This study is based on work undertaken as part of Masters in Education degree by Isaac Howarth at Edge Hill University in 2015.
Over the course of three months, I worked with a group of 19 children in Year 5 with low prior attainment to see what effects there would be after a term of direct and regular instruction in reasoning strategies. Pupils were explicitly taught reasoning skills and made aware of reasoning processes during their daily maths lessons.
Research collated by the Education Endowment Foundation indicates that teaching metacognitive strategies can have a major impact on the rate at which children learn (Education Endowment Foundation, 2017). Research in the underlying theory indicated that metacognition can be learned by hearing and taking part in discussions where concepts and logical rules are discussed, hence choosing to teach reasoning skills. Taking time to teach these thinking skills would help children make better progress by concentrating on the aims of the National Curriculum: to develop reasoning, fluency and problem solving (Department for Education, 2014).
There has been a perception that teaching children to reason in maths lessons is a way to challenge more-able children – that has a hidden implication that is it not always necessary for all children. However, there is a relationship between children’s mathematical reasoning and their achievement in maths at the end of Key Stage 2 (Nunes et al., 2009). This makes teaching reasoning a vital component of a quality maths education for all children.
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