Educators from across Australia met at the University of New England late last month to share their experiences in the use of QuickSmart, an intervention program that helps school students improve their basic skills in mathematics.
“QuickSmart is sensational,” said Rob Presswell, Principal of Driver Primary School in Palmerston, Northern Territory. “It’s achieved outstanding outcomes.”
The QuickSmart program, developed by Professor John Pegg and Associate Professor Lorraine Graham at the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR National Centre), has been running at Driver Primary School for the past six years.
“Kids who haven’t succeeded right up to Year 3 have had two-to-three-year gains in 12 months,” Mr Presswell said. “It’s enabled them to go back into the classroom and join the main game.”
“It’s had a huge effect on children’s confidence,” he said – adding that it had “changed the whole culture of the school”.
“The program’s great success is due to the sound research behind it,” Mr Presswell said. “And the continuing work of the SiMERR National Centre at UNE ensures its integrity and quality.”
By giving middle-school students (typically aged between 10 and 13) confidence in the automatic response to simple questions in arithmetic, the QuickSmart program enables them to use more of their working memory in solving more advanced problems.
“We’ve had an extremely strong maths program, in which children were highly successful,” said Rosslyn Shepherd, Principal of Bridgewater Primary School in South Australia. “It was a revelation to us, however, to find that many students were using a large part of their working memory in their responses to simple questions that can be automatic.”
“This is the second year that we’ve been using QuickSmart,” Ms Shepherd said, “and we’ve noticed amazing differences – in every aspect of their maths – in the 18 students involved. And their confidence has been transferred to all other aspects of their schoolwork.”
Associate Professor Lorraine Graham said the QuickSmart Professional Learning Workshop on September 29-30 had been necessary “because of the enormous increase in the demand for the program (from 196 participating schools to more than 450) in 2010, and strong indications that demand for the program will increase again into 2011 and 2012”.
Earlier this year, the QuickSmart program was named as a “key achievement” in the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap report.
THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here, taken at the QuickSmart workshop, shows Associate Professor Lorraine Graham (left) and Ms Rosslyn Shepherd. It expands to include Professor John Pegg (right) and Mr Rob Presswell.