Moving Forward with Mathematics

I have officially finished with the Discovering Mathematics module! Reflecting back on my time I think that I have greatly expanded my mathematical knowledge, thought about ideas I hadn’t considered before and most importantly had fun!

I think that having fun should be the foundation of any mathematical class, concept or learning. This, I believe, will give mathematics the much needed boost that it needs to become just as important to us as other subjects. Everyone looks forward to an art class, why can’t we look forward to a mathematics class?

The biggest thing I have learnt during this module is just how much mathematics is in the wider world, so much more than I could have ever possibly imagined.

Moving forward I plan to embrace mathematics, to allow it back into my life. When I am carrying out specific tasks I will look for the mathematics within and recognise it.

I have already found myself saying to others “Do you know there’s mathematics in what you are doing right now?”

Moving forward mathematics is not going to be something I learned in the classroom, or a module I took in university, it is going to be a part of me in my life, and this module has helped me to recognise this.

A little advice to future students partaking in this module, don’t get too hung up on the actual sums behind the inputs, enjoy and embrace them instead, because the essay and the blog-posts aren’t assessed on your mathematical ability that you developed in school, it’s about your engagement!


Mathematics and Science

In a lecture with Elizabeth Lakin we discussed the ways in which teaching science and mathematics may be problematic.

We discussed how sometimes for a child the application of a skill set or knowledge from one subject to another can often be difficult, this is widely applied to mathematics and science. Again I am going to mention the mathematical myth which limits the application of mathematics outside of the classroom. A pupil who engages with this myth will find it hard to use their mathematical knowledge out with the mathematics lesson. It is important as teachers that we try to diminish this myth but also if we are planning a science lesson which uses the same concept being taught in a mathematics lesson to teach the concept in a scientific context in order that bridges are built between the two subjects.

We also discussed the difficult with the stage at which mathematical concepts are taught. Quite often one of the first ideas in science is the interpretation of information from graphs. However in mathematics the introduction of graphs and data analysis is in the upper stages of primary. The issue is then we are expectant of children in the science classroom to be able to interpret information from a complex source which is entirely new to them.

The idea of staging relates to Liping Ma’s idea of longitudinal coherence. If the teacher of the class had achieved PUFM they would not be tied to the idea that graphs is taught in the upper stages but would tailor the learning to the needs of the children. They would plan in order that the learning took place at the most beneficial time.


Gambling – The Bookies Always Win

How likely are we to win big when gambling? Gambling is entirely centered around probability, the likeliness of a win or result. We bet on the likeliest result and cross our fingers for a result. Once every now and again, we will win, so how can it then be said that the bookies always win, because quite often a person wins their bet.

It is because the bookies decide the odds that they give out. They calculate the odds to ensure that they will make a profit on the bets they receive.

For example, in a game of Dundee F.C. versus Dundee United F.C. the odds of Dundee winning are 3/10, which means for every £10 bet only £3 is paid out, plus the initial bet.

For a draw the odds are 4/1, a £4 pay out, plus the initial bet. And for an away win 9/1, £9 payout plus the initial bet.


Outcome Bets Odds
Home £719.50 3/10
Draw £187 4/1
Away £93.50 9/1
Total Bet £1000


Result Bets Payout Amount Profit
Home £1000 719.50 x 3/10 £935.35 £64.65
Draw £1000 187 x 4/1 £935 £65
Away £1000 93.50 x 9/1 £935 £65


No matter what the result, there is always a return for the bookie. The mathematics behind this includes fractions, chance and probability, multiplication etc.

This relates to Liping Ma’s idea of multiple perspectives, however not mathematically. Here we are looking at the different aspects of gambling to gain a greater understanding of the foundational principles behind it. The effects for the person making the bet and the effects for the bookmakers.

In conclusion, the bookies do always win, and this is because they use their mathematical knowledge to ensure their odds are in favour of them. From this I have learned that I am studying the wrong profession, the bookmakers is evidently the way forward!

Baking a cake – more mathematical than you would think!

Cake again!

When baking a cake, you use an incredible amount of mathematical processes, but you don’t think of the mathematics you are using as you are doing it.

When measuring the ingredients for a cake, we use the basic knowledge of measurement taught to us in primary school.

You need 500g of sugar for the recipe, so half of the bag – FRACTIONS!

