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Top 3 Things To Improve UK Maths Achievement in < 3 years

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mature_maths_trainee, May 2, 2012.

  1. could well be both [​IMG]
  2. My 5 year old has come home from school tonight in a bad mood. I finally got out of him that his school work is boring. I've had to sit and explain why and how learning can be fun. I'm sure that this is something that every parent has to do at some point, and yes, some of it could have been tiredness, but I'd much rather him come home telling me about an amazing maths lesson that has inspired him, than have to sit there and discuss why boring lessons can be helpful in his learning, which will help him in 10 years time when he has to sit his GCSE's. Just to add another point - how many of you would turn off after 5 minutes of rote learning?
  3. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    I don't know. I suppose it depends what you think "rote learning" is - to me, it implies the sort of thing that we see in the 10-second clips of Pakistani boys in madrasas with the chanting of the Koran and the rhythmic movements to "imprint" it.

    And while I can see singing times tables to a nursery rhyme tune for a few minutes in a lesson can be compared with that, it's not really what you're referring to, is it?

    Well wouldn't we all? But what does that mean? That he's run round the classroom and maybe answered one question by touching the only answer left on the IWB and thinks that means he's good at maths?

    And back to that, well, I for one used to ask for more questions to do and if I could take some home to do.
  4. I agree with this to a certain extent, but I don't think I'd want my children sat chanting. Nor would I like to teach a lesson like that. A quick couple of mins, yes, but not extensive chanting!
    To me that is something that he's explored and found a mathematical understanding in rather than using IWB's as such.
    Take counting in 5s. He learnt this in foundation - found the sequence, explored it, and extended it himself. An in doing so, was inspired. It wasn't a tricky thing to learn, but the fact that he was able to extend it himself because he had noticed the sequence was the thing that inspired him.
    It's not about whether or not he is good at maths. Nor is it about him. It's about finding something that the children are comfortable in exploring and thus gaining mathematical understanding.There seems to be so little time for exploration and firming understanding.
    Unfortunately, not all of our students are as conscientous as you - or are ever going to be! [​IMG]
  5. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    I think I agree strongly with this, but what do you mean be 'allowed, by law,..'? There's no current law forbidding us from doing so it there?! Or any regulations that discourage it? To me, this is about the culture of the school, and whether they are prepared to engage in a grown-up 'tell it like it is' discussion with parents, or whether they are so concerned at their 'reputation', and their image of always being seen to be permanently positive, that they discourage such frank communication with parents.
    What do you think can actually be done to encourage such truth-telling? We were meant to be discussing practical initiatives? :)
  6. Sorry - there was a link in there somewhere! Something about learning via understanding instead of teaching via algorithms.
  7. blue117

    blue117 New commenter

    The current set-up for OFSTED is heavily dependent on parents being on-side with the school - a small proportion (about 25%?) use such consultation to harp on about one incident. Teachers telling parents in blunt language that their child is this or that in class means that this percentage will rise! So yes, it is not in our best interests to be blunt. And yes, getting the parents to influence their own children positively is a practical initiative.
    Do we have other ways of getting the parents to support their own children's learning?
  8. i wouldn't make a 5yo chant times tables - i would expect maybe a 7yo and certainly an 8yo to put in the time
    it's like learning spelling rules - here beginneth the first lesson - life ain't all beer and skittles - if you want to do the fancy maths and do it well, you need to put in hard graft now and then
    glad your son is so fond of the 5's pattern - but if in a few years time he can't pull straight out of his brain '9 five's are 45' and has to go through his pattern till he gets to his 9th finger, he will be holding himself back from the wilder and more wonderful shores of maths as he'll be wasting too much mental energy on trivia
    as for adults and rote learning - sooo many parts of the adult world and sooo many adults would benefit from the ability to concentrate on things boring but necessary for 5 minutes +
    florapost, considering cybola to be a weedy wet
  9. looking at interesting research on "brain training" at www.neuroeducational.net. There are signs that facts (in our case 'number facts or bonds') can be learned effectively using video gaming techniques.
    If kids' (or adults') brains can be conned into thinking their rote learning rewards them by progress in a game, then we should consider using that technology in the classroom and encourage its use in the home. I would suggest that a few minutes of "brain training" each Maths lesson would improve pupils' numeracy. I guess any use would still incur a degree of "hard work" on the learner's part (i.e. no pain, no gain); however given the benefits and providing progress could be fed back (i.e. reached new level in the game), then this may lead to real imrpovement.
  10. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    I was. I think that there should be law to say that it is out duty to write clear english on the reports that we write and be free from persecution for doing so. I want to be able to say to every weak and spineless SMT who says "you can't write that..it's negative" with the response "I am required by law to write clearly and unambiguously".
    In my opinion **** SMT have pandered to [obnoxious] parents so much now that a vicious circle has been achieved. It is not just about being nice, it is really about blaming the teacher for everything when the most irritating parents can turn around and claim "things would be different, if only someone had told me".
    What could be more practical than be able to ignore whining sychophant and be able to say no I am going to fufill my legal obligation and write the truth.

