Category Archives: 2.3 Pedagogical Theories & Practice

Reflecting on Discovering Maths

When beginning the module, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from it. In fact, when picking it at the end of first year I expected I’d be going into another maths class like at school – which filled me with excitement. I have to say I was a little disappointed when I found out this wasn’t the case.
However, the module has allowed me to explore so many areas of maths that I didn’t think of before. Who would have thought maths was necessary when riding a motorbike?
At the beginning of the module Liping Ma and her Profound Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics confused me terribly. I just couldn’t get my head around the meanings and explanations of the 4 principles she used to describe what a PUFM was. When reading her book, I was submerged into this and found out how important it really is. When looking back onto my first placement I’ve realised even more how necessary this is. One of my first maths lessons didn’t exactly go to plan and I ended up getting myself mixed up and confused by the questions the pupils were doing. The lesson was on area – straightforward to someone who has done Higher Maths – but when the pupils were coming to me confused about one particular question, I was beginning to get flustered when my explanations weren’t helping them to understand. I have now realised how important it is to have PUFM as it allows you, as the teacher, to explain much more to the pupils in depth and breadth. With this deep understanding, you are less likely to get confused yourself, which is vital when trying to instil confidence and understanding in the pupils.
Throughout the different inputs I found it fascinating to unpick all the different areas where maths is used. My favourite input was the one on Logistics and Supply Chains, which included information about food miles and how much it costs to fly or ship things to us, how things are packaged to maximise space when shipping and retailers having to choose what to stock in their stores. We then did a role play exercise and game to see how demand planning in stores worked. We had to work in pairs to choose what 5 items and how many of each item we would buy per quarter of the year, without going over budget, to see who could make the biggest profit. This allowed us to see how effective stores have to be when choosing what to stock, as if they buy too much of something and it goes off or people don’t buy enough of it, this will all be money wasted. They have to be able to budget their money efficiently and buy what will sell most. A tricky process even in a make-believe game.
Overall, I think the module was very effective at providing me with more maths knowledge and helping me to see how important it is that I do have a good maths knowledge for going out into schools. I need to be able to give the pupils in my class the best opportunity to learn maths in a fun and challenging environment that pushes them to the best of their ability. I believe the interaction in this module has helped me realise how important that is.

Making Maths Fun

Last week in an input with Eddie we explored how to make maths fun in our classrooms.

The activity we did involved looking at tessellation – fitting shapes together to make a pattern with no gaps. We had to cut out the shapes we wanted – from a choice of triangles, squares and pentagons – and design a pattern which involved the shapes fitting together with each other. We were then to stick our patterns onto card and could paint them if we wanted to.

My tessellation

When completing the task the atmosphere in the room was very calm and relaxing, everyone was focused on what they were doing and the basic processes of cutting, sticking and designing a pattern were somewhat therapeutic. I could feel zen in the room, or in myself at least.

So, the objective of the task was to show the importance of making maths activities fun for pupils. I personality wouldn’t use the word fun to describe it, but I have a different outlook of what fun is compared to a child in primary school, although it was enjoyable to complete the task. When I was doing something that I actually took pride in and wanted to finish I wasn’t thinking about how this was actually doing maths – which made me think it’s always important to relate to the maths side of the task and not just a fun arts and crafts activity, but both. It’s necessary to show the links to the mathematical concepts so that pupils are still learning.

I tried to take this on in my own practice and created 6 different angles stations in my formative observation in 1pp1b. Some stations included an angle tarsia, an angle treasure hunt and an angle poster which the pupils had to measure and name the angles on the poster created with bright tape. I could really see the concentration from the pupils when doing something active for a change, as there was a lot of textbook maths in my class. Doing tasks in different ways and allowing pupils to see there is not only one method or one way to do something is very important, bringing change into maths makes it exciting and not the same thing every day. (Boaler, 2009).

Boaler, J. (2010). The Elephant in the Classroom: helping children learn and love maths. London: Souvenir Press.


What is maths?

On Monday in our third Discovering Maths input we were asked the questions what is maths and why do we teach it? This got me into thinking so what actually is maths, other than the basic formulas and calculations we always think of?

We use maths on a daily basis without even knowing and when we do use it we don’t think about how we do it or why we do it, it just happens. There’s countless occasions from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep where maths is used without even thinking about it e.g. checking the time when you wake up and throughout the day, using money to buy things, even looking at a parking space and checking the size and angles to see if you’ll fit. All these things use the maths skills we are taught from day 1 to make our day to day life that bit easier, so of course we need to teach it!

Some of the main problems with teaching maths in school are maths anxiety and the idea of maths being boring. To me, a lover of maths, it could never be boring. It’s logical, there’s a problem that can always be solved and it requires strategic thinking which comes with great satisfaction when getting an answer right. So why is it that some people find it so stressy and plain?

A main factor which contributes to “maths anxiety” can be the idea that people are just not born with a maths brain. You hear it all the time in schools and work places that someone’s brain just isn’t wired up properly in order to be able to be good at maths. I used to think this was true to some extent, as I believed I had a maths brain but not a language one – which by the way, was never an excuse allowed to be used in my school’s English department – but now having gone into a class on my first placement, I have seen some people either just don’t try or don’t have the confidence to push themselves. Being a maths enthusiast made me really try and give the pupils different strategies and activities to help them to be successful and realise that they all can be successful even when they find something tricky. I think it’s so important for teachers, and us as student teachers, to really facilitate the learning of maths in an active and creative way, and encourage pupils to find what works for them so they know that it is possible to be good at maths and do well even when they seem to be struggling or think they just can’t do it.

Albert Einstein said “Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you, mine are still greater.” showing that even the smartest minds find things hard and confusing, but you have to persevere and keep trying in order to make a breakthrough and succeed.