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A Reflective Report Which Discusses Key Issues Related to the Successful Inclusion of All Learners in Mathematical Activity and Enquiry.

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A reflective report which discusses key issues related to the successful inclusion of all learners in mathematical activity and enquiry.

Introduction.

In this essay I plan to write a reflective and analytical report as to how all children, taking into account their individual needs, can be included successfully in engaging in mathematical activities and enquiries in the daily numeracy hour. I will focus on the issues of providing a curriculum which can be accessed by all learners, the importance of differentiating the content and delivery of mathematics lessons to suit children with different learning styles and abilities, the tensions between inclusive education and the ideals set out in the National Curriculum and National Numeracy Strategy, the use of classroom resources, classroom organisation and pupils working outside of expectations. I shall also briefly refer to issues surrounding the inclusion of children with dyslexia in the daily numeracy hour.

What is inclusion?

In order to comment on how all children can be included in the daily mathematics lesson, it is first necessary to have an idea of what the term "inclusion" actually means. The definition of inclusion has generated much debate and discussion and is open to personal interpretation but generally concerns "the learning and participation of all students vulnerable to exclusionary pressures, not only those with impairments or those who are categorised as having special educational needs" (Booth, T and Ainscow, M. 2002). This statement illustrates the premise that all children have an equal right to an education that presents them with opportunity for success in the future, regardless of their cultural background, sex, physical or mental disability or intellectual ability.

The National Curriculum (DfES. 1999. pp30-33) states that "schools have a responsibility to provide a curriculum that meets the specific needs of individuals and groups of pupils" It sets out three principles which are essential in developing a more inclusive curriculum, these are:

* Setting suitable learning challenges

* Responding to pupils diverse learning needs; and

* Overcoming potential barriers to learning for groups and individuals.

Here we encounter conflict and tension between the National Curriculum's ideology that the needs of all children are addressed. It promotes the idea of progressivism or "child centred learning". Rousseau suggested that "the child should himself dictate the scope and the direction of his education." (Barrow, R and Woods, R. 1988. p.111) This focuses the importance of immersing children in learning opportunities appropriate to themselves as individuals, in order to further their understanding. This is very difficult to put into practice. In a class of thirty children there are thirty distinct individuals. All children will have been exposed to different experiences and so it would be near impossible to implement a totally inclusive curriculum where the learning opportunities are appropriate to all.

Learning Styles.

Whilst the National Curriculum, along with the QCA Schemes of Work, set out a framework for exactly what children should be taught throughout their time in education, along with the timing of delivery of key concepts, it does not offer explanation as to how they should be taught. This is the responsibility of the class teacher. For us to understand the way in which we can provide learning experiences which will meet the specific needs of all children in a classroom, it is helpful for us to first consider the way in which children learn. Each child, in any given classroom, will respond differently to the strategies and methods which we use to relay information and scaffold their understanding. It is important for teachers to consider children's individual learning styles and how they build cognitive pathways. Howard Gardner outlines a theory of multiple intelligences. He has identified that there are seven distinct learning styles and that we are all able to assimilate information in the way best suited to our predominant "intelligences". He states that

"we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals and an understanding of ourselves."

When relating this theory to classroom practice, we can see that this highlights the need for teachers to utilise a range of teaching styles to engage all individuals. In any given group of children, each individual will respond differently to the style in which they are taught. To utilise only one style of teaching in the classroom is to deny the effective learning of the content of that lesson by the majority of individuals.

"During any given class activity, it is safe to assume that approximately two-thirds of the children are working outside their preferred learning style."

(Hughes, M. 1999. PAGE REFERENCE !)

To simplify Gardner's theory, whilst still encompassing each of the seven "intelligences" we can think of individuals responding most effectively to auditory, visual or kinaesthetic styles of teaching. Auditory learners will respond best to listening to explanation, direction and instruction. For instance, in the context of a mathematics lesson, auditory learners will find it useful to be able to take part in discussions with their peers and the teacher in order to scaffold their understanding of any given topic. When learning number facts, such as times tables, auditory learners can be supported by having the class counting out load or chanting the tables. The rhyme and repartition of what is being heard helps children to store those facts in their memory, and use it as a strategy for recalling that information. One such strategy that I have utilised in teaching the properties of two and three dimensional shapes to children, is to instruct them to make up a rhyme or a rap which contains all the facts which they need to remember. These were then recorded onto an audio tape, to refer back to if they were unable to recall the information.

Visual learners will respond most effectively to learning through looking at visual stimulus such as pictures, charts, diagrams, moving images from television or animations and usually remember more of what has been seen, rather than what has been heard.

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