My name is Sharon Day and I am a freelance mathematics consultant for the primary sector. I began my company in 2011 and have been successfully trading since that time. I have a passion for learning and, as mathematics creates many negative responses from people, I have a particular leaning towards making maths accessible and fun for teachers and children. Adults will tell me how inspired they feel when working with me. Children will say that they enjoyed working with me and that they have learned new skills and knowledge.
My degree is in music (Trinity College of Music, London) and I feel that the two subjects of maths and music are closely aligned. Having an ‘A’ level in mathematics and then thoroughly enjoying teaching the subject of maths (as Primary Teachers have to become ‘experts’ in all subjects), leading the subject of mathematics and then becoming a leading maths teacher, my career gradually turned from being focused on music to being focused on maths.
I began my teaching career, after having completed a PGCE at Bretton Hall, with the London Borough of Barnet in 1984, where I was given a forward-thinking and supportive experience. The idea of a broad and balanced curriculum is in my DNA and I learned the craft of planning my own meaningful schemes of work for all the subjects in the curriculum, that also link across subjects, drawing upon children’s interests and taking inspiration from the local area and current events. In 1988 I came back to my home town of Bradford to teach. My classroom career, of twenty-one years, gave me experience working with children from the age of 3 to the age of 13, whilst also becoming a subject leader for music as well as mathematics. I also gained experience, for a year, as acting Deputy Head Teacher. In 2006, I became a National Strategies’ Mathematics Consultant for my local authority of Bradford.
I now work with many schools, across the Bradford district and beyond, to keep them up-to-date with new initiatives in teaching mathematics as well as reminding them of some brilliant ‘old’ ways and resources. I have created planning scaffolds that demonstrate progression in learning as well as my own creative tasks that I share with teachers during training in schools. One of the key methods of support that I provide, and enjoy, is teaching with and for teachers. There is nothing more satisfying than demonstrating for teachers how to use a ‘Low Threshold, High Ceiling’ lesson structure to ensure that all children have equal access to the curriculum. The lessons promote the skill of noticing and looking for patterns and general statements. They also teach children how to represent their thinking pictorially which is useful for children who want to learn and embed the meaning of the maths as well as for children who are trying to prove the meaning of the maths. My belief is that if children are given the opportunity to ‘discover’ mathematical relationships they are more likely to remember and apply them than if they are simply told them. Many teachers are still unsure of how their children can use concrete and pictorial representations to learn concepts, ideas and techniques. However, I have found that once the teachers see their children involved in learning experiences that promote their use, then they are more confident to pursue these methods for themselves. I also have a strong commitment to not labelling children as ‘able’ or ‘less able’. Using learning scaffolds and building independence and self-esteem through enjoyment and engagement are key to helping children to achieve. However, If any child does not understand something in maths then we need to think of a different experience for them, so guided group work is still required but that happens when the need is noticed by the teacher or requested by the child. Many of the schools I have worked with over the last few years are no longer putting children into ‘ability groups’ – I am continuing to suggest this philosophy with other schools.
The first two years of my work as an independent consultant included leading groups of teachers from across seven schools with action research. Examples of the varied focuses for our action research included:
- How can we use resources effectively to develop visualisation of number concepts in children?
- How can we meet the mathematical needs of children in KS2 who achieved 2c at the end of KS1?
- How can we meet all children’s mathematical needs in enhanced provision in FS and year 1?
- How can we ensure that children are able to interpret word problems accurately?
I also supported a teacher with his action research in his own school on:
- How promoting curiosity in children is crucial to good mathematical performance.
One of the roles I have had since 2013/14 is as an associate consultant for Early Excellence Ltd. (Huddersfield) and this work has taken me across the North of England – including Liverpool, York, Hull and Barnsley. I have also delivered training courses at their Huddersfield and London centres. I write and deliver mathematics courses aimed at EYFS and KS1 for them, as well as delivering training on Enquiry Based Learning for KS1. For this role and whilst working for the local authority, as well as working with schools as an independent consultant, my experience has included planning, writing and delivering training sessions. The largest audience I have given training to, so far, is 120 delegates.
Other professionals, that I love to work with, include:
Philip Webb website @philipgwebb
Alison Philipson website @AP_Literacy
Tim Bleazard website @idletim @curricinnov
Bryn Llewellyn website @tagtiv8
Claire Holt website @amazingholt