Maths and Mindset Change in Scotland

Greenrigg & Stoneyburn Primary School

Two schools in West Lothian in Scotland wanted to see what interventions they could use to raise pupils attitudes to mathematics and to raise the pupils’ own expectations of what they could achieve in the subject area.  This document below outlines the nature of the project undertaken and the extent to which they, the pupils included, believed it to be successful. The outcomes of this could also have an impact on addressing the attainment gap in Scotland.

Problem Solving Challenge – Overview & Evaluation

AIM: to provide a challenge for our “more able” upper school pupils within the curricular area of Maths providing opportunities for creativity and teamwork, whilst developing a growth mindset.


The night before……..staff at both schools G&S along with staff from other schools across the cluster came together for a 90 minute training session on how to use IZAK9 and the benefits this could bring to teachers and pupils.  The response from staff after the session was amazing.  All staff commented on the potential they could see in the use of the cubes across all levels of the primary school and all were keen to start using them.  Staff commented on how they could be used to engage pupils, the opportunities it provided for children to talk about their learning and the strategies they use when solving mathematical problems; together with the non-threatening environment it created for this to happen…..staff were just so keen to get “stuck in”

The day itself……. pupils came together from Stoneyburn & Greenrigg for the second Challenge Day of the school year.  Initially all pupils were asked to write about how they felt when they hear that they are going to be doing Problem Solving.

The group was clearly divided into 3 camps:

A:  “I love it, can’t wait” P5 pupil , “Jubilant!” P6 pupil

B: “OK, I’ll give it a go” P7 pupil,   “excited but nervous” P5 pupil

C: “Oh, really, do we have to?” P6 pupil  “It’s really hard and boring” P5 pupil

Each “camp” was fairly evenly split across the whole group.

Having watched a short YOUTUBE clip on growth mindset to ‘set the scene’ for the day and allowing for a chance to discuss what it means to have a growth mindset,  we began.

We first explored the IZAK 9 cube as a whole group. What could we do with it? What did we find when deconstructing the cube? Lots of questions and ideas arose from this session. The children were excited!  Every single child was engaged  in “on task” discussion the whole time! All day!

We used the video tasks – Task 1 and Task 2 during the morning session. Loads of excellent explanations, discussion, questioning and application of skills.

Teachers involved said it allowed them to see for themselves the children applying the learning they had been doing in class in an unfamiliar situation and being successful.

Using IZAK9 provides teachers with an opportunity to “take their foot off the gas” to stand back and observe their learners, to watch, listen and question their pupils, to probe deeper in to their understanding and find out what they know and where they need to go next.

IZAK9 supports, brilliantly, our current developments in the teaching of numeracy and in developing higher order thinking skills. Sharing strategies with class mates about how we are doing mental calculations, visualising numbers, patterns and sequences, working through multistep problems and explaining our thinking……


In the afternoon, the children were asked, in their groups, to create a challenge question for another group to solve using their IZAK9 cubes.  The children must solve their own problem before giving it to another group.  The level of questions created by the groups was fantastic for us as educators to see.


At the end of the day, the children were asked to reflect.  Had their attitude towards problem solving changed since the beginning of the day?  By the end, only 3 pupils out of 31 still had a negative attitude towards problem solving, every other child either felt extremely positive about it or felt more open to the challenges they may face. They also had more confidence in themselves and their abilities in mental calculation because they

“had heard other ways that different people had solved problems and I will use those strategies now because they seemed easier.” (P7 pupil)

For many of the children, their favourite part of the day was when they had to create problems for others and solve the problems their friends set because

“they were really challenging but fun to solve.” (P5 pupil)

Children also said that they liked working with the cube because

“we like working with things we can touch, it’s much better than working with pencil and paper because I can see and feel it better” (P6 pupil)

by Katie Gardiner, acting Principal Teacher, Stoneyburn and Greenrigg Primaries, West Lothian, Scotland


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