The recipe in in ‘kg’ but the measurement on your ingredients are in ‘g’ you have to use your BASIC KNOWLEDGE OF MEASUREMENT!

You only require a quarter of what the recipe makes, to work this out we use RATIOS!

To set the oven timer to cook the cake for 20 minutes we need to understand the basic concept of TIME!

Who knew there would be so much maths in baking, especially ratios!

But why don’t we immediately think of mathematics when we are doing these processes?

It is perhaps due to the mathematical myth discussed in a previous post that ‘We do not use mathematics outside of the classroom’, quite often if we say something to ourselves often enough it becomes truth. If we believe that maths is not applicable in the wider world then perhaps we do not look for it as we do not expect to find it.

When trying to work out how to only make a quarter of the cake, the baker would more than likely spend a great deal of time trying to work out how much of each ingredient they would need, instead of quite simply using a ratio formula.

This relates to the idea of connectedness by Liping Ma. Looking for mathematical links in the wider world, in order that the learning is supported by these connections.

If we as teachers continually make real life applications then perhaps the children will make these applications in their everyday lives. The aim is to not let mathematics die in the classroom, but to revive it in everyday use, where we recognise it, not just simply use it, unknowingly.


The chicken or the egg?

One of life’s’ burning questions, what came first, the chicken or the egg? In a lecture with Richard we discussed statistical information and data analysis, and the same premise from the question above became applied to our discussion.


Do you record the data first, or do you interpret the data first?

Similarly, this seemed to be a question which had no answer, much like the idea of the chicken and the egg, but does it have an answer?

Some may argue that you have to have data recorded in order to be able to clearly interpret that data. For example, if you were measuring how many brown haired people were in a room in comparison to blond, it would be hard to interpret this data without the exact numbers presented in ‘black and white’. The interpretation of this data would not be accurate without the information being recorded.

Others would argue the case that you have to have an understanding of the data before you record it. There has to be an interpretation of the data to determine its worthiness of being recorded.

This question is a conundrum, similarly to the chicken and the egg, there is no definitive answer. Whether recording or interpreting happens first is different in any situation. It also depends what is meant by the word interpret, does it refer to an understanding of the concept which you are investigating or an interpretation of the data presented by the concept.

This relates to Liping Ma’s idea of basic concepts. We are not simply looking at recording and interpreting data but the reasons behind why we use these processes. We are looking into the structure behind data analysis, and gaining a greater understanding, not simply the use of it as a process.


Fractions are everywhere!

I remember learning fractions in school, and every teacher, without fail, related the idea to cake!

As you can imagine this was very engaging as a child, and now in my later life I often will say “I will have a third of that cake please”. That’s if I decide to share it! Most of my understanding of fractions relates to food and portioning of food.

Until recently, when we had our input on mathematics and music, I had no idea that fractions feature in music!

When reading music, the note determines how long the sound is played for. A whole note would last one measure and half a note would last for half a measure. Each of the notes in music relates to a fraction of the measure of time the note should be played.

It is important for a musician to have an understanding of fractions in order to interpret a piece of music.

We can use music to teach children about fractions in the same way that we use food. Using another context for learning could emphasise to children that there is not only one application of fractions in the wider world, but many.

I feel this relates to Liping Ma’s idea of connectedness. Not just connectedness between the mathematical concept itself but connections between the concept and ideas out with the subject area. This results in the different subject areas not being fragmented but the curriculum being recognised as a whole.


Liping Ma – Profound Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics

When I first started this module and we were introduced to the idea of ‘profound understanding of fundamental mathematics’ (PUFM), I was slightly terrified. It sounds terribly confusing but actually it boils down to very simple concepts. “By profound understanding I mean an understanding of the terrain of fundamental mathematics that is deep, broad and thorough” (Ma, 2010).

Connectedness – “A teacher with PUFM has a general intention to make connections among mathematical concepts and procedures.” (Ma, 2010). This simply means being able to identify ways in which mathematical concepts procedures connect to one another, and highlighting this when we teach so that children can then identify these links. In practice this would mean the learning of a child was not fragmented.

Multiple Perspectives – “Those who have achieved PUFM appreciate different facets of an idea and various approaches to a solution, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.” (Ma, 2010). This means that the teacher respects the different aspects of problems and solutions and allows children to explore these different aspects in order that they have a flexible understanding of the subject.

