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I couldnt agree more!

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by Maths_Mike, Apr 19, 2011.

  1. Andrew Jeffrey

    Andrew Jeffrey New commenter

    I've really enjoyed reading through this thread - thanks s much for starting it MM.
    Although I don't read a huge amount of non-fiction that isn't directly related to maths in some way, I admit that I really enjoyed both Richard Gladwell's book and Richard Wiseman's 59 seconds (which is brilliant if more concerned with happiness).
    But can I recommend another book that has this big idea as its entire central theme? It is called 'BOUNCE' by Matthew Syed, and I was hooked from beginning to end.Syed is a perfect mix of sports writer and former international sportsman so speaks and writes with authority. My favourite Christmas present of 2010, though I confess I had never heard of him!
    In essence Syed explains that the myth has been built up over years but the evidence, whenever it is traceable, points overwhelmingly to the number of hours of effective practice that precedes the success. For the record, it seems to be about 10000 hours to attain excellence.
    The challenging part for me is to try and define 'effective' now!
  2. pipipi

    pipipi New commenter

    give me 10000 hours and I'll have it defined!
  3. "How old are you Jimmy?"
    "Im 12 Mr Jones"
    "and how old were you last year?"
    "I dont know"
    Going to the other point. You suggestions hold true IF there is a maths curriculum that is challenging and differentiated enough to cater for the good kids.
    An A star is very very easy for the majority of kids (those free of SEN) who put in a huge amount of work in their GCSE year(s)
    82% or thereabouts on the edexcel paper last summer was similar to the top end of C grade work 10 years back.
    A kid doesnt have to have a brain to do well. They simply need to remember alogorithms and put effort in at this level. Chuck them in at A level and you often see them come unstuck
  4. One of my students is getting through A-level maths by simply doing 16+ hours a week on it, although he has no ability at maths.

    Quote 'I hate it when they use letters instead of numbers.'.

    He was also startled when I added up a sequence of 3's by multiplying instead of adding. He didn't realise that multiplication is the same as repeated addition.

    But he is on course for a B at AS Level, so hard work gets you there.
  5. fieldextension

    fieldextension New commenter

    The article makes various claims, some more controversial than others. In my opinion, the main claims are:
    (a) It is not productive to focus on ability, but rather than effort, when giving praise to learners.
    (b) The amount people achieve in any given field is (roughly) proportional to the amount of time and effort they put in.
    (c) Nobody has inherently more potential than anyone else.

    I would say that (a) and (b) seem plausible but neither of them logically entails (c), which is far more doubtful. Note, in particular, that (b) does not entail (c). Even if attainment is found empirically to be proportional to time and effort, it could well be that some people give up when they hit a ceiling they cannot get beyond and could never get beyond, or when progress for them slows to a snail's pace no matter how hard they try. Even some of the more enthusiastic supporters of the opening post have admitted that those with special needs do not have the same potential as everyone else. But there is no sharp cutoff between those with special needs and everyone else, but rather a smooth continuum. I am certain that the achievements of Gauss, Euler, Wiles, etc in Mathematics will exceed my own no matter how long I study. They just have something I don't have and will never have. I agree that it may be useful to tell children that "You can do anything if you put the effort in" and negative to tell them "Some of you will never win a Fields medal no matter how hard you try" but that does not make the former true and the latter false. What is helpful for getting the best out of children and what is true need not be the same thing. If you want a child to behave well it may be helpful to tell him the convenient fiction that Santa will choose not to visit if he is bad, but that does not make it true.
    I suggest that if you haven't studied maths to the point where you think "I am not going to be able to understand significantly more of this no matter how much time and effort I put in" then I suggest that you simply haven't studied enough mathematics. Am I alone in feeling that way?

  6. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    I think you are absoltely correct.
    I still feel it is an importnat principle that fundamentally the progress you make depends upon how hard you work and people who work harder make more progress than those who dont.
    Natural ability might still mean they are not as good as someone else - they are however making more progress which surely is waht teaching is all about - getting pupils to make progress?
  7. Colleen_Young

    Colleen_Young Occasional commenter

    ...and with practice they will be so much better than they would have been without practice.

    Of course different natural talents will come into play but to just say ''m no good at......' without any effort is a cop out.
  8. Nazard

    Nazard New commenter

    Syed is a pretty useful role model. Not only did he represent Great Britain at the Olympics but he also has a degree from Oxford and is now a successful broadcaster (as a commentator and talking generally about sporting issues - he's on Radio 5 live fairly frequently).

  9. This is what I have been continually trying to get across in my posts about APP. The fact that something is a particular level is (seemingly) important to the SLT at my school but as a department APP has been ever so useful in terms of being able to discuss work with pupils and in giving them a focus. Yes, 'it's what a good teacher/school would be doing anyhow, blah, blah, blah' but I'm simply relating my experience from actually using APP rather than someone talking about what they think it would be like.
  10. Apologies, in my previous post I meant to quote the above.
  11. I'm inclined to have a great deal of sympathy with post 31. For me, the key point in the article is about 'if I work really hard then I will be good at maths in the future.' I think there is some merit in this.

    In general though, I'm with the people who don't totally rule out that there will ultimately be some sort of ceiling beyond which people can not go. I've experienced this with my own learning of languages and have found a massively diminishing return the further I've got!

    All the business about the 'growth mindset' I think is used to bash teachers over the head and say 'why don't you provide them with the stimulus to have that growth mindset' or 'why don't you folk tap into that growth mindset'. In reality, I suspect that the majority of that 'growth mindset' has to come from within and people have to have the right attitude to start with. No amount of Coco the Clown outfits in maths lessons will give pupils that mindset.

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