Many teachers will be putting their classes through assessment and testing, sorting out base lines and prior knowledge.
All interesting stuff but I am starting my year looking at attitudes - what do my kids think about maths, about their own ability in this subject.
Because I've got a feeling that attitude has a big impact on performance.
Driving up to Sydney in the holidays (well, my wife was driving, I was writing), I started to put together a survey.
Here's are some of the main questions I came up with:
1. Put a circle around the words you would use to describe maths:
boring cool exciting fun difficult
So, maths is fun - and challenging. I like this idea. You can enjoy something even though it is not always easy. And there are a few other attitudes to be aware of. Three students find maths boring and difficult and two think it is scary. I need to be aware of this when teaching my new class.
2. If you got to choose what you were going to do for the whole of today, which of these would you choose:
Art Sport Maths Wordwork Story writing
PE Reading UOI Chinese Drama
(Wordwork is our spelling programme; UOI is Unit of Inquiry, our transdisciplinary investigation)
Maths doesn't score too bad in this question - I was expecting worse. But now I know what many students in my class like doing - art, reading, PE and drama. How can I use this information creatively to engage my kids in maths?
3. Put a cross (x) on the line where you think you would be:
(This line was 15cm long on the original survey paper. I measured the position of the cross in millimetres from the left hand end to get a numerical value.)
This is great - I can immediately see a few students who don't think they are very good at maths. Gives me something to focus on straight away. There are also some really positive students who identify themselves as being very capable, also really useful information to have.
I did ask a few other questions - favourite part of maths, least favourite part, best thing you ever did in Maths, what would you change - but these three produced (for me) the most interesting data.
So - work to do! A few attitudes to work on and some kids to motivate. I will run this same survey at the end of the year. I wonder if anything will change?