Basic Ideas – “Teachers with PUFM display mathematical attitudes and are particularly aware of the “Simple but powerful basic concepts and principles of mathematics” (e.g. the idea of an equation)” (Ma, 2010). This means that teachers encourage children to explore the ideas in relation to a problem as opposed to simply calculating the solution. This will mean their learning and understanding of the subject will be more in depth.

Longitudinal Coherence – “Teachers with PUFM are not limited to the knowledge that should be taught in a certain grade; rather they have achieved a fundamental understanding of the whole elementary mathematics curriculum.” (Ma, 2010). This means that teachers are willing to revisit learning done in previous years, but also to plan accordingly with the flow of the classrooms curriculum and meet the present needs of the child within their studies.

PUFM is more than simply understanding the subject area that you are teaching. It is embracing the subject as a whole and appreciating the foundations of the subject. Having a profound understanding is what we aspire to as teachers. If we are expectant of a child to have great depth of a subject, then so must we.

Liping Ma, 2010, Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, New York, Routledge, p.104

Mathematical Myths

Im sure we have all heard at least one mathematical myth in our lives. Did we believe it? Did it stick with us for years? Did it deter us from exploring mathematics altogether?

The Using-Tools-Is-Cheating Myth


One of the great mathematical myths is that we should do all of our maths mentally, in our heads. WHY?

What is so wrong with using a calcualtor, or better yet our own hands?

When you are learning a new maths problem and it just makes no sense why can’t you try out every tool and strategy possible to help you to understand the problem. When children are told ‘no using your fingers’ and this is the only way that they can understand, how does it make them feel? That the teacher is their barrier, that they want them to fail? Ultimately that child will stop trying.


The Genuis Myth


Who says that you need to be clever to be able to do maths? Or who says cleverness is defined by mathematical ability?

I have heard so many times from young children, ‘I can’t do this because i’m not as clever as them’. Where do they get this from? I would imagine that it would have stemmed from hearing this myth at some point in their life.

Belief in this myth will cause children to simply give up, not just on mathematics but on anything. A child struggling with mathematics who has belief in this myth will put their struggle down to just not being clever. And because they are ‘not clever’ they will adopt the mindset that they cannot do mathematics, no matter how hard they try, and so why bother.

Similarly if a child is really trying to get to grips with mathematics but despite their efforts doesn’t quite get it, they will adopt the attitude of, well if I can’t do maths then I must not be clever. This attitude can lead to low self esteem and can also mirror in other subjects.

This is why it is so important in our classrooms that we do not allow this myth to be instilled into our children. Everyone can do maths!

And last but not least…

The Who-Needs-It-Anyway Myth


This is the myth that is most well known and most embedded in our soceity. I have even said it myself sat in a maths class looking at a ridiculously complicated formula and saying when am I ever going to use this again.

But as I identified in my previous post we use maths every day! And we often don’t even realise.

As teachers it is our responsibility to eliminate this myth by introducing mathematics in relevent contexts to show children that we DO use maths and that it is important.

We need to work hard to eliminate all mathematical myths which deter our children from exploring the subject. I have identified the importance of mathematics in my life through this module but not everyone has explored it like I have.

We cannot let people live their lives by these mathematical myths, and this starts in the classroom.

Thinking about mathematics

Starting off in the Discovering Mathematics module is terrifying. terrified

Maths is certainly not my strength, especially as I have not used or looked at maths since my 5th year of high school.

Well that’s a lie! Those were my initial thoughts on my participation in mathematics, but actually I use elements of mathematics each and every day. I just hadn’t realised.

As part of our assignment we have to discuss the use of mathematics in the wider world, outside the parameters of education. And so I began to think of all of the mathematics that I use in my life.

I work part time in Pizza Hut, the restauarnt. Roughly every 10 minutes a customer waves their money in the air signalling that they are ready to pay their bill. And I have to work out how much change to give them and take it out of my float in my apron. This was relatively simple for me to identify as mathematics that I use daily. Simple addition and sutraction. And even more basic, the recognition of money itself. Now this part of maths I am pretty good at, and im not being vain. I HAVE to be good at this if I don’t want an angry mob of Pizza Hut customers coming after me because I gave them incorrect change.


There are many other instances in my life where I use mathematics.

