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Introducing numeracy standards at Hamilton Boys High School

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In this video, teacher Philippe Basel and a number of students reflect on the numeracy standards trial conducted at Hamilton Boys’ High School and explain how this approach differs from a mainstream maths class.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Philippe Basel and students explain how this approach differs from a mainstream maths class. These include: 

  • engaging students through practical learning activities
  • using authentic contexts
  • providing multiple opportunities to achieve the standards
  • extending the time available to achieve
  • working in smaller groups
  • encouraging more one on one time with the teacher.

Discuss how you support student achievement in numeracy. How is your approach similar or different to the one described here?

Philippe describes some examples of learning about measurement in authentic contexts. How do you connect your students’ learning to their personal interests? Discuss ways in which you might extend their learning opportunities into new contexts including local, national and global events, places, and activities.

Have you seen ...

NZ Maths numeracy unit standards forum
Forum for professional discussion, in particular to help with clarification of achievement or units standards, and to share teaching ideas. 


It’s helping by making a difference in what I know, how I learn. This course makes a difference in my life but if I didn’t have this opportunity, where would I be?

We’ve introduced the numeracy standards at the school just because the realigning of the standards, and the old unit standards are falling away. We introduced them last year as just a trial. We had a year 10 group and we decided that we would trial that at a year 10 group, where we set up the measurement portfolios. We did a whole lot of activities and tasks around it. Any students - we tried it with two classes but the one class struggled to keep up with the work, so the more able class continued with it. Then we sent it for moderation to see what we were doing right and doing wrong. That then came back and then - we’re year 2 now.

Probably in a mainstream math class, we’ll be pressured to get through certain aspects of the curriculum. Well now it’s a different mindset where we go along and think right there’s not a lot of pressure on us to actually get through a lot of different types of work. We just want to ensure these students can practically do things or understand why they’re doing things. So in the measurement unit we all go along and look at measuring your horsepower. Which chap in the class here has actually got the most horsepower? And of course they all love that.

“One time we just ran up and down the steps to see how long and how fast it is for us to do it. We just calculate it instead of just working off a book is much funner than usual.” 

We also measure out how long their pace is. They’ll have to measure out a distance, run that distance and average their number of steps. They’ll walk it, look at the changes in their steps, then we look at really well known athletes and say, ‘Look how big their pace is’, compare it, can you get your pace as big as theirs? So it’s really the same activity, the same teaching behind it, but it’s a different setting. 

We then go along, we build weather stations, and they record how much rain falls every single day. Wind direction and the temperature. 

“What I find interesting is our weather machines. Just actually measuring something and calculating something that’s happening and just gets me right into it.” 

Even though we’re doing the exact same measurements they’ve got a different setting. Even though a lot of the students might have achieved the standard we can still redo it with them again and again and present that in their portfolio as evidence to go down to NZQA. We now have a much longer time to do the units over, and the students are really getting behind it. Previously we were working through the curriculum and pushing along all the time and if a student didn’t understand after a certain amount time we’d say we’ve got to keep moving. That’s unfortunate, we’ve got to keep moving along. Here we’ve got a lot of time to actually re do the work again and again. As we go through the work all the kids in the class are achieving these standards. The biggest issue we probably have is with students being away from class. A lot of these students have a lot of time out. And that’s why we give them seven or eight opportunities at an activity.

Like last year heaps of students couldn’t concentrate and this year we have probably got fifteen. This year we can work as a group, so two pairs. It’s easier for me, so I can ask help if I don’t know anybody, if I don’t know what to do. It’s better because this time a teacher actually helps you and feeling good that they will keep helping you until get it.

Our roll in the year eleven group is about four hundred. We’ve got fifteen students who are definitely on the numeracy project and we’ve got another three which should be added to the list. I’m going to give them a bit more tuition. Hopefully they will then get through. 

“It’s different because it’s just more one on one with the teacher and he’s right there and I’m less distracted than I am in a full class because I’ve got a student sitting there and a student sitting next to me and that.” 

It means that these teachers once a week will have a smaller math class. I’ve got those eight or so students out of the class and I’m tutoring them in this venue, and helping them out just to get to grips - more one on one help. I support the teachers, they support me. Numeracy, and literacy in fact, is for the whole school and not just one teacher. If I was the only teacher looking at doing it without any support it would fail miserably. Because I’ve got support of senior management, the headmaster, the deans, the math faculty, all the teachers - it means it’s going to work and it’ll be a good success.

Published on: 27 Jul 2012