Should maths be taught inside the classroom?

Mathematics, from personal experience, is a subject I believed I would never need outside of school. Equations and formula’s were driven into my brain and were taught from a textbook. I certainly did not find it pleasurable, useful or important. Ma (2010, p. 104) wrote that basic ideas within mathematics are “simple but powerful basic concepts”. These concepts are ones like equations that are situated continuously throughout the curriculum. Until participating in this module, I myself had not valued the basic ideas within mathematics, that will in turn, prepare us for the future.

People with poor numeracy skills, (National Numeracy, 2018) are more than twice as likely to be unemployed. This figure is extremely high and leads to the question, why do so many Brits have such poor numeracy skills? Whilst on placement, I witnessed my class sigh or groan when I began to introduce a maths lesson. Of course there was a small handful who were happy (those who had a flair for the subject) but the majority were very unimpressed. They already at the young age of 10-11 associated maths with boring ‘textbook work’. Already, with a negative view on the subject, I knew this would not lead to positive results. This is something I immediately knew would be a challenge to tackle. Thus I decided to take an approach by using outdoor learning – hoping it may appeal more to the class who loved spending time outdoors.

Joyce (2012, p. 8) wrote that outdoor learning is “engaging children in meaningful first-hand experiences”. By gaining first-hand experiences, pupils are then able to take these on board and use again in the future. Supporting this, Coxhoe Primary School (2013) wrote that it is important to consider the necessary adaptions or changes that may be requires when teaching maths. This could evidently mean new methods of teaching style, such as outdoor learning are of benefit to pupils.

Vernon (2010) wrote that numeracy skills are taught better to over 18s when hands-on and not classroom based. This is significant as it highlights that adults do not find the typical teachings of mathematics beneficial. Alongside this, 1 in 4 adults in the UK (National Numeracy, 2018) say that school taught maths did not prepare them from everyday life. This is supported by Burns (2012) as millions of Brits struggle to read a bus timetable or pay a household bill. This is highly concerning and evidently shows that there is an issue with the way maths is being taught. Could outdoor learning be the answer to the problem?

The Curriculum for Excellence states that outdoor learning “encourages children and young people to make connections experientially, leading to deeper understanding within and between curriculum areas and meeting learner needs”. This links to Ma (2010) idea of connectedness as learning outdoors would highlight links to other curricular areas. Thus the idea of learning maths outdoors, could be highly beneficial as children could gain a new perspective of what they are studying, thus leading to a greater depth of knowledge.

Therefore overall, I believe that learning mathematics can be done in a huge number of ways. Of course there is benefits when teaching inside the classroom using textbooks and jotters, but there is a whole world around us, why not try and use it?

So, can we teach maths outside of a classroom? Of course we can!

References

Burns, J. (2012) Poor numeracy ‘blights the economy and ruins lives’. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17224600 (Accessed: 16 November 2018).

Coxhoe Primary School (2013) Sustaining excellence in mathematics. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/620742/Coxhoe_20Primary_20School_20-_20good_20practice_20example.pdf (Accessed: 16 November 2018).

Curriculum for Excellence Through Outdoor Learning (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010) Available at: https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/hwb24-cfe-through-outdoor-learning.pdf (Accessed: 16 November 2018).

Joyce, R. (2012) Outdoor learning: Past and Present. Berkshire: Open University Press.

Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics: teachers’ understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States. New York: Routledge.

National Numeracy (2018) Why is Numeracy important? Available at: https://www.nationalnumeracy.org.uk/what-issue (Accessed: 16 November 2018).

Is maths creative?

Prior to the discovering maths elective, I would never have associated maths with the term ‘creative’. When thinking about this concept myself, I found it was only right to see if those around me shared my original thoughts, that maths is not creative. When surveying 10 of my friends and family, who have not taken part in the discovering maths elective, the results were as followed:

Yes – 2 votes

No – 8 votes

This shows a shared opinion that people around me would not view maths as creative. However, I now know, this is certainly not the case.

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Maths (2011) suggests that an understanding of shape is crucial to create art using mathematics. In our workshop we were asked to draw a face. As simple as this sounds, the majority of our class had the same response…laughter. Art is not a strong point of mine and after seeing my work, you too will agree. However, once we had drawn one portrait, it was obvious that we needed some guidance. This came in the form of maths. We next had the chance to follow specific mathematical instructions involving measurements and line to create another portrait of a man. This time a much more realistic and proportionate face was created. The difference in drawings is evidently huge as by considering scale, shapes and proportions, facial features became more accurate and thus more pleasing to the eye. Jonathan very kindly described my work as ‘a child’s drawing turned into a respectable one’.

