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Written Calculation for the new National Curriculum

08 September 2014

Written Calculation for the new National Curriculum

To help teachers and parents get to grips with the calculation requirements of the new National Curriculum, Schofield & Sims is pleased to announce the publication of Written Calculation, a unique new maths series providing graded practice in the aspects of written calculation that pupils need to master by the end of Key Stage 2.

One aspect of the new primary curriculum that has perhaps attracted more attention than any other is calculation. This is because the new curriculum marks a clear departure from fashionable pedagogies such as chunking – a form of long division that requires pupils to repeatedly subtract ‘chunks’ from a number – and ‘gridding’, which requires them to fill in grids to multiply numbers, in favour of traditional compact or columnar methods. Consequently, from 2016 pupils will no longer gain marks for showing their working if they use chunking and gridding techniques to find the answers to division and multiplication questions. Instead, they will be rewarded for using traditional short and long division and multiplication.

In a speech to the North of England Education Conference in Sheffield in January 2013, former education minister Elizabeth Truss made the case for formal written methods over chunking and gridding, arguing that:

“Chunking and gridding are tortured techniques but they have become the norm in recent years. Children just end up repeatedly adding or subtracting numbers, and batches of numbers. They may give the right answer - but they are not quick, efficient methods, nor are they methods children can build on, and apply to more complicated problems. Column methods of addition and subtraction, short and long multiplication and division are far simpler, far quicker, far more effective and allow children to understand properly the calculation and therefore move on to more advanced problems.”

Although some will no doubt continue to defend chunking and gridding on the grounds that they are more intuitive and promote better conceptual understanding compared to ‘blind algorithms', many will be glad to see the back of such methods, which have often drawn criticism for holding back the most able and confusing everyone else. In particular, parents who were themselves taught using traditional methods, have struggled to get to grips with modern techniques and have often tried to re-educate their children based on their own preferred methods, resulting in even more confusion for the child. If there is but one good thing to come out of the new curriculum, it's that there will now at least be consistency between what pupils are being taught in school and at home.

Our new Written Calculation series is designed to help schools respond to the changes outlined above by providing a structured whole-school approach to calculation based on the methods recommended in the new curriculum. Aimed at Key Stage 2, it comprises six Pupil Books, six Answer Books, a Teacher’s Guide – containing detailed planning and teaching notes, together with a set of photocopiable assessment resources – and a Teacher’s Resource Book, brimming with further practice material. A wide range of supporting free downloads are also available from the Schofield & Sims website.

Written Calculation uses a sequence of 18 carefully structured ‘steps’ of learning to guide pupils toward full mastery of each method. Each step combines a detailed explanation and worked example, with extensive guided practice, to ensure that pupils achieve both fluency and conceptual understanding. Integrated problem solving questions encourage children to use and select the most appropriate written method and prepare them for using written calculation proficiently on a day-to-day basis in future education, in the workplace and in everyday life.

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