Category Archives: 2.2 Education Systems & Prof. Responsibilities

A Reflection of an Electricty lesson with a Primary 7 Class

At the beginning of this module, I was very weary of teaching science because it is something that I have done in the past with little success. This was because I did not possess the confidence needed to teach science efficiently in the primary school. In hindsight, this module has allowed myself as a developing practitioner to feel more confident in my ability, especially with regards to inquiry based learning and allowing children to explore different issues and aspects of science. Luckily, this module has given me the opportunity to teach two different age groups in science which is the reason for this blog/vlog post. The first lesson was do with acids and alkalis with a primary six class and the second lesson was to do with electricity with a primary 7 class. This post today aims to describe what my colleagues did to exemplify inquiry based learning and the vlog post will reflect on the experience.

The activity was based around the issue of cars and their headlights. Our ‘hook’ displayed numerous cars (old and new) with their headlights on. The children were asked to discuss the function of headlights and why cars need them. Once the children discussed and answered these questions, the children were asked to think about how the car headlights get their power and were asked to discuss. this matter. To highlight to the children how this happens, we lined them up outside the classroom and asked the to think about how electricity runs through wires. Questions were along the lines of ‘when we flick a light switch, does the light come on fast or slow? The children then passed along the line to symbolise how electricity runs from a batter to a lightbulb. One of us walked alongside the children to symbolise that electricity is passed along from atom to atom.

Once the ball analogy concluded, the children were involved in making their own circuits, comparing things such as:

one battery connected to one lightbulb
Two batteries connected to one lightbulb.
Two batteries connected to two lightbulbs.

However, before this we talked about hypothesising and why it is important in science. Children then created their own hypotheses about what would happen with the above scenarios. The interesting thing was that hypotheses varied from child to child showing how individualistic children are when it comes to their own ideas. Each adult that was involved in the activity acted as a facilitator to the children’s’ learning, which emphasised the need for social constructivism in science. Once the children completed their circuits, we had a general plenary on the things the have learned and to see if they enjoyed the activity.

Below is the link to my professional reflection on the activity focussing on what went well during the lesson, what could be improved upon and how the children interacted with the lesson.


The end is near… My Profound Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics

As Semester one draws to its conclusion, I can’t help but feel a bit sentimental on my time in the ‘Discovering Mathematics’ elective. It has been a very enjoyable experience for me and I would encourage anyone who is going into second year to pick it as your elective. It is not about learning complex quadratic equations or even recapping on trigonometry, it actually is more useful that any of those concepts will ever be. I have mentioned in previous blogs that I was not the biggest fan of mathematics due to my stubbornness and having bad experiences at high school level. However, this elective has totally changed my ideology and it will definitely help me gain confidence as I go into my third year placement. I thought since the elective is over that I talk about my ideas and give my ideology and interpretation of what a profound understanding of mathematics is.

At the very beginning of this elective, the idea of fundamental mathematics was introduced. We were given some input on what it meant, but in all honesty I found it hard to understand. This was the case until I came across the work of Liping Ma. Ma conducted research in china and America to identify why the U.S was falling behind in terms of the world rankings and test results. She concluded that teachers in the U.S did not posses a deep understanding of elementary mathematics. Ma (2010) hypothesised that initial teacher training and that during this teachers should become familiar with basic mathematics (fundamental mathematics) much like her teachers in china. In hind sight, Ma (2010) came up with four characteristics which would allow a teacher to have a profound understanding of fundamental mathematics:

  1.  connectedness – this factor is about teachers emphasising how maths connects to other procedures that the pupils are learning.
  2. multiple perspectives – moving away from the idea that there is only one way to get an answer
  3. basic ideas (principles) – that teachers should bring ideas back to basics to encourage good attitudes in mathematics to promote understanding and a love for the subject
  4. longitudinal coherence – progression: the teacher needs to be able to see where the child is and how to further their progress in mathematics.

When you break these four principles of fundamental mathematics down, it is clear to see why maths is so important for everyone. When we think about connectedness, we need to look to our Curriculum for Excellence where cross curricular learning has to be incorporated. This is so important because maths is in everything that we see and do and it is also very important to see the links between maths and our world. Secondly, there is a huge maths myth that has been around for decades – ‘there is only one way to find an answer’… no there is not. There are multiple ways in which problems can be solved – its just about teaching maths in different ways. Thirdly, basic ideas is fundamental to fundamental mathematics because fundamental actually means ‘basic’. We as practitioners need to take maths back to its roots in order for children to progress and love maths at face value. In addition, basic does not mean that it can’t be challenging or fun (I will get to this). Finally, when we think about longitudinal coherence, we think of progression. Teachers need to know where each of their children are at in their learning and the teacher needs to take the steps necessary in order for our children to progress.

