The skills we focussed on were balancing equations in Chemistry with Key Stage 3 and developing the use of maths equations in Physics with Key Stage 4. The reason why we chose these skills is because the new AQA GCSE curriculum has increased demand in terms of numeracy.
This means that students need to be able to remember, rearrange and convert units. These skills are something that the students find very challenging at first and often feel negative towards. Therefore, we created a process for students to follow when tacking these problems and allowed them to ‘grow their brains’ and challenge themselves through practising this every lesson.
At the start of the project, the students were shown a process for how to approach these problems. For example, when using maths equations students were instructed to use the ‘RUULES’:
- R – Read the question
- U – Underline the key information
- U – Check the units
- L – List the information
- E – Write down the equation
- S – Substitute the numbers into the equation
Students were encouraged to show their working when attempting these questions, as a way of emphasizing the importance of the process and not the outcome.
After the students understood how to attempt the problems, they were given the opportunity to practise this skill through a set of three differentiated questions at the start of each lesson: a recall question, a simple equation and a multi-step calculation.
It was very rewarding seeing the students’ confidence scores improving in their reflections throughout the half-term and also to see students attempt more challenging problems. One of the most inspiring results was seeing the impact on lower ability students – how having a specific process and showing their working out helped them to make progress.
Following the success of the project we are using the model across Science in starters for Key Stage 3 and 4, focussing on the specific skill of using and rearranging equations. Our starters are differentiated by colour and increase in difficulty throughout e.g. more unit changes and multiple step equations. We are confident that students Mindset about this challenging topic can be ‘grown’!