Another form of art that is based upon maths is tessellation. Simplistically, Maths is Fun (2018), wrote that tessellation is where a surface is covered with a pattern of flat shapes that has no gaps or overlaps. This can be seen in bathroom tiling, brick walls and even on football. Additionally, when considering nature and how complex it can be, we must consider the underlying mathematics.

Above shows a honeycomb created by bees, which contains a perfect pattern of hexagons. This is a prime example of tessellation in our surroundings as bees create these nests.

I believe it is very important to emphasise to our future pupils that maths and art are so closely related. By making links to other curricular areas it shows clearly connectedness This is one of Ma (2010) fundamental principles of mathematics, that are of key importance throughout our module of discovering mathematics. Thus, I believe that maths being creative should be well known and explored within our classrooms.

References

Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics: teachers’ understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States. Available at: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/dundee/detail.action?docID=481154. (Accessed: 29 October 2018).

Maths is Fun (2018) Tessellation. Available at: https://www.mathsisfun.com/geometry/tessellation.html (Accessed: 28 October 2018).

NCTEM Admin (2011) The Art of Mathematics. Available at: https://www.ncetm.org.uk/resources/18030. (Accessed: 29 October

Do I have maths anxiety?

Maths anxiety as described by Sheffield University (2018) is “an emotion that blocks a person’s reasoning ability when confronted with a mathematical situation”. This, however, does not mean that those suffering with said anxiety are poor performers within the subject. Where the anxiety comes from is undetermined, I believe it stems from a mixture of factors such as teaching methods, parents and teacher anxiety.

The Guardian (2012) wrote that more than 2 million children are affected by maths anxiety. This is an extremely high number and shows how common maths anxiety truly is. 

This short video explains maths anxiety and how anxiety is experienced more in maths than any other subject.

Prior to selecting the discovering maths module, I personally did not know maths anxiety existed. As maths is a mandatory subject to study within schools, I believe many children share a similar hatred, as they are most likely to study maths everyday. Maths amongst children is often associated with boredom and difficulty – as witnessed on my placement last year during lessons. My pupils were consistent with their moans and groans about having to do maths, claiming they ‘would never need to know this in real life’. This I believe is something that must be tackled, relating maths to real life situations shows the importance and how things such as reading a bus timetable or cash handling is maths.

My personal experience with maths in high school was not positive. Throughout primary school I found maths very simple and did not tend to struggle. However, high school was a different story due to an unhealthy relationship with my teacher. As I received a shower on negative comments, I gave up and felt my hatred towards the subject grew significant. Eventually, I received a C grade pass at Higher level and was thrilled to drop the subject. Until now,I had not considered my toxic mindset towards maths and how much it affected me. Although I did not fear the subject and its content, I would dread having to attend lessons with the thought of failure always on my mind. With this in mind, I feel determined to not let my future pupils have the same experience as I had. Like anything in life, we must work on ourselves before trying to help anyone else.

To conclude, no, I do not have maths anxiety but it is clear how many people in our society struggle with it. Already by taking part in this module, I can see a positive change in my own learning and personal development as I feel more open minded and confident. I hope I can continue to grow and in the future this will enable me to pass on my knowledge and positivity to my pupils.

References

Brian, K. (2012) “Maths anxiety: the numbers are mounting”. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/apr/30/maths-anxiety-school-support (Accessed: 28 September 2019).

Sheffield University (2018) Maths Anxiety. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/apr/30/maths-anxiety-school-support (Accessed: 28 September 2019).

Scientific Literacy and Education

During our science inputs with Richard, we were asked to work in groups of four to compose a short essay based on the title Scientific Literacy and Education. By following the criteria, this is what my group collectively wrote;