It is all very well talking about the theory of fundamental mathematics, but what have I learned about it? Well for starters, I can say that maths is absolutely everywhere… in the outdoors, in the weather – you name it and its there (links to connectedness). I believe that it is absolutely vital to make the connections that mathematics allows us to see. We need to make our children aware of this in order to heighten their love and interest for mathematics. I am aware that maths needs to be an active subject for children to really get their teeth into and enjoy. My blog post ‘active learning in mathematics’ covers this – it highlights that basic principles of mathematics can be taught in fun and interesting ways in which your children will understand. Furthermore, there is no better feeling in the world than seeing the children in your class engaged, learning and having fun. Maths allows us as practitioners to experiment and play with certain theories in order to evoke fun and enjoyment. For example, the lesson on demand planning was absolutely fantastic!! Moreover, enthusiasm counts for a lot in teaching. I mean why do you think I had such a negative view on mathematics? Its probably because my teachers in the past have never shown a passion for it. Our lecturers for this module have been the most enthusiastic people I have ever seen. It has made me become enthusiastic and, of course, if your enthusiastic as a teacher, your children will also become enthusiastic.

Therefore, I believe that fundamental mathematics for a practitioner to be confident and have a profound knowledge of basic maths in order for our children to understand and develop a love for mathematics. In addition, the practitioner needs to be able to encourage and motivate their children through meaningful and engaging activities that incorporates active learning. Furthermore, practitioners need to also make connections with mathematics in the real world and encourage their children  to make these connections as well. Finally, and I can’t emphasise this enough, we must be able to paint a picture of each child’s progress and be able to plan the steps in order for them to succeed and develop in mathematics.



Ma, L. (2010). Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. P1-50.

Maths, Play and Stories

During the Discovering Mathematics elective, I have been amazed by some of the maths that I have encountered, particularly when linking maths to play and stories. I, beforehand, had a very narrow-minded view of what maths was as my school experience was not a good or successful one. I remember mostly being stuck and it made me think of myself as a failure. In addition, I vaguely remember my teacher(s) writing mathematical equations for on the board for us to copy and learn. Was it interesting? Most definitely not. I was disengaged most of the time which probably lead to me having bad memories about mathematics. However, this elective (along with my college experience) has opened my eyes to mathematics on a wide scale – especially through play and stories.

Lets go back in time to my second year of college. This is where my mind-set began to change on the whole concept of maths. As part of our early years placement, we had to make our own story sack which had to include many subjects from the CFE – one of them being maths. To say the least, I was pretty petrified. All that was going through my head was ‘how can I incorporate mathematics from a story?” And yes, the maths anxiety began to set in. However, after researching many different books to use for my story sack, I began to see the links between maths and stories. I chose the Wizard of Oz as my book and managed to include maths from ideologies like character order to the shape of the yellow brick road. Ultimately it opened my eyes and laid a basis for my love of maths to grow from.

Today in the primary school, children still have this maths anxiety. I thoroughly believe that it stems down from older generations. This is because learning and teaching has transformed in the modern day classroom from the mid 20th century. Older generations of people may see maths as copying down sums off the board in a kind of rote learning manner. This left these people with maths anxiety to have very bad memories of mathematics and generations of adults who don’t see the need to learn mathematical theories. Ultimately, our responsibility is to teach young learners that mathematics is relevant to every day life like money, time, fractions and so on. Ultimately, because our older generations do not have the greatest view of mathematics, it gets passed on to our children and they become “scared” of maths (Furner and Duffy, 2002). I believe this statement is true because our attitudes need to convey a love of maths in order for it to pass on to our children. Not only must we as teachers be enthusiastic and encouraging, we also need to introduce maths in fun and interactive ways so it will be memorable for our children (see my last blog post on active learning in mathematics for further information).

Parents as Teachers
I found this concept to be rather interesting and intriguing because parent are children’s first point of contact in education. Parents are the child’s pioneer of education and it could be argued that parents are children’s first teachers. Within the context of maths, this should be no different. However, when it comes to children needing help with their maths homework, parents might try to avoid the matter. According to Pound (2003), parents of young children have a narrow minded view of mathematics and may not prioritise it within the home. I am not suggesting that this is the case for every child, but maths is a hard and abstract concept for children to understand and they probably will need help with their homework. This is why it is important for parents to get involved and convey a love for mathematics so their children can have a love for mathematics.