Again in Pizza Hut when I am working in the kitchen I have to make our Pizza sauce in large batches. There is only one recipie for one set amount of sauce, but life just doesn’t conform to one set recipie. Sometimes we need more and sometimes we need less. I had not realised until I really thought about it but I use RATIOS! If you had asked me last week, when was the last time I used ratios I would have told you way back in 3rd year!

I also use time on a daily basis. Everyone does! Telling the time of course, but also I use time alognside problem solving. When I wake up in the morning I need to work out how much time I can use to get ready leaving enough time for the drive to uni, the time spent trying to find a parking space and the walk to class in order that I arrive on time. And with the traffic in Dundee this takes a lot of brainpower. PROBLEM SOLVING.

The burning question in my mind is why I had to think so hard to uncover mathematics in the things I do day-to-day. Why don’t we immediately think of maths?


Image result for thinking emoji

Words are our master.

The importance of language to our world is undoubtedly massive. In a lecture I attended on language the lecturer brought up the idea that society would struggle without words, it was quickly pondered but then we moved on. However in my head I could not move on, this thought stuck with me. How different would be all be, how different would our world be, without words?

As I thought I began to imagine a world without words… and I could not. the idea is so unfathomable so impossible that even my imagination could not support it. Our society would simply not cope.

Even basic communication would be a struggle. Sure, some may argue we could ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ to form some paths of communication however there are only so many different sounds that we can make. And moreover if this was practiced by all it would be the same as using ‘words’ and so, still, we cannot see a way for our society to cope without the use of words.

I cannot fathom living in a society where there are no words to describe where you are, who you are, what you are feeling? No words to make sense of the things around you. There would be no recognition of our own surroundings without having some way to communicate and discuss what it is we were seeing.

Without words we would not be able to merely have thoughts. If you think, think about anything, I can guarantee that you will have thought of even just one word. Without words we could not be the people that we are, we would not be as advanced or as brilliant a species.

Could you even begin to imagine a mute world? Can you imagine the chaos?

This is why words are so vital to us. We simply cannot live in a world without them. This is why as teachers and equally for parents, it is so important to build up communication with children, to talk to them, to help them understand the world that they live in. To enable them to communicate, to enable them to have thoughts and opinions ,to develop their knowledge and one day allow them to become fantastic individuals.

Without words I cannot see a world where all of this is possible.

My Gentle Reminder

I’m sure we can all agree that by February or March this year we were entirely fed up of lectures, tutorials and essays. In fact, I felt so fed up that I began to question why I was doing all of it in the first place. And then, placement came along…

Being back in the classroom, doing the job I love is just the reminder that I needed to keep me focused on my end goal and remind me why I sat through all of those lectures this year. I did it all because I love teaching, I always have. The great buzz of energy you feel when you stand in front of your class and they are looking back at you totally engrossed in what you are telling or teaching them. The ‘eureka’ moment that you see spread across a child’s face when they finally understand something they have been working on for weeks. These moments are why I love being a teacher.

Being back in the classroom this time was greatly different to before. Previously I had just been in the classroom for work experience for around a week with very little responsibility. This time around I was there for much longer with much greater responsibility and this contributed to the experience being far more rewarding. During my 6 weeks at my school I was able to see the children progress and grow. This is something which I had previously not encountered but it brought me great joy to be able to see this.

The behaviour issues in my class, and generally within the school, were extremely challenging. I felt my own skill set was really put to the test, and I had to expand my knowledge using reading. I feel my behaviour management strategies have improved greatly and I look forward to using them again and seeing how they work in different settings.

Planning lessons was a very enjoyable task for myself. I loved trying to make them exciting and engaging and used my memories of school, both good and bad, to help me to do this. It was good to look deeper into lessons which I remember and understand why I was taught in a certain way.

I now understand my own school teachers so much more. Situating myself in their role I was able to see that everything that they did was for me and my fellow peers. Every time they raised their voices slightly, wouldn’t let us chat or gave us some sort of a sanction they were doing it all to help us. To help us achieve, learn and do well in life. I could not see that as a child, but now I can, and because of this I have such great respect for them all and everything that they did for me which allowed me to be in the position I am now.

