So, what do you need to think about before you can start?
The following information provides guidance on setting up your maths club. This is best practice taken directly from schools over the past 3 years of running maths clubs.
1. How will the maths club fit into your school’s bigger picture and needs?
Before you set up your maths club you need to consider what you want your maths club to achieve for pupils and how it fits into the bigger mathematical picture in school. The most successful clubs are part of a school wide approach to raising the profile of maths.
You might want to consider the following questions:
- Is the maths club part of a wider numeracy strategy?
- How does the maths club fit into the medium and long term plans for maths in your school?
- What other extra-curricular maths activities are you already offering, or could offer in the future, alongside the maths clubs? For example, maths tournaments, parents workshops, maths days…
- Who do you need to involve in your maths clubs for it to be most successful? Your senior management team, maths colleagues, parents, liaison staff in school…
- Does the school already have existing extra-curricular programmes, and how can you utilise systems and support that already exists?
2. Who is the club for?
Before you can get down to the business of deciding what to do, you need to know who you are doing it for.
As part of the process, you will need to ask yourself:
- Will club membership be by invitation (because you need to target particular pupils), or will it be open to everyone?
- How many pupils do you want in the club? Clubs in the project had 15 pupils and this was felt to be a good number, especially when practical activities were involved.
- How will you go about inviting the pupils if you are targeting certain groups?
- How will you make sure parents understand what is involved and are supportive?
- Will you invite parents to session(s) or get them involved in some other way?
- How much energy and capacity do you have to keep pupils attending?
- Finally, if you are targeting pupils, will you implement a ‘post club’ support system?
3. What are the aims for the club?
You need to be clear about what you are trying to achieve with your maths club from the start. You might want to raise the profile of the subject in the school, or attitudes to the subject, build confidence in your pupils’ or use the club as a tool to engage pupils who have become disengaged. Your aims will be influenced by your school’s ethos, your pupils, your parents and as well as what you think will make a difference to the views and experiences of mathematics you want to encourage.
Thinking about, and discussing your aims with your colleagues and Senior Management team in advance will help you make decisions about all aspects of the club and its organisation. You do not want too many aims as this will be unmanageable and unrealistic. Five should be your absolute maximum but one is enough!
Click here for some examples of aims that schools within the project chose to use. Use these to guide you rather than tell you what to do.
4. What mathematics will you focus on in the club?
Once you have established your aims you need to think about how you might best address them.
- Have a clear mathematical focus, such as number sense, space and shape, mental maths, money, measure, patterns and symmetry, and problem solving
- They wrap the mathematics in a theme, such as sport, cookery, games, pupil talk, working independently, supporting classroom work (including pre-teaching), practical and/or real world themes, including cooking and enterprise and designing games, using ICT, games, investigations.
Many clubs also placed an emphasis on particular learning skills such as: cooperation and team working, independence, confidence building, explaining, problem solving, thinking systematically, mathematical reasoning and metacognition, using and applying mathematics.
Use the questions below to help you decide on a mathematical theme and/or a focus for your club and to think about how this will affect the sorts of activities and resources you are likely to need.
- Write down your aims, What mathematics will you focus on?
- Is there a theme that is likely to engage your pupils more?
- What types of activities might fit your ideas?
- What resources will you need?
5. How will the club be organised?
6. How will you measure it's success?
Use your aims to identify some targets when planning how to measure success of your maths clubs. Think about qualitative (opinions, observations…) and quantitative (attainment, attendance…) measures. These will be very useful when designing activities, informing stakeholders about the purpose and outcomes of the club as well as sharing your impact afterwards. Whatever you choose to do, remember that it has to be manageable and useful to you. Think about concentrating on one thing at a time rather than being overwhelmed by the task. And remember, to celebrate the success of your pupils in the maths club! Click here to find out more. The main success indicators are that pupils turn up regularly and seem happy, engaged. You could of course ask them directly how they feel but often a little observation and careful listening will tell you more.
Think about keeping a small notebook to jot down things you notice, or that surprise you, or you are told… This is a great tool for reflection and for reminding you about successes that are important today but are easy to forget in the everyday rush and pressures of school life. Why not take some pictures?
You could also:
- Ask teachers for informal, or formal feedback on club pupils in their normal classes.
- Have they noticed any changes? (eg. A pupil volunteering in maths for the first time, pupils sharing, improved subject knowledge, a surprising observation/input from a pupil).
- Ask pupils to do an attitude survey before, during and after their club experience.
- Ask pupils directly for their feedback
- Involve parents. Why not ask them for feedback?
- Use pupil data such as at attendance and attainment to compare pre and post club figures.
There is no guarantee that changes you notice would not have happened anyway but your evidence will help you decide whether your club is contributing (at the very least) to the impact you hoped for. Trends and information from a variety of sources (such as the types described above) will give you the feedback you need and it is to be hoped it will also help you plan for the future and justify all your time and effort.
7. How will you share it's success?
You and your pupils will learn a huge amount from the maths clubs experience, make sure you build in time and capacity to share what you are doing, and what you found out. Sharing could be with a range of people and stakeholders.
Remember to share:
- What you are doing with parents and children. This will help them focus on what you are trying to achieve and they will be more able to give useful feedback. Perhaps use an assembly or celebration event.
- With other members of staff, by having good notes on content and outcomes. Sharing experiences and resources with other colleagues can have an impact on everyday classroom practice. You could use INSETS, intranet or informal discussions to achieve this.
- By involving other staff in delivery. This will help the sustainability of the club, with senior management to help them support you and see the club as part of the bigger educational picture within the school.
- With colleagues beyond the school, perhaps in your cluster or network. In this way other pupils in other schools can benefit from maths clubs in their schools and will make setting up and running a club easier for those teachers as they can learn from your successes.