Author Archives: Neve Fordyce

Maths Anxiety

Maths anxieties is defined as when a student has a negative reaction to mathematics (University of Cambridge, 2017) These kind of feelings can often be crippling for the students who are learning the subject and result in the students having a negative relationship with maths. I personally have had these feelings often and believe this is one of the main reasons for the way I still feel about maths to this day. The feeling of nervousness has never left me and due to this I feel I still have a negative relationship with maths. This has even led me to feel nervous about teaching maths while on placement.

There are many different symptoms of maths anxiety (Oxford Learning, 2017). Students often end up having passive feelings towards the subject, they may feel so nervous and like they can’t do it, to the point where they do not even want to try.  Confidence is also an issue, students often feel like they will not get the answers right so do not offer answers. These feelings then often result in panic when it comes to class tests and having to answer in front of people.

Symptoms like this are very common amongst students and often lead to them dropping the subject as soon as possible. Personally for me, this was because I only needed my National 5 to get into University and believed that when it came to sitting my higher subjects, I was better choosing subjects I felt more confident in. However, it has been found that students who have only completed the compulsory level of maths at school and no further, are much more likely to struggle when they attend University (Turner and Berman, 2014, as cited in Metje, Frank and Croft, 2007). This is especially true for students who need even a small amount of maths for their course. Therefore, it is of the upmost importance that we try and help students overcome these feelings so that is does not result in a negative impact on them in the future.

There are many ways teachers can help pupils overcome their maths anxiety. This includes encouragement and making sure that the students understand that it is okay to make mistakes. Class discussions and working together are also a good way of putting students at ease instead of calling on individuals. Along with this, switching it up in the classroom and trying to teach more creatively can also result in a more in depth understanding of the material, therefore resulting in a higher level of confidence when it comes to answering questions and in the subject in general.

It was found that 30% of pupils in Scotland feel nervous and tense when they have to do maths and 50% feel like mathematics is too hard (PISA, 2012). From these statistics it is clear that we must do more in our schools to encourage the learning and development of skills in mathematics. Overall, along with being damaging to the individual themselves, maths anxiety can also have a more serious effect on pupils in the long run. Therefore, I believe it is vital that we support pupils and help them with these feelings to improve their relationship with the subject as this would benefit them greatly in future life.

References:

Metje, N., Frank, H.L., Croft, P. (2007) Can’t do maths – understanding students’ math anxiety.Oxford: Oxford University Press

Oxford Learning (2017)  What is Math Anxiety? Available at: https://www.oxfordlearning.com/what-is-math-anxiety/   (Accessed 5th November 2018)

Programme for International Student Assessment (2012) Improving schools in Scotland: an OECD perspective. Available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/transforming-scotland-maths-positive-nation-final-report-making-maths-count/pages/4/ (Accessed 5th November 2018)

Teach Hub (N.D.) 12 Ways to Overcome Math Problem Solving and Test Anxiety in Students. Available at: http://www.teachhub.com/overcome-students-math-anxiety (Accessed 5th November 2018)

University of Cambridge (2017) What is Mathematics Anxiety? Available at: https://www.cne.psychol.cam.ac.uk/math-memory/what-is-mathematics-anxiety  (Accessed 5th November 2018)

The Fibonacci Sequence

After watching a TED Talk by Arthur Benjamin concerning Fibonacci numbers, I was intrigued, to say the least. I have never really heard much about different number sequences and haven’t ever thought about looking into them, until now.

Benjamin talks about how there is a focus on children having to learn calculations that they will need for exams and how he would like to see maths being taught more creatively, along with being explored and enjoyed (2013). I find this very interesting. Throughout my experience with maths, the main thing that has always made me nervous is the thought of getting the answer wrong. As stated in my previous blog posts, I believe this is because I’ve always been taught what I need to know to pass and have never had a profound understanding of the subject.

The Fibonacci sequence was introduced by Leonardo of Pisa, who was also known as Fibonacci. He introduced the sequence to Western Europeans in 1202 in his book called “Liber Abaci”. The sequence begins like :

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144… and so on.

It works by adding the two numbers before together, to get the next number. For example:

1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 2 + 3 = 5 and so on.

The sequence is often even said to appear in nature. The Live Science website notes that an example of this is sunflower seeds. The sequence ensures that seeds are always evenly distributed. It also appears in a range of other things such as hurricanes and galaxies.

Another fascinating part of the Fibonacci number sequence is the Fibonacci spiral. The Fibonacci spiral consists of a series of quarter circles inside squares. Their dimensions being the numbers from the sequence. The squares always fit perfectly together because of the nature of the sequence.

I have found this to be very interesting as I never knew or understood what the sequence was. It has really highlighted to me that there is much more to maths than memorising formulas and calculations for exams and tests and that there is a whole world of maths out there that I don’t know about.