According to Blake (2017), Scientific literacy is the understanding of key scientific concepts and the knowledge of processes needed to make individual and personal decisions. The National Science Education Standards (1996) explains that the concept of scientific literacy highlights that an individual can ask and discover answers to questions resulting from general curiosity about everyday life experiences. Scientific literacy involves the ability to read and understand scientific articles in to engage in social conversation about the strength and validity of the conclusions. Therefore, Scientific literacy suggests that individuals are able to recognise scientific issues which lie beneath local and national decisions and express opinions that are scientifically informed. Thus, individuals can express their scientific literacy in many ways, for example by using technical terms or applying scientific concepts and processes.
Scientific illiteracy can result in inaccurate media reporting which can be believed and interpreted within our society. For example, for many years there has been a conspiracy that the flu vaccination gave people the cold or flu after they received the vaccination. The NHS (2016) have stated that the flu vaccine is the best protection we have against a virus that can cause unpleasant illness. Studies have shown that the flu jab will help prevent you getting the flu. It is not 100% guaranteed that you will be flu free, but if you do get the flu it will be milder and for a shorter period of time. It was reported by the Express Newspaper (2017) that people were hesitant to get the flu jab or didn’t get it at all due to fears of falling ill with the flu after being vaccinated, due to media headlines suggesting there was a link between the jab and the flu. However, the flu jab cannot give you the flu as it contains an ‘inactive’ form of flu which cannot give you the illness. It takes 10-14 days for the immune system to build up fully after the jab and the flu is much more than a heavy cold and patients need the vaccine every year in order to be protected. This is a recent but also ongoing example where lack of scientific literacy has led to inaccurate media reports.
Fair testing in primary school science links to scientific literacy because it means they are able to assess false or ‘adapted’ scientific facts from true scientific facts in the media and online. As said in (Introducing the National Science Education Standards, 1997) you need to have an awareness of science in the wider society. Therefore, teaching children the need for fair testing is so vital as it shows that you cannot just try something once and give up. You must try multiple times and reflect on the different outcomes. However according to (Maintaining curiosity A survey into science education in schools, 2013) it can be quite difficult to execute a very good science lesson in primary schools, so while some pupils might grasp the understanding of fair testing and how it relates to real life, not all pupils will. Although in conclusion fair testing in primary schools is a good way of getting children as young as four thinking about scientific concepts and finding ways of answering their own questions about the world using science.

References
Blake, C. (2017) Understanding Scientific Literacy. Available at: http://www.literacynet.org/science/scientificliteracy.html (Accessed: 08.02.18).
National Research Council. (1996) National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC. National Academy Press. https://study.com/academy/lesson/scientific-literacy-definition-examples.html
NHS. (2016) The flu jab. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/fluinfluenza-vaccine/ (Accessed: 7th February 2018).
Express Newspaper. (2017) Flu jab 2017: Can the vaccine give you cold or flu like symptoms? Available at: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/892284/flu-jab-2017-vaccine-sideeffects-symptoms-cold (Accessed: 7th February 2018
Introducing the National Science Education Standards (1997). Washington, DC: Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education, National Research Council, p. 22.
Maintaining curiosity A survey into science education in schools (2013). Manchester: Ofsted, pp. 12-16. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maintaining-curiosity-a-survey-into-science-education-in-schools (Accessed: 11 February 2018).

 

Semester 1 Reflection

My first semester at Dundee University flew by. It was a brand new and exciting experience for me as I moved into halls, met new people and most importantly started my degree, putting myself on track to becoming a primary teacher.

Prior to writing this post I began to reflect on how I have personally developed, one point that stood out was my confidence. I wasn’t shy before attending Uni, however I had a lot of self doubt and did not believe in myself as I have never been the smartest student. I struggle more than others and find it takes me longer to grasp new things. As a result, I always put myself down and compare myself to others. This often led to me feeling down as I had to work a lot harder than my peers to achieve well. Despite this, I have passed both the Working Together and Values modules. My grades were lower than my friends, but I know I did my best and therefore did not view my success negatively. Instead I took my feedback on board, realising I have potential and was shown where I can improve and thus I will be able to reflect on my given advice during my next essay submissions and hopefully do better. Additionally, the Working Together module helped me to believe in myself as my fellow group members encouraged me to continue to express my thoughts as they valued my opinion. This was a pleasant surprise and I felt very much included in the group.

I have realised reflection is important as I often do not realise how I have progressed. When looking back although my growth has been slow it has definitely occurred and I plan for it to continue. With placement swiftly approaching, I believe it will be a truly exciting experience, that will enable me to reflect on my positive and negative attributes. This will allow me to push myself which I think is very important as I will be in a new environment where I will be communicating with pupils and fellow staff members. Hopefully, by the end of semester 2 I will be reflecting on how once again, it was successful with my progression as a student.