My highlight from my placement was the day of my Summative Visit. The children had been warned to be on their best behaviour as we had a visitor coming into the class. Many of the children knew that it was “Miss Burnetts boss” coming back again. They did themselves and myself proud, their behaviour was great and they engaged in the lesson and the task. I was so pleased that they had did this for me so that I could do well. And whilst I was showing my tutor out of the school my class teacher had shared with them that I was being assessed and that I had passed my placement. Earlier in the day the children and teacher had made me a card and they presented it to me when I returned to the class. As they were giving me a card they decided to sing ‘happy birthday’ which really took me by surprise. The children were so happy for me, hugging me and saying ‘well done’, giving me a cheer. They were happy that I had succeeded and wanted success for me, the same way in which I wanted success for them in their school endeavour. This was the best part of my placement, knowing that I had made such a positive impact on these children that they wanted me to succeed.

I can’t say that I am happy to have finished with placement, although I am going to enjoy some long lies. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and feel I have gained and learned so much from the experience. Ahead of me is another year of lectures and I suspect I will have the same feeling again of questioning. I will remind myself to look back at this placement and the joy I felt during it, using this as motivation to keep going. It will be another two years before I will be back in the classroom and I hope that they fly in, until then I will continue with my studies all the while keeping in mind my goal, of being back in the classroom doing the job that I love and hope to be doing for years to come.


Good feedback isn’t all that good.

I think feedback is a vital component of learning and establishing ourselves in our chosen profession. Feedback is also an incredibly important of the classroom environment, whether that be from fellow colleagues, from pupils or pupil to pupil.

When we are tasked with giving feedback, the initial reactions tend to be negative, it is often seen that giving feedback is not a nice task to undertake. People often worry about being over critical or what sort of feedback they will receive themselves, and therefore they tend to focus on the positives of the piece of work they are critiquing. This is often done in the hope that others will follow suit and give positive feedback, therefore not receiving any harsh comments yourself or so that you don’t offend anybody by highlighting potential faults in their work.

However there comes a point when being overly positive is just not helpful. Being unable to highlight areas for improvement means that the person receiving your comment will think that their work needs no further improvement when perhaps it does. If someone is particularly looking for feedback in order to help them, being entirely positive will not assist at all. Yes, it will make the person feel happy that they have done a good job, but that will be the only result of over-positive responses.

We are all guilty of this, I can honestly say that I have done this myself, but it is vital to take a step back before you post and think to yourself: “If I received this, would it help me?”

We do not need to be harsh when giving negative feedback. As my mum often reminds me “It is not what you say, but how you say it” We should employ constructive criticism when critiquing others’ work. We shouldn’t just point out what it wrong, we should attempt to give suggestions on how to improve what has been written. However, although being aware of and identifying downfalls is important this shouldn’t be the sole focus of our responses. It is important to find a balance between praising and being critical.

In schools this is combated by the idea of “Two Stars and a Wish”. This idea aims to offer both positive and negative feedback in a way that shows children we are not being harsh, it is framed in the idea of a ‘wish’ which makes it seem more friendly and less critical. However as our lecturer mentioned in our input, there should not necessarily always be a wish, because we don’t always have to be critical. Some pieces of work may be good enough that a wish is not needed, but this does not mean that a wish should never be included.

Another important point is to praise when previous ‘wishes’ have been improved upon and not to persist on the same negatives, as this can hinder a child’s improvement as well as our own. People can become defeated if they are continually told that the same thing is not quite right.

When we give feedback it is important to remember that being nice is not always helpful and being critical is not always harsh. It is important to employ ‘constructive criticism’ and be aware that your comments should give the receiver opportunity to reflect upon their work and give it more strength. As a receiver of feedback you want to be given ways in which to improve otherwise the reply is’ ‘pointless’.

Before we send we must think to ourselves, “If I received this feedback, would I really appreciate it?” And remember as my mum would say “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”.

The Physical Child – History of the Brain Timeline

20th Century –

1900 – Sigmund Freud

The interpretation of dreams – dreams are the unconscious mind where repressed                   wishes are played out. His theory is that the unconscious mind drives most of human behaviour even though society dictated that you must override such impulses with reason. There is tension created between the repressed drives and the expected social conventions and this tension is relived through dreams.

1906 – Santiago Ramón y Cajel

Research into the changes neurons undergo during the functioning of the nervous system won him a Nobel Prize.

1911 – Henry Head

Publishes Studies in Neurology where he disputes the theories regarding aphasia and argues that the function of speech is not localised.

1921 – Hermann Rorschach

Development of the ink blot test. The test gives useful clues to the patients ‘psyches’. Used to evaluate personality traits and disorders.