After watching the TED talk and looking into the number sequence myself, I do believe we should allow children more time at school to explore maths. I think this will help with their overall understanding of the subject as well as making it much more enjoyable.

References

TED (2013) The Magic of Fibonacci numbers by Arthur Benjamin. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjSHVDfXHQ4 (Accessed 17 October 2018)

Live Science (2013) What is the Fibonacci Sequence? Available at:  https://www.livescience.com/37470-fibonacci-sequence.html Accessed 17 October 2018)

 

 

Maths and Art

An input i found very interesting, and thoroughly enjoyed, from the Discovering Maths module, was about how maths can be creative. I have to admit, this thought had never really crossed my mind. We spent time talking about, and looking at, tessellation’s and different forms of islamic art. Although I have seen both of these before, I never understood that maths plays such a big role in their creation.

We first discussed how many sides each shape has and took turns quizzing each other about this. We then moved onto talking about the different types of shape. This included polygons and quadrilaterals, along with talking about regular and irregular shapes. This led us onto tessellation. Tessellation is defined as “an arrangement of shapes being closely fitted together”. We were able to use what we had already discussed to talk about which shapes would be able to do this and which would not. All triangles and quadrilaterals tesselate along with a few regular shapes (squares, hexagons and equilateral triangles).

My favourite part of the input was learning about the different types Islamic art. Many examples of this kind of art have been created by tessellating different shapes.

Another example of Islamic art is the design of Islamic stars. We had the chance to create our own Islamic stars. We did this by firstly drawing a circle using a compass, then drawing a series of lines to create shapes within the circle. I found this activity very enjoyable and it highlighted to me that maths can be fun and creative. Inserted below is one I created in the workshop.

Because I enjoyed this input, I decided to try out a different form of creative maths at home. We were given the link to a digital roots website which showed how you could create patterns (similar to the image above) using digital roots. Digital roots are one digit numbers relating to a numbers times table. For example:

2 x 1 = 2 ( 2 is the digital root)

2 x 2 = 4 (4 is the digital root)

However, when the answer becomes more than a 1 digit number, you add the numbers in the answer together to get the digital root:

2 x 5 = 10 (1 + 0 = 1) 1 is the digital root

2 x 6 = 12 (1 + 2 = 3) 3 is the digital root

Following the instructions from the website, I created a circle using a compass and plotted 9 points on it, numbered 1 – 9. I then drew lines from number to number in the order of the digital roots. I did this for the 2, 5 and 8 times tables creating 3 different patterns.

I thoroughly enjoyed this activity and it has shown me that there are many different ways to learn about maths. Often in maths lessons I have felt nervous about activities and the thought of getting the answer wrong has always worried me. However, I found this type of learning to be a completely different experience. It was much more enjoyable and relaxed while still being  able to learn about maths. Therefore, I believe learning creatively about this subject is very beneficial.

Link to digital roots website:

http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/number-patterns/digital-root-patterns

 

 

Why Discovering Maths?

Throughout my school life, I’ve had a very mixed experience with mathematics. My earliest memories of maths are from primary school. They consist of the class teacher sitting us down on the carpet, teaching us a concept, and being told to complete the coinciding pages in our TeeJay Maths textbooks. Although this was a repetitive technique, I didn’t mind it. Overall, I would say I probably enjoyed primary school maths.

However, I found the transition from primary to secondary to be quite difficult. My friend and I had always sat next to each other and often worked together during our maths lessons in primary. I remember, very vividly, my first day at secondary school. We sat in rows of individual desks in my maths class and I immediately began panicking that I could no longer rely on anyone else to help me. Not only this, but the teaching was very different. We very much worked in silence with very few people ever asking questions, and I found there to be one key difference. I felt much more under pressure. I never wanted to offer an answer in class, too terrified that I would get the answer wrong.

Throughout my secondary education, when it came to maths, I felt there was a much bigger focus on preparing us for exams than ensuring we thoroughly understood the work. This led to a breakdown in my relationship with maths. It was a case of memorising question types and formulas in the hope that this would get us through the exams. This is why when it came to choosing my subjects and I found out that I did not need higher maths to get into university, I was overjoyed that I would get to drop it as a subject after 4th year.

Looking back now, although I did not enjoy the teaching methods, I do also think the way I felt about maths stemmed a lot from my personal attitude. Myself, and a lot of my friends, often spoke about how we “couldn’t do it” and “couldn’t wait to drop it” as a subject.  I realise now, constantly having the attitude that I would not understand it, did not help my situation. I haven’t done much maths since I finished my national 5 course. Although I knew I wanted to do primary teaching, I didn’t worry about the teaching of maths. The thought of it never worried me. However, after experiencing placement and realising the amount of children that cope with maths anxiety at primary school, I have thought a lot about the way I am going to teach maths and how my personal attitude towards the subject will affect this.

