A study into how children can effectively use models and images to help understand place value

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St Aloysius’ Catholic Infant School Lesson Study Group,
Issue Date
Educational Level
ISCED Level 1 Primary education
Curriculum Area
Geographical Setting
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Background: The setting is an urban infant school in an area of higher-than average deprivation. The overall focus of the school’s lesson study pilot was to look into ways of developing models and images to effectively develop our Year 2 children’s basic understanding of place value.

Aims: The main aim of the study was to improve pupils' understanding of how to use Dienes' apparatus to partition 2-digit and 3-digit numbers, and to use this understanding to aid in their learning and understanding of addition and subtraction strategies.

Methods: A lesson study approach was used to teach pupils how to use Dienes' apparatus to partition 2-digit and 3-digit numbers. Close observation of case pupils informed changes in approach in lessons 2 and 3 of the sequence. Specifically, the role and purpose of Diene’s apparatus was made very explicit and their use was modelled by the teacher and in whole-class activities.

Findings: The lesson study helped teachers understand the importance of pacing and matching work to students' current understanding. Teachers had assumed too much about children’s understanding and had focused on the visual and concrete elements of the Diene’s apparatus instead of the abstract thinking behind the structure of the blocks. Once the children were more secure in their use of Dienes' apparatus, this aided their understanding of partitioning 2-digit and 3-digit numbers, which will impact future learning and aid in addition and subtraction.

Implications: Future teaching will focus on allowing sufficient time for concept development, explaining resources, and tracking individual progress. Outcomes will be shared with other staff and lesson study will be used to improve teaching across the curriculum.
Keywords (free text)
primary education , lesson study , mathematics , place value , Diene's apparatus
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