Finally, a simple and effective learning support resource for maths
Plumcroft Primary School, London
Freckle is a self-paced online resource that meets students exactly where they are. Freckle provides coverage of standards and skills in maths throughout Key-Stage 1 – 4. With its continuous adaptability to each student’s level and with over 70,000 unique maths questions, Freckle is an easy choice to help motivated and engage your pupils with maths practice.
Plumcroft Primary School have been using Star Maths since 2014 to produce accurate progress assessment data for staff. In 2021, they took part in an exclusive trial with the newest maths solution from Renaissance Learning, Freckle.
Alicia Whytock, Assistant Head for KS1, discusses the impact that Freckle made on her pupils’ maths motivation and interest in the short time the school trialled Freckle.
Maths activities that are captivating and impactful
Alicia explains that pupils found Freckle really engaging as an online learning platform. She insists that the abundance of incentives included in Freckle are hugely appealing to pupils. For example, each pupil has their own avatar to customise with new outfits and items as they earn rewards by completing maths challenges.
She insists that the Freckle shop is a crucial contributor to engagement. They love to spend their Freckle coins on new outfits and items for their avatar, she asserts. Moreover, because pupils have restricted time using the shop, they’re always eager to pass more maths tasks to go back to it. Alicia affirms that this incentive to develop their character keeps pupils focussed on their maths journey.
Alicia states that the range of activities included within Freckle is abundant, ensuring her pupils never get bored! Furthermore, she notes the variety of different activities benefit all pupils of all abilities. For instance, Alicia explains that some activities, such as speedy mental arithmetic, are suited to more confident mathematicians. Conversely, some activities focus more on story and adventure, which appeals to all pupils’ interests.
“Freckle is fun maths. There is always a story behind the tasks and activities.”
She states that Freckle is fun maths. She explains how there is always a story behind the maths tasks and activities. So, even if a less confident mathematician has to carry out a fast number recall task, they’re still motivated because of the story underpinning the task. She has noticed that all pupils of all maths abilities always want to try and do more maths practice with Freckle with no distraction or weariness.
Alicia reports that now, every time she asks her pupils if they want to use Freckle, they all responded enthusiastically and run to the computers! She links this to the way the questions are formatted in Freckle. The bright colours and the simple platform is very engaging for children, she affirms.
Adapting to every pupil’s needs
What was helpful for Alicia and her staff was the ability to link Freckle with Star Maths. Alicia explains how she was already familiar with Focus Skills from Renaissance. Focus Skills provide essential items of learning and understanding in maths and English that pupils must master to see growth. Mapped to the national curriculum’s age-related expectations, Focus Skills offer teachers an overview of the pupil’s progress relative to their age. They also provide practical learning activities that staff can give to pupils to accelerate growth.
Alicia shares her encouragement to see Focus Skills within Freckle. She explains how this enhances Freckle’s capability by ensuring that maths tasks are relevant and pupils can practice regularly. In addition, Focus Skills in Freckle allow Alicia to administer practical formative assessment throughout the pupil’s learning journey.
Alicia shares an example of how Focus Skills and adaptive tasks can support even the most reluctant mathematicians. She references a SEND pupil who would often become disengaged with online maths tasks, but with Freckle, she is heavily engaged. The pupil would often get frustrated with maths tasks that were too difficult for her. Overly challenging questions in other online maths platforms led to the pupil becoming wholly demotivated. With Focus Skills in Freckle and with the assessment data already collected from Star Maths, Alicia was able to keep this particular pupil motivated and on track with her maths progress.
She explains that school leaders always want to see individualised planning and learning strategies. With Star Maths, she says, we always had this information in front of us. And now, with Freckle, we can monitor pupils’ individual learning much more easily. Using Star Maths and Freckle together allows staff to provide more comprehensive and ambitious learning plans.
“Freckle provides both practical maths tasks to confident pupils and more visually stimulating, story-focussed tasks for less confident pupils. The versatility of Freckle is powerful.”
Alicia emphasises the value of the multiple ways staff can assess pupils’ next steps within Freckle. She describes the importance of Freckle providing practical challenges for all pupils: from the most confident mathematicians to those who are reluctant. Alicia claims that the versatility of Freckle is very powerful.
Alicia has been impressed with how smooth Freckle runs. She has found that Freckle does not jump too quickly between very challenging tasks and questions to underwhelming activities.
She explains that there’s nothing worse than giving a pupil questions and tasks that are too difficult for them. Alicia asserts that this will guarantee disengagement and a sharp decline in motivation. However, with Freckle’s adaptability, she’s confident this will not be an issue.
Alicia reaffirms that the brilliant thing about focus skills is that it’s easy for a teacher to get caught up with national curriculum objectives with things you need to teach throughout a week, such as 3D shapes. Focus Skills remind staff of what underpins these national curriculum objectives. The Focus Skills within Star Maths and Freckle recognise the reasons for learning rather than teaching skills because we’re told to.