When I saw that “discovering maths” was an elective option for us, I wanted to know more about it. When hearing people in the year above us discussing what it was like, I realised that this was the module choice for me. Although my relationship with maths has not always been the best, I do want to gain a better understanding and appreciation for it as a subject . I truly believe this module will help me become a better practitioner. Having the knowledge and understanding about why maths is so important will hopefully help me in the future when teaching it. I believe another reason for me not enjoying maths in secondary was because I couldn’t understand how it was relevant to my life and I didn’t think I would ever actually use it. Already, in the two weeks that I’ve had of discovering maths, I am beginning to gain a better understanding of why maths is so important and that it really isn’t that scary, and hopefully I will be able to help the children I teach understand this too.

 

 

 

 

Scientific Literacy

As part of our TDT for one of our science inputs, myself and 4 others worked together to write a short essay on scientific literacy.

AC1 – Explanation of the concept of scientific literacy;

Scientific literacy is an often-misunderstood term and in recent years, with the increasing demand to make scientific literacy more known in schools, it is more important now than ever to ensure we have the correct understanding of what it means to be scientifically literate.  In this assignment, we will go into more depth about what scientific literacy is and how this can be taught is schools; and also, the impacts of a lack of scientific literacy, especially within the media.

Many see scientific literacy in primary school as learning to spell scientific vocabulary or completing a science-based comprehension. However, while these may be useful for scientific knowledge, they do not teach children scientific literacy.

In a book discussing science in education, it is stated that “scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity” (National Research Council, 1996). This means that people who are scientifically literate should be able to apply their knowledge of scientific concepts to everyday life and be able to confidently explain the theory behind these concepts. They also have the responsibility to dispute reports and inaccurate publicising of scientific information.

AC2 – Analysis of an example where a lack of scientific literacy has led to inaccurate media reporting;

An example of a lack of scientific literacy was a paper written by Dr Andrew Wakefield. He claimed that there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. He stated that the combination of the three viruses contained in the vaccine may overload the body’s immune system and that there was evidence that children’s behaviour changed after getting the MMR vaccine. This led to a range of inaccurate media reporting. In turn, the number of children receiving the vaccine dropped significantly as parents were concerned about the risk of autism. This has resulted in preventable outbreaks of measles, such as one in California in 2014 where schools had to be closed.

However, it has been stated that there is, in fact, no link between MMR and autism. After carrying out a study with around 95,000 children, scientists have discredited the work of Andrew Wakefield after publishing their study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Parents have been reassured that the MMR vaccine is safe for their children. After a hearing at the General Medical Council on 28th January 2010, it was ruled that Wakefield acted unethically in his research.

AC3 – Discussion of how teaching fair testing in school science links to scientific literacy;

It is extremely important for children to be able to gain a good understanding about fair testing. Fair testing allows children to be able to assess and produce accurate results when conducting scientific experiments in the classroom. The concept of fair testing is that only one variable in the experiment is changed at any one time, however, every other variable has to stay the same throughout the experiment. For example, “when testing various brands of kitchen paper to find out which is most absorbent, pupils learn that the size of the sheet of paper and the volume of water used are among the variables that must be controlled if the results are to be accurate” (Inspectorate Evaluation Studies, 2008). Therefore, fair testing in school science has an impact on scientific literacy, as it is important that children understand that changing a variable has an impact on the outcome of the experiment and will allow them to have a greater understanding of the experiment as a whole. Teaching fair testing allows the children to understand that there are no deliberate advantages or disadvantages within the experiment to any of the variables. Therefore, making the information reliable. Fair testing is linked to scientific literacy as the children will be able to perform the experiment and analyse the results. This will allow greater understanding of specific concepts in depth as they will be able to identify the problems within in the experiment.

References

BBC News (2008) MMR Research Timeline. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1808956.stm  (Accessed 9th February 2018)

Inspectorate Evaluation Studies (2008) Science in the Primary School. Marlborough Street, Dublin: Inspectorate, Evaluation Support and Research Unit, p. 4. Available at: https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Inspection-Reports-Publications/Evaluation-Reports-Guidelines/Science-in-the-Primary-School.pdf (Accessed: 11 February 2018).

