Seeking ideas to support exceptionally able learners in mathematics? Based on the guidance provided by the University of Cambridge’s NRICH project, here are five important steps you can take to ensure exceptionally able learners are effectively challenged and supported…

1. Offer a challenging task related to the class activity.

The idea here is to offer an extension task which is sufficiently challenging, while still related to the mathematical concepts on which the rest of the class is working. This should help exceptionally able learners to feel included within the wider group, while being given the breadth and depth they need.

For ideas of challenging tasks linked to the maths curriculum, take a look at NRICH’s primary and secondary resource pages.

2. Tailor homework to the learner’s interests.

Just as in the classroom, it’s important to ensure exceptionally able learners are adequately challenged during independent and home-based learning. Offer a more challenging version of the homework set for other learners, and where possible tailor work to match exceptionally able learners’ interests to keep them engaged and motivated.

3. Consider setting work usually covered later in the key stage.

This should only be considered once other avenues have been explored and the learner has achieved mastery of current content. While acceleration can be beneficial in some cases, it can lead to exceptionally able learners being left with little support, with limited opportunities to discuss mathematics with peers, or feeling isolated if moved to work with older learners. If considering this option, ensure that the learner is ready academically, emotionally and socially, and that sufficient support is in place.

4. Have a long-term plan for the learner's mathematical education. 

This is key when considering acceleration and other options. Discuss the long-term plan with the exceptionally able learner, his/her parents or carers, and other providers. If covering Key Stage 3 work with a primary learner, for example, ensure that a plan is in place so that s/he will not simply cover the same material all over again once arriving at secondary school.

5. Support the learner's interest in mathematics outside school.

There are lots of opportunities for exceptionally able learners to pursue their interest in mathematics outside of school, and to meet peers with similar interests and abilities. Keep an eye on opportunities provided by the UK Mathematics Trust (UKMT) and the Royal Institution Masterclass series, for example. The UKMT also offers a free mentoring service, providing mentors to help young mathematicians develop their problem-solving skills.

More free resources from NRICH:

Are your maths lessons too quiet?

Join us on 14 June for a one-day course exploring strategies to strengthen talk in primary maths. More able learners often struggle to explain their working, rushing to reach the answer without pausing to reflect on the process. In this workshop led by NACE associate Sarah Carpenter, delegates will gain a suite of practical tools and strategies to develop learners’ mathematical vocabulary and discussion skills, in order to deepen and extend understanding.

View the full course programme and book your place.

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Monday, April 16, 2018