Alicia shares that Renaissance’s Curriculum and Education Specialist, former teacher Margaret Allen, personally walked her through the Focus Skills and the pedagogical basis they’re underpinned by. Alicia states that this one-to-one support from Margaret helped her see the real value in Focus Skills. They have been a critical resource for her teaching ever since.
Efficient information for efficient intervention
From a teacher’s perspective, the data and information that Freckle provides is easy to run, interpret and act on, says Alicia. She confesses that she isn’t a tech-savvy person, but still found the Freckle platform easy to access and navigate. She explains that the progress reports from Freckle allow her to reflect on her teaching and adjust her intervention strategies accordingly.
Alicia stresses the importance of intervention planning for teachers. She insists that the information and data that the teacher receives as pupils carry out their Freckle journey by completing their ability-level maths practice tasks is invaluable.
In addition, Alicia has found that Freckle’s recommended steps and activities to inform further teaching and planning save her valuable planning time to concentrate on teaching.
“Freckle provides reliable data that affirms my teacher instincts and expectations for pupil progress in maths.”
She insists that all teachers rely on their own assessment information, planning and their unique understanding of their pupils to plan further instruction. However, Freckle provides reliable data that affirms her teacher instincts and expectations for pupil progress in maths.
Alicia states that she has experienced other online maths practice systems. Still, she is confident that Freckle provides the most reliable information. Her confidence comes from knowing that the Focus Skills and recommended activities are underpinned by pedagogical logic. The science behind Focus Skills incorporates constructivism based on pupils’ pre-existing knowledge and what they need to build upon.
Alicia explains that her maths class consists of a direct split of fifteen pupils working at an extremely low level and fifteen pupils ready to work at the next level. Therefore, for Alicia, the next steps tailored for each individual pupil are essential in helping her balance her workload and pupil-level support.
She explains that these informative suggestions from Freckle help her provide appropriate intervention to all her pupils at just the right level. She refers to the Freckle ‘My Backpack’ feature. This feature allows teachers to place next learning tasks in pupils’ virtual backpacks to work on, allowing Alicia to support priority groups.
Making maths fun for everyone
She notes one pupil in particular who was a high achieving mathematician. With Freckle, she was able to challenge them to progress above and beyond their current targets. This appropriate challenge resulted in the child gaining tremendous confidence and motivation to maintain the high standard they were currently working.
Alicia asserts that Freckle is a beneficial classroom resource for teachers, especially if your class consists of a mixture of pupils of different abilities. She explains that schools throughout England have seen a sharp decline in teachers and teaching support staff over recent years.
This decrease in staff has resulted in larger classroom sizes consisting of a wider variety of abilities. Therefore, this makes child-centred teaching more difficult for teachers, so any resource like Freckle that can identify pupils ability across the spectrum is invaluable for teachers.
“Freckle is an excellent resource for ensuring progress is maintained and enabling all pupils to self-motivate themselves with maths practice.”
Alicia insists that Freckle is an excellent resource for ensuring progress is maintained and enabling all pupils to self-motivate themselves with maths practice. She is happy for pupils to work on their self-selected or teacher recommended tasks independently, giving her valuable time to work with all pupils.
Alicia shares that she feels there is often a preconceived notion amongst pupils that maths can’t be fun. For many less confident pupils, if they struggle with maths, they quickly become disengaged. She asserts that Freckle motivates pupils to be persistent with their maths practice. Most importantly, it shows them that maths can be fun.
Alicia alludes that she is not a naturally tech-savvy person. However, from what she has experienced with Freckle so far, setting up new classes or specific pupil groups appears straightforward. Therefore, Alicia is confident that the administration side of Freckle won’t hinder her teaching time and is generally very efficient.
Furthermore, knowing Freckle is easy to administer gives Alicia confidence that she can spend more valuable time doing what she does best, teaching.
Regarding the analysis of the data and reports within Freckle, Alicia confirms that the data is outlined clearly and appropriately colour coded. She states that when vital data like this is visually easy to interpret, it helps teachers find what they can efficiently.
She concludes by repeating that Freckle is super easy to navigate for both staff and pupils. She prefers Freckle to any other maths-based EdTech solution she has experienced.
“I loved Freckle because the sums were fun and I would love to go on it again. The avatar outfits were great and I loved doing all the Maths.”
“Freckle is great and I really think other children should try it because it is fun learning and great Maths.”
If you’d like to find out how your school can utilise Freckle to engage and motivate pupils with maths practice, click here.
|Talking Points||Assessment, Celebration, Data, Data Review, Incentives, Intervention, Motivation, Personalised Practice, Progress, Progress Monitoring, Staff Engagement, Staff Workload, Student Engagement, Target Setting|