National Research Council (1996) Available from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/4962/national-science-education-standards

The Guardian (2015) No link between MMR and autism, major study concludes. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/21/no-link-between-mmr-and-autism-major-study-concludes (Accessed 9th February 2018)

The National Health Service (2015) MMR Vaccine. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/mmr-vaccine/  (Accessed: 9th February 2018)

Emily Henry, Neve Fordyce, Chloe Davidson, Emma Whiteman and Jennifer Laird

Semester 1 Reflection

During my first semester at the University of Dundee, I learned a lot. Before I started the education course, I wasn’t very sure what to expect. When I learned that one of the modules entailed us working together with members from other professions, I was, at first, apprehensive. I knew little about the Social Work and CLD professions. However, working together with my group was one of the most important aspects of the first semester for me. I soon realised, after working as a group for only a short period of time, that I had no reason to be apprehensive. Although we were different in many ways, including profession, age and gender, we all had a common goal which enabled us to work well as a team. This was one of the most important things to happen to me as I not only learned a lot about myself and my own profession, but the others in my group too. This played a key role in my professional development as I was given the opportunity to work with people from other professions as I will when I am a teacher. Therefore, it has been a very worthwhile experience.

As much as in the past I have enjoyed working as part of a group, I have always said that I prefer working on my own. This is not to do with me being anti-social but rather I prefer to work at my own pace and not have to face the worry of being judged by others for my thoughts and ideas. However, through the working together module, I have learned how important it is to listen to others and value their opinions as well as sharing my own. I had a very positive experience with my group and I truly believe that we would not have done as well if it wasn’t for the contribution of everyone in the group. This highlights to me how beneficial it can be to work as part of a team and not just independently. As for feeling worried about speaking out in front of my group, I did not find this to be an issue. Everyone valued the opinions of everyone else and it has taught me that I should use my voice and contribute to discussions more. Although at first I did feel slightly nervous, as i got know my group and began to feel more comfortable around them, it soon became easy to speak out. This benefits me as well as the people I work with.

The process of reflection has been very important to me over the last few months. Although I started out apprehensive, when I look back on working with my group, I realise how important and significant it was. It has not only helped me as an individual, but I will also carry the experience with me into my profession when I have to work with people from different professions. I will no longer feel as nervous to share my ideas as I know we all have a common goal and everyone’s opinions will be valued. I feel I have come a long way from when I first started at the University. I very rarely contributed in discussions and when I did, I always felt nervous I was going to give the wrong answer. Since the module, I have become much more open when sharing my views and I truly believe this will help me in the future.

Reflective Response to the Resource Allocation Task

The task we were asked to carry out in the first workshop of our ‘Values: Self Society and the Professions’ module, was to create something that would be useful to a new student starting University. We were split into five groups when we arrived. Each group was given an envelope which contained supplies to enable us to carry out this task. The group I was in was given an envelope containing very few items, such as a few rubber bands, post-it notes and pencils. Upon looking around the room, we noticed a couple of the groups had very full envelopes that contained many more useful supplies than ours did. However, we also noticed that a couple of the other groups had even less. At first, we struggled to come up with an idea using the supplies we had been allocated, but knew it could be worse as we could have even less.

It was very clear from the start that not all of the groups were being treated equally. The two groups that had very full envelopes were given more attention and assistance than the others from the workshop leader. We also had to present our idea to the rest of the groups before we were to make it. The response from the workshop leader towards the groups who had been given more supplies was much more positive and they were given more praise and encouragement than the groups who had less. Once we had finished our designs, we were all scored out of 10. The groups with the most supplies were given much higher scores, whereas the groups with less supplies were given lower scores. This was frustrating as, one of the members of another group pointed out, we had to work much harder to come up with an idea. As we had very little supplies, we had to be much more creative. Because of this, we believed we should have received higher scores as, although our finished product was not as colourful and didn’t look as good as the others, we had worked hard to produce something useful with our limited supplies.

We were asked how this activity made us feel. The three groups which hadn’t received enough supplies and had gotten poor scores all said that it made them feel bad about themselves. It made us feel like we weren’t as good as the other groups and we felt disappointed in ourselves, even though we had tried our best. This is when we were told the truth about the workshop and that us not getting treated equally was done on purpose. This was to make us think about how bad it made us feel to not be treated the same as the other groups and how we should never do this while working in the professions we are training to be a part of.

This really made me think about how important it is to treat people equally and with respect. It showed us how bad it can make people feel if they are treated differently from others, especially if the reason for it is through no fault of their own. It also highlights to us that often, we do not realise how much we have and how lucky we are compared to many others. The groups with the most supplies were asked after the exercise if they had thought to give any of their supplies to any of the other groups. Their response was no. This wasn’t because they were being malicious or selfish, but because they were thinking that because they had enough, everyone else must do to. Also, they had plenty of supplies to carry out the task to a very high standard, so why would they need to think about the other groups and what they had if they had enough themselves?

I believe this task was very important and can be related to the three professions that people taking this module are training to be a part of, Education, Social Work and CLD. It shows us that we must treat everyone that we will work with equally and give them the same guidance and support. It highlighted the negative effects it can have on them if we do not, like leading them to believe they are not as good as others or like they cannot achieve as much. Therefore, I believe this workshop was very worthwhile.

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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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