1929 – Hans Berger

EEG was invented.

1932 – Lord Edgar Adrian and Sir Charles Sherrington

Nobel prize won for research into neuron function specifically the mechanisms by which nerves transmit messages.

1934 – Egas Moniz

Research done into operation on the brain which cured depression as well as causing many other personality changes, similar to Phineas Gage’s “accidental leucotomy”

1936 – Walter Freeman and James W. Watts

First lobotomy performed in U.S.

1938 – Albert Hofmann

Research into ergot fungus containing natural hallucinating properties resulting in the production of LSD.

1949 – Walter Rudolph Hess

Nobel prize won for research into the interbrain being responsible for coordinating the body’s internal organs.

1950 – Karl Spencer Lashley

Experiment designed to look into the neural components of memory involving rats in mazes.

1953 – Nathaniel Klkeitman and Eugene Aserinsky

Development of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.

1963 – John Carew Eccles, Alan Lloyd Hodgkin and Andrew Fielding Huxly

Nobel prize for work on the mechanisms of neuron cell membranes.

1967 – Ragnar Granit, Haldan Keffer Hartline and George Wald

Research into how the eye passes images to the brain.

1970 – Julius Axelrod, Ulf von Euler and Sir Bernard Katz

Discoveries concerning storage, release and inactivation of neurotransmitters and how psychoactive drugs affect this.

1974 – M.E.Phelps, E.J.Hoffman and M.M.Ter Pogossian

Development of the first PET scanner which looks at the activity of the brain from a visual prospective.

1981 – Torsten Wiesel and David Hubel

Research on visual information send from retina to brain.

1990 – George Bush

Declares the decade starting in 1990 the “Decade of the Brain”

1997 – Stanley b. Prusiner

Research into prions as infectious agents in the brain which cause several diseases such a dementia.

2000 – Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel

Research into chemical transmitters and synapses.

Remembering, Forgetting and Getting Confused.

Based upon lecture by John Baldacchino.

Greek philosophy on learning focuses on the soul and the body. The body in ‘contingent’ and the soul is ‘necessary’. The soul is said to be omniscient and knows the grand knowledge of the world. When we are born our soul holds this information. However the soul then comes limited by the body. So it can be said that the soul without the body would be an all-powerful entity. Socrates talks of this in Plato, Meno. Throughout our lives we are continually trying to remember what the soul already knows and unlock this information. Therefore making it unlimited. It is aid that if you move more towards bodily things then the soul becomes damaged but if you maintain spirituality and focus on spiritual ideas then the soul is revived. In order to not make the body forgetful we must employ ‘aporia’ which is simply letting people make mistakes so that they can learn from them.

In terms of education I think ancient Greek philosophy is telling us that we should never give up on children who are struggling to learn because they have the knowledge within them we just have to find the right way of unlocking it.

It is also encouraging us to allow children to make mistakes so that they learn from their experiences and therefore develop a better knowledge. This relates to the guest lecture from Brendan Knight on Plato’s Cave. If the world outside the cave had been bad and cruel they would have learned this through making the mistake of going outside and therefore would know not to do the same again. The same can be applied to a mathematics sum, if they did it wrong the first time they will not tackle it in the same way again.

Sometimes as teachers we may be wise to deliberately confuse children in order that they see even more clearly in the end. They would then have to look back through the steps in great detail to understand where they went wrong and then figure out how to do it right. They would then have more advanced knowledge of the specific steps involved in comparison to if they did it right the first time and never had to look at the steps again.

Plato’s Cave

I thoroughly enjoyed the guest lecture by Brendan Knight on Plato’s Cave. The story of Plato’s cave is that there are men bound to the cave facing the back wall. The light coming in from the entrance causes shadows to be displayed on the wall. These shadows are caused by things in the outside world – ‘reality’. These shadows are all that the men have experienced and therefore they believe it to be reality and are entirely unaware of the real world. The point is that you can only know of things you have experienced. Then one day one of the men breaks free and goes outside the cave. He is then faced with the real world and becomes aware of many different things he did not know before, for example – form, texture, colour and size. He was only able to know of these things through experience. He then tried to get the others to break free and embrace what he had saw but they did not want to go and were afraid to leave what they thought was their reality.

