Vocabulary – Primary

Improving the Deciphering of Mathematical Word Problems through Starter Activities and a Guided Approach in KS1/2

with Jean Knapp (Dodwell), J. Knapp – Primary Mathematics Consultant & Specialist Teacher

Vocabulary is an important aspect of Japanese and Singapore mathematics classroom practices and underpins the five big ideas for Mastery. Vocabulary allows children to express their mathematical thinking, is a form of variation; for example, in word problems the words or numbers can vary whilst the rest remains the same to support understanding. Similar problems can be presented using the different vocabulary. Analysis of SATs papers over the year continually highlight the difficulties children have to decipher word problems compared with the standard arithmetic test. Reading test outcomes do not always guarantee a comprehension of mathematical text. Although many of the reading strategies can be applied, Mathematics is read and analysed very differently, vocabulary can have multiple meanings and contexts based in real and mathematical worlds.

Alex Quigley’s ‘The Vocabulary Gap’ has highlighted the increasingly growing word gap across the Curriculum from the EYFS onwards.

In autumn 2019 there will be a focus on a knowledge-based Curriculum; at the heart of knowledge, is vocabulary. At the heart of a word problem, knowledge of vocabulary begins the journey to understanding (although there are other considerations we will explore too).

The project aims to help enable KS1 & KS2 teachers’ to explore simple, daily approaches in the form of starter activities and a guided approaches to solving word problems to embed within main lessons. Throughout the project resources will be adapted/designed and case studies of effective practice produced.

What does the project involve?

The project will involve one full-day day of training and planning for the first lesson study, followed by seven half-days; x4 lesson studies (a.m.), x1 follow up sharing and refining approaches meeting (p.m.), x1 Training to Consider as an SL wider dissemination across the school and to TAs (p.m.) and x1 workgroup Presentation to Schools (a.m.) across the Autumn 2019, Spring 2020 and Summer 2020.  Between sessions there will be gap tasks involving trialling the use of the approaches explored in the training, discussions and lesson studies.  The workgroup lead will offer support in designing the sequences, demonstrating teaching and orchestrating the lesson study discussions. Participating teachers are expected to work collaboratively, teach a small group in their own and other schools, reflect critically on pupils’ learning and their own professional learning. Participants are also expected to host a learning study in their school for the workgroup. This requires allocating a space for the workgroup to gather and for the group teaching sessions to take place.

Refreshments will be provided except for the first full day of training where participants will be asked to bring a packed lunch (tea/coffee refreshments provided by the host school/s will be reimbursed).

The project’s aims involve supporting teachers to:

  • Build on existing Mastery teaching approaches to strengthen children’s acquisition, understanding and implementation of vocabulary in isolation and within word problems (guided approach).
  • Develop a toolbox of strategies to support mathematical vocabulary development; amend and develop materials for a wider dissemination.
  • Learn to consider what is important for the pupils to understand about a word problem as a lesson unfolds.
  • Consider your role as SL for wider dissemination and TA CPD.
  • Develop their teaching skills within a collaborative community of practice.

Schools can choose to send up two members of staff – Ideally, there would be the Mathematics Subject Leader/Team representative and another teacher from KS1 and KS2.


Friday 11th October 2019 – Project Preparation Day – 10:00a.m. – 2:30p.m.

Venue: St. Mary’s Primary Catholic Primary School

Tuesday 12th November 2019 – Lesson Study* 1 – 9:30 – 11:45a.m.

Gap Task

Tuesday 19th November 2019 Lesson Study* 2 – 9:30 – 11:45a.m.

Gap Task

Monday 13th January 2020 Lesson Study* 3 – 9:30 – 11:45a.m.

Gap Task

Monday 9th March 2020 – Sharing and Dissemination Meeting & Preparation for the Final Lesson Study – 1:30-3:30p.m.

Venue: St. Mary’s Primary Catholic Primary School

Tuesday 17th March 2020 Lesson Study* 4 – 9:30 – 11:45a.m.

Tuesday 28th April 2020 – Developing the SL Role – How do we disseminate the ideas to the wider school (inc. TAs and Parents)? – 1:30-3:30p.m.

Venue: St. Mary’s Primary Catholic Primary School

Gap Task

Monday 2nd June 2020 – Presentation Day – 9:30-11:45a.m.

Venue: St. Mary’s Primary Catholic Primary School


* Lesson Studies to be hosted by participating schools: Venues confirmed on the Preparation Day

In order to apply to be a part of this project, you will need to fill out an Expression of Interest Form.  The deadline to fill this out is Monday 16th September 2019

Contact j.knappmathscourses@outlook.com or michelle.foster@lcwmathshub.co.uk

*The London Central and West Maths Hub reserves the right to charge a £75 fee for non-attendance to the sessions or for cancellations to any of the sessions with less than 14 days’ notice.