Saturday, 18 February 2017

There is no miraculous new way to teach maths.



or.. Some things I learnt in 2016.



During 2016 I was fortunate to work on a project called:

reSolve: Maths by Inquiry

Keep an eye out for it - there is some good work behind this project.


This project is lead by the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers and the Australian Academy of Science. It is based at the Academy in Canberra.


The main building at the Academy of Science, sometimes known as the Martian Embassy.

I learnt a lot over the year, much of which I will share with you over the course of time. But here are some of the "big learnings" that came through to me:

1. There is no miraculous new way to teach maths 

There is no magic pill, no silver bullet, no "deus ex machina", no program we can import "drag and drop" style into our schools that will save our PISA results or make us Top 5 in TIMMS. 

There is only striving for our best - our best efforts, our best examples, our best pedagogy, our best teaching practice. This is quality education.

2. If I do not give all students full access to the curriculum, then I am perpetuating discrimination and inequity.

There is a temptation to give some students a "watered down" version of the curriculum, to give an over simplified or "dumbed down" education in mathematics. This is not fair. It is not just. It is not equitable. 

Yes - it is difficult to engage all students. Yes - it is difficult to provide access to the full maths curriculum to all students. Yes - it is difficult to pitch lessons at a level that will challenge all students in the class.

But that it our job. It is why we choose to front up to the class each day. It is why we do not work in tele-marketing or data entry. We want to teach and we want to do it well.

3. We need to hear the voice of the child.

This has been simmering away in the back of my mind for a while now. To effectively engage students in learning, we need to give them a voice. We need to listen to their ideas and suggestions, we need to reflect on their observations and we need to examine their strategies to find new and powerful insights.

The great man himself, Peter Sullivan, told me, "99 times out of 100, the teacher needs to shut up. The other 1 time, the teacher needs to shut up."

This is very difficult for many teachers - don't we just love to fill the space with the sound of our own voices? But to stop and listen to the voice of the child - ah! there is deep learning to be had here.


Anyway, that's a few of the things I learnt in 2016.

The challenge is for me to take them into the classroom and see if I can actually do them.

I'll let you know how we get on.






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