning growth by calculating the rate of growth, or improvement, in the Naplan results of Year 5 students compared with their results two years later - when these same students were in Year 7.   ‘We saw 95% of these students show medium to high levels of growth’, says Mary. ‘This a testament to the work of the Year 5/6 team in preparing students to excel in maths heading into secondary school.‘

Rebecca pointed out that many primary schools don’t get to see the comparisons between Years 5 and 7 data as students generally change schools after Year 6. Genazzano is fortunate to have the girls going right through to senior school and so can track their progress. ‘Our students outperform students coming in from other schools,’ says Rebecca. ‘It is so exciting to see that we are doing in maths is obviously paying off.’

Mary explained that the impetus for the work by the teachers began when they realised that the student progress was often at a moderate level. The team joined the Eastern Data Collective and benefitted from the mentoring from experts such as Lyn Sharratt. ‘Over the past couple of years, we have really put a focus on our teacher content and pedagogical knowledge, the science of learning, and high impact teaching strategies that are purposeful and targeted to the learner’s needs.’

Rebecca emphasised that the work with data is really about ensuring each girl is known, and there is a plan for her learning. ‘It is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. We drill down to look at the needs of the cohort – and the individual.’  ‘For example’, says Mary, ‘when we analysed our student results, we noticed that mathematical problem solving was an area of challenge for our students – so we were able to focus on this to improve the students’ skills.’ Another strategy that has proven to be effective is the use of a ‘data wall’ which shows student progression displayed on a wall for teachers to work with. Rebecca says it is a very powerful, visible and concrete way to make meaning of the data. It helps the teachers to link the child with the data making it more meaningful, memorable and motivating. The data becomes actionable, liveable... it is analysed and translated into curriculum planning. Teachers want to see those girls progressing.’ 

Mary says that the impact of the work is evident in the classroom, and that having the Naplan comparison results is affirming. ‘It says that we are on the right track with our goals, the structures we have in place and our collaborative approach to teaching and learning. The commitment to ensuring growth in every area is ongoing. We will build on this work by using these high impact strategies in other areas of student learning.‘