Resource allocation workshop reflection

In the workshop hosted by Derek, we were divided into 5 groups. Each group was given an envelope of resources, which we were told we should use to create a product for a new student attending Dundee University. I myself was in group 1, our pack was full of materials such as coloured pens, pencils, paper, paper clips and other stationary items. My group then easily had a discussion and decided to make a ‘student starter pack’ containing the following items:

  • A map of the Dalhousie building
  • A personalised timetable
  • A guide to DUSA (the Union)
  • Tips and tricks to survive University
  • A campus map
  • Simple recipes designed for students
  • A pencil cased packed with stationary
  • An events guide

As we ourselves are new students, we believed these items would be extremely beneficial(especially the Dalhousie map as we still do not know our way around!) and to our delight, Derek was very encouraging and praised our group for our organisation, good team work and well planned ideas as we showed the fellow class members our product. We assumed each group would have similar ideas and as group 2 presented they received similar praise as they too had numerous stationary items and ideas in their product.

However, as the other 3 groups began to present, we noticed they had less items to us, making it increasingly difficult for them to come up with an idea. Each group made the most of what they had (some as little as 3 items) and still managed to create a great product and present well. Derek did not take to the groups as well as he did to ours, as he seemed to lose interest and while the last group were presenting he was even checking his phone.

As I was in the group with the most resources, our team as a whole never realised the lack of support and praise the other groups were receiving, when in reality they had a more difficult situation and still managed to make a product successfully. Eventually it became clear to us as Derek explained that this activity was used to highlight the inequalities in society.

This workshop I feel was very important as in joining the teaching profession, we need to understand and be aware that every pupil will come from a different background and have different needs. Additionally, each school will be different and may not have the same resources, similar to each group in our class. This suggests to us that we will need to adapt our teaching methods to ensure each pupil feels included and equal to ensure they reach their full potential.

Derek held the workshop very well and I feel it was very valuable, thus I am looking forward to attending the ones in the future to continue to develop my understandings of the course and further my knowledge of the Values module.

Values as embodied and culturally specific – my thoughts

Prior to watching the videos provided on MyDundee and attending Tuesdays lecture, my thoughts on the topics provided were;

Race – Skin colour, your origins that are similar to others

Ethnicity – your background, social group that you and others are alike in

Prejudice – a preconceived opinion on something or someone for no apparent reason

Discrimination – racist remarks, unfair and unjustified treatment of people who may look, sound or behave differently to you

The words above are ones I thought I knew well due to their frequent appearance in the news and current events, however after this weeks lecture I soon realised my understandings were not entirely accurate.

I learnt that racism is very much still apparent in every day life, on a greater scale than I previously knew. During the lecture, we were taught about the origins of racism and the sociological perspectives. We explored key events in American history such as the Civil Rights Movement, the Jim Crow Laws and the murder case of the young boy Emmet Till. Each of these topics I have previously learned about during my Higher History course in high school. This certainly did not make them any easier to listen to, as the brutality and injustice faced by African American’s in the late 1800’s to 1970’s was ridiculously high.

We also explored cases of racism in the UK, something I was not aware was so drastic. For example, in the 1964 General Election a Conservative MP was elected with a campaign based on a racist slogan. As a result Malcolm X, a human rights activist and huge figurehead in America for black pride, visited the town of Smethwick at this time to offer support to the local community. To me, this suggests just how severe the racism and injustice truly was in the UK. Not only did this election and Malcolm’s appearance shock me but it showed that only 50 years ago racism was very much supported in our country. Fifty years is within my parents generation, this thus shows that we have come a long way in a short space of time but certainly does not mean there aren’t changes that could be made.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/15/britains-most-racist-election-smethwick-50-years-on

The article above discusses the 1964 election in depth.

In November of last year I had the amazing opportunity to visit the once Nazi occupied concentration camps named Auschwitz, this experience is something I will never forget and I believe links perfectly with week 3 in the Values module. I became so inspired after my trip and I feel I have been reminded to keep the memory alive now more than ever as it is essential to take the information I have learned and pass it on to others. This I hope to carry out in the future when I have my own class of pupils, to teach them to be inclusive and respectful of all types of people, no matter where they come from or what they look like. It is so important to discuss the terms mentioned above to ensure young people are aware that horrible things do happen outwith our control but in turn this will hopefully lead them to carry forward an open and accepting mind set.

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Teacher, Lorraine Lapthorne conducts her class in the Grade Two room at the Drouin State School, Drouin, Victoria

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