Freckle Spots: Invisible differentiation for visible progress
By Denisha Polin
Freckle Spots! In our second instalment 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 addresses all of those lingering questions you may have alongside examples of how it has already been successfully implemented in her classroom.
When I asked my class what they thought about Freckle, the unanimous reply was, “We just love it.” Actions speak louder than words, but perhaps in this case, they equally resonate. Just take a look at this video when my class was told Freckle was available for home use.
So, why do the children “just love it?” It seems largely due to the fact that Freckle is founded on a recipe of customisation, indivisualisation, personalised pacing, tailored teaching – all the ingredients that when cooked together immensely satisfy each child’s individual palette and appetite, of course with a delicate garnish of challenge and extension. The children in my class are ravenous for Freckle!
Freckle is exceptionally child-centered. Linked with the outcomes of Star Maths, Freckle gleans the pupils’ level and is able to pitch the questions correctly; enough to be comforting and create confidence yet also enough to stretch and enhance learning.
Those of you who are familiar with Accelerated Reader will know the phrase ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) and without specifically stating or generating a ZPD, it is my opinion that Freckle perhaps works to the child’s maths ZPD.
The concept is simple; in brief, it is an online maths platform where teachers can assign pupils tasks on particular maths areas. But the execution is superb – the child and teacher friendliness cannot be overstated. As for the outcome, bearing in mind the implicit ZPD, it is fair to say that Freckle accelerates maths.
Meeting the individual needs of each student
As stated, one of the biggest appeals of Freckle is that pupils are not ushered on at a group-set pace. The system fits the learner as opposed to the other way round, it really does align with the idea of education being the roadmap of the learner, and, as a result, pupils master the content at a pace appropriate for them.
Differentiation is not just subtle, it is entirely invisible which makes me metaphorically describe Freckle as a big warm blanket, wrapping all pupils up in customised learning. The old mantra of “Happy Children Learn” is very much true in this instance because the work is purposeful and meaningful for each and every child. Freckle certainly has the Goldilocks impact; not too hard, not too easy, just right.
Using the teacher dashboard for tailored practice
The teacher dashboard is massively intuitive and makes it so easy to differentiates tasks – up or down.
For example, with 26 children in my class, and after finishing a unit of work on decimals, to summatively ascertain understanding, I assigned 20 children the class level task, 3 children a level down, 2 children 2 levels down and 1 child a level up. In all, this took me a few minutes and the children were completely unaware that they had been assigned different tasks from their peers.
All too often with differentiated work, especially when differentiating down, there is almost a big pink flashing neon arrow screaming “You’re different” above certain children’s heads but Freckle weaves effortlessly into the fabric of the classroom.
All the children see on their dashboard is a number in their rucksack, indicating the number of tasks they have been assigned.
Customised data keeps teachers on track
Another huge aspect of tailored learning is the Adaptive Practice. Pupils click on Adaptive Practice and are presented with different maths areas to answer questions on, for example, Measurement, Statistics and Algebra. These questions are computer adaptive so level up or down based on correct or incorrect answers.
Again, there is opportunity for customisation. If the teacher recognises that a pupil requires specific intervention on a certain maths area, they can adapt the pupil dashboard to reflect this.
In October when we worked on fractions, I customised my class’s dashboard to only show fractions and two other areas of maths for the following few weeks, just to really cement the learning on fractions. I did this for all pupils but you can customise pupil dashboards on an individual basis.
Likewise, the teacher can customise the Fact Practice dashboard. For rapid recall, drills and facts, this “back to basics” feature presents sums using the four operations. In true Freckle spirit, this can also be…yes, customised. The children can practice on all 4 operations or these can be reduced to align with the needs and progress in the class; on an individual or whole class basis.
Students can set their own weekly targets!
The children love the Fact Practice because it is a quick way to achieve coins. However, not to be fooled, Freckle limits the number of Fact Practices to 2 per day! In a subversion to the norm where the teacher is in control of target-setting, the children also love the fact that they can take control of their learning by setting their own, and again, customise their weekly target.
Math motivation and celebrating success
Finally, we can’t talk customisation without discussing the Freckle shop! The e-learning and pupil motivation link is strong here. With each task and practice, children earn coins which then enables them to have a shopping spree buying all sorts from sunglasses to t-shirts to customise their avatar.
In short, Freckle is the maths the children want to do. Usually, when reviewing online learning platforms, the sentence reads: it can be demanding on teacher time, but produces positive pupil outcomes. However, when it comes to Freckle, there is no trade off, and the sentence changes to it is not demanding on teacher time, and it produces positive pupil outcomes. For the invisible differentiation that yields visible progress, this alone, makes Freckle an important and trusted addition to a school’s digital toolbox.
Missed the first instalment? Get to know how Freckle facilitates math practice for every students needs.
From setting up, to assigning numerical practice questions and measuring engagement, see how Catherine has implemented Freckle in the classroom with her students.
Read the third ‘Freckle Spots’ blog post here.