Freckle Spots: Freckle, an “Online Onion”

By Denisha Polin

by Catherine Magee

Freckle Spots! In the third instalment of our four-part series we’re breaking down our latest primary maths practice programme, Freckle. You may be wondering how it works, how it can engage pupils in the classroom whilst nurturing their numeracy skills, and lastly how it can support teachers. Catherine Magee, Senior Lead Teacher at St Comgalls Primary School, Northern Ireland, addresses all of those lingering questions you may have alongside examples of how it’s already been implemented successfully in her classroom. 


Catherine writes:

When we think of an online educational platform, we think of a one-to-one ratio: one device per pupil. In many cases that’s correct – and perfectly reasonable. Whilst Freckle facilitates this scenario and produces a powerful impact with it, it also has many other layers, possibilities and opportunities for the classroom. These opportunities can translate to whole class teaching, small group teaching, they can be taught in one day, over the course of a number of days, and be used for homework, extension work or classwork.

Freckle really is an online ‘onion’ and one of my favourite layers – that doesn’t make me cry, quite the opposite actually! – are the Inquiry-Based Learning lessons. These have a particular interest for me, partly due to my intrinsic bias as Assessment and Data Leader in my school. As part of my data analysis, I often identify Problem-Solving as a key area requiring attention and support. One way of providing such support is through the delivery of the Inquiry-Based Learning lessons.

These Inquiry-Based Learning lessons lessons are divided into three days with three videos to watch, and three resulting tasks to complete. I have found that the children are so engaged, and particularly in Upper Key Stage 2 it might be better to comprise the three videos, activities and tasks to make one mighty Inquiry-Based Lesson. With these lessons, my class are on a roll and simply cannot wait for the following day to see what’s next.

Freckle finds:

  • The lessons are easily searchable by year group or topic
  • A lesson overview is provided and the learning objectives are clearly stipulated
  • All can be copied and pasted into teachers’ maths planners

Freckle in real-time

What I particularly enjoy, as do the children, is that the Inquiry-Based lessons position maths in real-life contexts. For example, I recently completed the lesson entitled Taking Public Transportation. We had been working on the drill and procedure of dividing and needed an opportunity for the children to apply their learning. In these lessons, the children investigate global warming and its effects. They discuss electric buses and trains for commuters and provide assistance to the CEO of a large corporation as he determines how to get his employees to work with a bus system. Finally, the pupils help the government design multiple cross-country rails, placing mile markers at the correct locations to ensure safety on the tracks. But don’t panic, this is all explained on the videos – teachers need no prior knowledge!

Obviously, a lesson of this nature creates and builds interest, curiosity and excitement. I love the fact that a lot of the information, framing the maths, is new to everyone. It evens out the playing field and gives those children who nearly expect not to understand the lesson some sense of equality with their peers.

Another lesson I did was Space Museum Exhibit which involved a lot of work on stars. How the maths is presented is a hugely welcome change from children thinking about things like the total cost of kettles that cost £3, and prices of videos and cassettes that no longer exist! I do believe that my enthusiasm for this style of maths transferred to my pupils and I look forward to maths teaching about presidential candidates, archaeological digs and sea turtle hatchlings. I’m so glad that we are moving away from the ‘number of people on the bus’ maths!

Freckle reduces teacher workload!

To produce a lesson of this quality would normally impose a significant burden on teacher time in creating and locating resources. However, inbuilt in Freckle are the worksheets and solutions pages. The spadework is all done, leaving teachers to actually teach, which is so refreshing.

On the topic of worksheets, another layer of Freckle is the printables. Freckle is a digital maths platform, but it also provides worksheets – maybe a teacher’s favourite word! And within this layer, there is another layer because you can select the printables based on Adaptive Practice or Objective-Based Practice.

Adaptive Practice versus Objective-Based Practice 

The Adaptive Practice worksheets are particularly impressive because they are personalised to the individual pupil’s current level, they are specifically customised to meet particular needs.

I printed off a fractions set of these recently. Not only did it print different questions for every child, with the child’s name at the top of the page (thank you Freckle!), it also printed the answers for me (again, thank you Freckle!).

The Objective-Based Practice is, in theory, the same worksheet for the whole class. Of course, Freckle recognises that this is unrealistic so, as in my case, with 26 children, I printed the class level worksheet on decimals, a worksheet below the class level, a worksheet two levels below and one above. All very easy for the teacher and a process of differentiation that lends itself to effective learning.

Depth of Knowledge

Although there are others, the final layer I wish to explore is the Depth of Knowledge Practice. It does exactly what the name suggests – allows you to really go into detail on a particular maths area. I describe it to my class as “moving up a gear.” This layer could be used in many ways: for whole class teaching or perhaps assigned to the more able learners.

We often think of differentiation as downwards. But it’s just as important to think about levelling up and Depth of Knowledge does this perfectly. The questions generally follow the format of an introduction then three ‘meaty’ questions with multiple choice answers. This change in answering style to multiple choice is another good opportunity for pupils to think in a different way and consider the process of elimination. For the visual learners there are also pictorial representations of the questions.

And so it is clear that Freckle really is an online onion: with many layers, opportunities and possibilities for all learners of all styles. And yet to exploit and benefit from all Freckle has to offer, it places minimum time pressure on teachers and produces engaged, happy, challenged learners. The only onion that won’t make you cry!


Missed the previous blog from our Freckle Spots series? Read more about how differentiated maths practice encourages progress for pupils at all levels.
From setting up, to assigning numerical practice questions and measuring engagement, see how Catherine has implemented Freckle in the classroom with her students.

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