I think this relates to education as a metaphor for learning in the sense that those who are sceptical about learning certain topics can’t fully engage with them unless they step outside of their comfort zone (out of the cave). They can’t fully understand what they are learning (the reality) until they are taught and are become engaged and involved in the topic (experiencing the world outside the cave).

This can be applied not just to topics but social learning also.

Children who don’t engage socially or take part in the classroom are unaware of the benefits of it. If children are encouraged by teachers and brought out of their shells they will see the classroom and education in an entirely different light. This could change their outlook on education but also develop their social skills within the classroom and allow their behaviour to improve as a result.

The idea of Plato’s cave allows teachers to realise they have to allow children to experience and engage with things before they will fully understand both the benefits and the downfalls. And that the best was of learning is to experience.

This relates to be earlier post on ‘why teaching’ – that learning must be fun and exciting and involve physical activity in order to consolidate the learning. They must experience what they are learning in order to fully understand it.

You don’t teach the rules of netball and then expect children to know how to play the game. You must allow them to play and experience the rules in action so that they will fully understand it.

Professionalism and the Online World

Having integrity as a teacher is closely tied to our ‘fitness to teach’, we must have the public’s trust in order to maintain our ‘fitness to teach’ however this can be undermined by inappropriate use on social media. Integrity can be described as honesty but I think it is better described as ‘good character’ in the sense that we must uphold our ‘good character’ that should be perceived by the public. As teachers we must be seen as honest, well presented and sensible. However some things which we post on social media may seem harmless to us but to others who have a different view point can seem entirely different. When posting on social media we must take care to not perish our integrity and this can become detrimental to our careers. For a teacher when building their professional status this simply means pausing before posting and thinking whether or not what they have written can be construed in a different manner from which it was intended. If so then don’t post it. It’s rather simple.

Many people believe that marrying personal social media with professional social media is a good tool within the classroom. There are severe dangers with this. Even though it is a merge of personal and professional you still have to be aware of what you are posting. There are certain aspects of your personal life which would not be appropriate to share with your pupils. It can be easy to forget that you have a ‘merged’ social network site and to then post something which would compromise your professional integrity.

However this idea does have some benefits. Allowing your pupils to get to know the kind of person you are out with the classroom can help build a better relationship within. Seeing aspects of your personal life may allow them to relate to you in a way they hadn’t before, it could allow prompting of discussions to occur which otherwise would not have taken place.

I think the use of social media as a way of keeping the children engaged in lessons but also engaging with the children is a vital part of the modern classroom. However I think the use has to be controlled and used wisely. I think that using social media in a professional manner whilst incorporating some personal aspects is a good idea. But I would not use my current personal social media profile and then begin adding pupils to it then using it in a professional and personal manner as there are some ‘personal’ things which should not be shared with pupils. I think it is important to keep a distinct profile where personal but monitored posts are shared.

Gender – How did my gender affect me as a child?

Well I am a girl, most boys would then say that I had an easier childhood than them when it came to discipline: girls didn’t receive the same punishments, we got away with the things boys didn’t and we were able to be so much more mischievous than them without having to worry about the consequences. Well I believe that was utter nonsense, well it was in my school and my home environment anyway. I remember getting in just as much trouble if not more than the boys in my school because the activities and things in which we were engaging with were not at all ‘lady-like’ and therefore we were shouted at for doing them. A boy was able to run around at lunchtime sliding around in the wet mud getting entirely covered without much fuss. But when my female friends and I did the same it was considered beneath us and therefore we got into so much more trouble because it was expected of the boys to ‘be boys and get dirty’ not of the girls. As girls we were less than impressed.

And the same in my home life I constantly was told “we would expect this kind of behaviour from your brother not you”.

I think people need to remember that there are two sides to every story. And while the boys always say that they were treated unfairly and had severer consequences than the girls, we too were not treated as equal to the boys.

Gender should not be viewed as being solely discriminative towards males, because it can be just as bad to the opposite sex.

Why teaching?

My inspiration to become a teacher started at a very young age. Continually playing ‘school’ with my two younger siblings I would always insist on being the teacher, never the pupil, much to their discontent. I relished in standing in front of them with my sheet of A4 paper on which was written mathematics calculations (which they had to grasp on how to complete) and coaching them on how to do mathematics like I, their big sister, was able.