With regards to cognitive development, mathematical concepts allow children to think, reason, understand and learn. According to Piaget’s 4 staged theory, he believed that schemas are the way in which we organise information and for children to understand mathematics the should repeat their actions (sums and questions) in order to learn. In addition to this, Margaret Donaldson agreed with Piaget on some aspect but believed that if children think of abstract situations then they will fail. I do not believe that children will fail due to abstract concepts. I understand that maths is an abstract concept but with the right help and support, children will thrive. Maths is so beneficial for a child’s cognitive development due to the problem solving aspect of it and, without the children realising it, maths allows them to think articulately.

Fundamentally, we should see children as independent learners and should give them the space to work on an individual basis, This can be achieved through immersing the children in mathematical events before school (for example, ‘how many cows can you see in the field?’). As time progresses, children’s skills will develop, but it is important for parents to not give them direct instructions. Children naturally absorb the patterns and regularities that exist in the day to day natural and cultural world (Ginsburg, Cannon, Eisband, and Pappas, 2006). Effectively, routines are mathematical concepts and children pick up the patters very quickly. Of course, we as teachers need to be able to explain the maths correctly to the children in order for them to learn it (Henlock, 2003). In addition, this can be done through a number of strategies:

  • Open ended questions
  • Using mathematical language
  • Written communication through mark making

Effectively, these strategies should be used by teacher in order to develop their ideas and understanding of mathematical concepts. A good way to achieve this is through play. Play is important because it allows children to be a team players, communicate effectively, learn through interaction and ultimately allows children to express themselves in different ways. Furthermore, play is innate and allows children to make connections, be creative and use flexible thinking. Moreover, it refines and rehearses their skills and encourages perseverance. So where does this link into mathematics? Well mathematics allow children to make decisions through imagination, reasoning, predicting, planning, experimenting with strategies and learning through rhymes and songs.

In conclusion, I never realised that maths and play go hand in hand with one another. It is a fascinating thought that has allowed me to realise that there is more to maths than copying sums off the blackboard. Maths should be fun and inviting and I will definitely try to incorporate this into my lessons while on future placements and when I am a qualified teacher. However, parent play a huge role within mathematics. Parents should encourage a love for mathematics and view maths as a positive thing in order for our children to absorb a love for mathematics – lead our children forward!!


The Curriculum for Excellence: A comparison between our own curriculum and the Scandinavian Approach

The Curriculum for Excellence was introduced by the Scottish Government in 2010 – 2011 and was meant to revolutionise education in Scotland by providing children and young people between the ages of 3-18 a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum (Education Scotland, undated). In addition, the curriculum includes the totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people through their education, wherever they are being educated. The CFE is meant to be a holistic and child centred curriculum very much like the Scandinavian education systems. However, why might this not be the case? This blog aims to investigate the CFE in a critical manner and this will be used as a comparison to Scandinavian approaches in countries such as Sweden.

Lets travel back to the 1990’s where the 5-14 curriculum was implemented in Scottish schools. I very much remember being in lessons such as maths and English and completing my end of unit level C test. This was a very anxious time as testing was a fairly new concept to me but it now apparent to me that testing was done in order to raise attainment in schools. I distinctly remember some of my friends and classmates would deliberately take  a sick day in order not to do the tests which, to me, felt wrong and, in the end, they would need to sit the tests when they came back. It made us feel anxious. As practitioners, it is important that our children are comfortable and feel safe in the school environment. Testing did not make me feel safe and comfortable because I did not want to fail. So why did it change? why was there a big push for a more holistic and child centred curriculum? The Scottish Government wanted to make guidelines more fit for their purpose by providing the right level of detail for teachers so they could maintain the current level of specificity where that makes sense. In addition, the CFE proposed to remove unnecessary detail from existing 5-14 guidelines in curriculum areas such as Expressive Arts and Environmental Studies to allow teachers more flexibility and scope to provide rich and varied experiences, and reduce the time spent on assessment. In addition, the Scottish Government wanted to bring the 3 to 5 and 5-14 curriculum guidelines together to ensure a smooth transition in what children have learned and also in how they learn. This will mean extending the approaches which are used in pre-school into the early years of primary, emphasising the importance of opportunities for children to learn through purposeful, well-planned play. This to me sounds fantastic as children can broaden their horizons through meaningful activities that incorporates play into their every day learning. However, how did the Scottish government come up with the idea to introduce this into the CFE? We need to look over to Scandinavian countries such as Sweden.

