|Exploring geometry through play|
Time to focus on mathematics in education
Recently I had a discussion with some young teachers about the teaching of mathematics in schools - the teachers taught in the middle school area. It didn't go to well! They have to do what's expected of them - and that this was sadly influenced by what the secondary school maths teachers wanted students to have covered! Change requires leadership and a whole school approach.
Why does maths take such a dominant place in the day's programme?
|Me - the classroom teacher!|
I have always felt that how schools arrange their maths programme ( and to a slightly lesser degree their literacy programme) reflects the philosophy or teaching beliefs of the school. If there is a dedicated ( usually hour long) maths period with students working at teacher, or textbook, tasks in ability groups, then little has changed over the decades.
As Professor Jo Boaler sees ability grouping as 'The Elephant in the Classroom'.
|My students maths work|
the students to enjoy maths and to develop positive attitudes towards the subjects. For my own security I made sure students basic computation and number facts were learnt - where possible through fun activities,for example, using 100 squares colouring in patterns made by the various times tables. If I did resort to 'traditional maths' I made it clear to the class the difference between 'real' and 'practice' maths.
Once our minds are changed it all falls into place.
At the very least one group a day could be involved in such maths activities - or one day a week - or a two or three week maths investigation. Whatever experience should become before the use of abstract symbols. Students who dislike maths are those who do not understand adult imposed symbol systems; for such students schooling has 'turned off' their innate ability to use maths.
Why has maths pride of place?
The question to ask is why do assign so much time to maths - is this a something left over from industrial aged 3Rs schooling? Do all students need to know maths ( particularly at the senior school level) they might never use? Would maths be more enjoyable learn in collaborative mixed ability groups rather than working silently as individuals? With the appropriate approach and resources all maths can be introduced in a way that develops both maths power and understanding.
Don't take my word for it. Below are resources to support such an active and often aesthetic approach to maths.
First from Professor of Maths Jo Boaler
|Professor Jo Boaler|
Another blog about Jo Boaler
Jo Boaler makes two main points – maths can be a fun activity for all students but to achieve this needs the removal of an approach based on ability grouping. The one in five currently failing in our schools, (notwithstanding the effects of poverty) see themselves as failures, as defined by numeracy and literacy, and the premise of this book that this is, in good part, to the result of the use of ability grouping. Jo Boaler’s book reports on the depressing research to back her position on ability grouping
Learning to love maths.
The Place of maths - thoughts by Guy Claxton.
|Science /tech maths art study|
He provides three challenges about the place of mathematics.
First it is not clear that much of mathematics is as directly useful as it has traditionally claimed to be. Many people, he writes, lead happy and successful lives with only basic maths.
|Science and maths|
The second point Claxton makes is that there is no evidence to the claim that maths provides valuable generic training of the mind ( an argument once used for Latin). To achieve 'transfer' teachers have to highlight where and why maths is used in other problem solving situations.
The third point made is that there is no reason that maths should retain its central role in the school day. The worldview that sees mathematics as so central to learning is archaic.Teachers need to be alert to see the maths potential in any learning experience including exploring the maths potential of the natural and man made environment.
The slow group (the donkeys) are always way behind in the programme and by the time they leave primary school they have missed half of the mathematics curriculum. They have been labelled slow because they don’t fit the model of children parroting repetitious recall of maths equations. In fact, they are usually very capable, they have been incorrectly judged and put on the scrapheap forever.
Read about two New Zealand mathematicians teaching maths through crafts. Fascinating
How much maths should be taught in our schools?
|Exploring triangular numbers|
Maths professor urges teaches to rethink maths ( Professor Jo Boaler)
Want kids to learn maths stop teaching it.
What is important to learn in mathematics
Maths education. Harvard University
A brilliant paper on maths education by Charles Lovett and Doug Clark ( Australia)