As I was nearing the end of primary school and we were discussing out future career desires to place into our yearbook I was still certain that teaching was my goal. At our leaving school assembly my head teacher, who had not actually seen the yearbook, said “Amy will be back here in some years, no doubt, teaching generations to come” I was stunned to realise that she somehow knew that I wanted to teach, however looking back now I have come to the realisation that teaching was all I spoke of, and there were very few people unaware that this was my goal.

As fourth year came we were given the opportunity to do work experience, I jumped at the opportunity to go back to my old primary school. However this was a mistake. All of the teachers still remembered me, I expected this of course, I had only been gone four short years. However they still viewed me as ‘little Amy’ and they could not look past their image of me as a young child, they could not see the capabilities which I had developed over the years. And so, throughout the entire week of my work experience, I sharpened easily 100 pencils, printed numerous worksheets, glued together wall displays and cut up worksheets for the younger children who weren’t quite able. Afterwards I felt like I had wasted a week, but I knew that there was so much more to teaching that I wasn’t given the chance to experience from my former teachers, I felt let down immensely.

In fifth year, for my enrichment periods (one afternoon a week) I decided to stick at work experience, and attended a school at which no-one would have any preconceived ideas of me. I was placed into a primary 2 class, for the entire year. As the teacher became used to my presence within the classroom she realised that I was a capable person and needed ‘real’ experience of teaching. She gave me the responsibility of taking reading groups and performing one-on-one private lessons with students who were perhaps struggling with some of their subjects, in particular mathematics. I felt just like my younger self again teaching my siblings maths in my bedroom.

After school finished one day, the teacher and myself were talking about the lesson plan for next week. She then told me of her hatred for art and lack of passion for the subject, and that she had to teach it the day after to the children. I explained to her my love of art and how I would be more than willing to help her out with these lessons. And so, we moved around the timetable for the class so that art fell into the time at which I would be in the classroom. I performed many art lessons, and often tied them into their learning topics of space and ancient Egypt. We made 3d planets, aliens and many more. As the year progressed we began looking at the seasons through art. We went outside to collect leaves with intricate patterns and then printed them using autumnal coloured paint.

This time around work experience did not deter me from become a teacher but rather the opposite, it fueled my passion even more so.

In sixth year I was given the chance to do one final week of work experience. When I arrived at the school I straight away informed the teacher of my capabilities and that I could be used as an asset to her class throughout the week. After explaining my art lessons in my previous school she too allowed me to teach the children art, as well as some French due to my basic understanding.

The children’s feedback form my art lessons was astounding. They loved them and were entirely unaware, until reflection, that they were learning whilst having fun and enjoying themselves. This has made me have a passion for teaching in a non-conventional style, through art in this case. This brings out creativity as well as teaching about culture. The most rewarding thing I feel from art lessons is the joy seen on children’s faces, whilst they are learning. They are not sat silently writing in a jotter, or filling out a worksheet. They are communication, sharing, creating and most importantly building on their social skills.

I want to be the kind of teacher who does not disregard fun within a classroom, I want to see joy on faces while I am teaching, and I feel this must be done by teaching in a non-conventional way. Bringing new techniques into the classroom in order to learn in a fun way. There are many more ideas I have on how to make learning fun:

  • Teaching fractions through measurements in baking
  • Acting out imaginative stories as plays performed to the class, not just writing them
  • Turning topic time into an interactive game where the children become characters from the past

I also believe that children should have an input into how the want to learn about specific things. If a child thinks that learning about mathematics through music and song will help them understand better, then the class will be up and singing about multiplication banging on a tambourine and strumming a guitar, because I feel this is important to the learning and development of a child.

Sometimes, yes, children will just have to sit and write, but it’s what happens thereafter with what they have learned which is important. Who says handwriting must be done solely in a jotter, once they have mastered the techniques what is stopping them from writing outside on the ground with some chalk? Nothing!

Welcome to your WordPress eportfolio

Welcome to your eportfolio. This is where you will document and share your professional thoughts and experiences over the course of your study at the University of Dundee and beyond that when you begin teaching. You have the control over what you want to make public and what you would rather keep on a password protected page.

The eportfolio in the form of this WordPress blog allows you to pull in material from other digital sources:

You can pull in a YouTube video:

You can pull in a Soundcloud audio track:

You can pull in a Flickr page

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

You can just about pull in anything that you think will add substance and depth to your writing.