In preparation for the CFE for to be implemented into Scottish schools, momentous research had to be carried out and the Scottish government looked towards Scandinavian countries to gain some influence because these countries top the leader boards in an educational sense. With regards to Early years education in these countries, there is a strong financial support for families with young children, and this is fully funded by the state so all young children can have a formal early education. In Sweden, children are guaranteed a place in pre-school for working or studying parents within a few months of applying. There is an emphasis for outdoor learning all year round and the children in these countries are generally more happier and confident from and early age. With regards to Primary Education, the children start at around age 6 or 7 as this is the perfect age to start. In Scotland, there could be children as young as 4 in a Primary 1 class. This is because in Scotland there is a work force interest which is aimed at parents getting back into work sooner in order to contribute back to the economy. As a result, more funding is needed (especially in early years). If a small independent countries can do this, then why can’t we?

In Sweden, children address teachers by their first names unlike here where we say “Mr”, “MRS” or “Miss”.  I think it allows the teacher to be seen as a real person instead of a hierarchical figure and this would ultimately allow the children to feel more comfortable. Teachers are trusted and highly respected and in Scotland it could be argued that this is not the case. This point is also emphasised because no inspectors come into Swedish schools. In addition to this, the Swedish school resembles a family home in the sense that the staff and children take their shoes off and the fact that there is a kitchen in every room. This, again, allows the children to ‘feel at home’ and  allows the children to feel more comfortable in their education. In pre-school education, the children have meals around the table with the teachers and again emphasises the notion that their schools are like family homes.

In Sweden, there is no testing and the children have unfinished work trays where they can pick and choose to finish work when they want. The work is very much set at the children’s pace and the children can, as a result, take control of their own education. In Scotland, there is a massive incentive for children to finish work as quickly as they can which, I feel, is necessary in some cases for short tasks, but we have to remember that children move at different paces to one another and we need to take differentiation into account. In comparison, Scotland does not have a form of national testing. However, the Scottish Government are trying to re-introduce standardised testing into Scottish Schools in order to raise attainment. However, I think this poses a very big problem. As we know, in every subject area of the CFE there are different levels. For example, children within the first level can range from Primary 1 all the way to Primary 4 – my point being is that how can you give a primary 1 pupil the same test as a standardised test as a primary 4? To me it seems completely unrealistic and I doubt that attainment will raise with in Scottish schools. I believe that the Scottish government is too focussed on statistics and aren’t focussed enough on the children. It seems extremely ironic because the CFE is considered as a ‘child centred’ curriculum and I do not believe that the children are being into account.

Testing out the way, lets get down to the facts. Swedish children feel secure within their education. The less informal approach incorporated by the teachers allows the children to feel relaxed and, as mentioned before, it almost feels like a family home. The children have large amounts of unrestricted floor space to play, build and be creative. This encourages the children to plan their own play and this is not the case in Scottish nurseries where play could be very much structured and the children might not be able to explore freely. The Swedish curriculum is grounded and play and is influenced by the theory of Froebel (the founder of kindergarten). The teachers, who are experts in their field, are there to communicate and understand and respond to the children’s needs. I am convinced this happens in Scottish schools as inclusion is an important matter within the Scottish school setting along with GIRFEC and, naturally, teachers should be empathetic and understanding. However, I feel that there is a hierarchy between teachers and pupil and this could make children feel uncomfortable at times.

According to the Swedish Ministry of Education (1998), ” learning should be based not only on interactions between adults and children, but also what they learn from each other”. This comes back to the idea that communication is key and that collaborative learning is a very useful tool for children and teachers alike. Teachers should constantly be looking for opportunities to learn with the children because knowledge is not found in the child or the adult, its found within the world around them and the beauty of education is finding things out together. Collaborative learning is a huge aspect of the CFE and this is something that works. Its all about experiencing new things everyday and this is why outdoor learning is extremely important in any class in any country. The significant thing about the Swedish curriculum is that it is based on a division of responsibilities where each individual state determines the overall goals and guidelines for the schools within each state. What is alarming is that there is no national curriculum and they are still above Scotland in the ranks.

Therefore, why are Scandinavian countries above us in the rankings and miles ahead of us? Well for starters, the CFE has cherry picked certain aspects from these countries to create the ‘perfect curriculum’ but this cannot be the case unless every aspect has been taken from these Scandinavian approaches. That is why the CFE has been criticised on a national scale for being hollow and unrealistic. Our teachers are anxious about how ‘vague’ the CFE is where as Scandinavian teachers are happy in their work. Fundamentally, it is the children that we should all be thinking about and maybe one day the CFE will be completely child centred and holistic. Well, that is goal and the end of the day.

If you would like to find out more about Swedish education, refer to the video below.