  11. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    It isn't just about one person.
    I disagree its best chance of success is when a politician in the cabinet randomly decides its a vote winner. They are always harping on about bad teachers because they think it is an easier option to make up a problem than solve a real one.
    Eventually someone in government will realise that this is something else that will not cost a lot of money but can be billed as a vote winner.
    It is actually something that several groups could champion [if they really were interested in education];
    OFSTE, the GTC, politcal parties for example. But I don't think that they really are interested in education.
    So MMT what are you doing about your ? You seem to be playing devil's advocate in your last post.
  12. oh - much as i think hard graft never hurt, i'm all for tricking brains into it as well - 'maths invaders' is one of the most awesome cd's ever put together
  13. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    As much as I like your objective, I still can't see a clear, practical route forward for it. Apart from hope that someone eventually..., or wait till a group(s) could...
    You seem more optimistic than me on that happening, which is fine.
    I guess that I'm just so keen to see things significantly improve in UK Maths education that I'd like to do something, however small, to actually help make a difference (rather than merely supporting the status quo).
    I wasn't playing devil's advocate - I'm just sincerely looking for (what I feel is) a good, practical route forward that I can actually play a (small) part in supporting. Rather than assuming my own little ideas are the best, most practical route.
    My own ideas don't have obviously strong routes forward either (which is why I'm looking elsewhere). I've only really pursued my 3rd idea so far. Accurately identifying 'core' student weaknesses early in Yr 7, so that much more formalised 'intervention' can be planned, or at least discussed for those students at a very early stage. My method for identifying student weaknesses was to create a comprehensive series of 'deep', online, self-marking tests that 'pinpoint' each students areas of weakness. The self-marking aspect was crucial IMO in terms of encouraging other teachers to try it (and not have yet more marking to do). You'll find I've shared the tests under my TES resources, if you're interested in their detail. [Comments / criticisms very welcome]. Have only tested with a handful of students so far. I hope to test with a Primary class in next month or so.
    That's all I've done, but at least it's concrete and hasn't - from what I can see - been done before.
    But if I can find (what I feel is) a better initiative to support...
  14. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    As someone who tutors mainly KS4 students, the main problem I see is that students don't understand arithmetic - particularly division. I meet even Higher tier students who can't answer questions such as "How many 29p stamps can you buy for £5?" Their lack of understanding of number means that, if they don't like to divide, they don't realise that there are alternatives, such as the use of estimation, multiplication, or even just counting up in 29s until you get to 500.
    Learning "by rote" doesn't necessarily aid understanding, although I can see that learning your times tables speeds up calculations dramatically.
    Primary teaching is also a factor - I remember reading a thread in here on BODMAS/BIDMAS and being shocked at how many primary teachers weren't aware of that rule.
    Visualisation of numbers also helps. My five-year old daughter can spot a square number because I showed her with marbles what a square number is - many KS4 students struggle to do this.
    With this in mind, my brother and I came up with the following page to help students learn their times tables, and also to visualise multiplication and proportion (the box is 10 balls wide) and square numbers. It also gives you the opportunity to have 10 goes and view your progress as a graph:
    It evolved from this page, which I created to help students to visualise squares, factors, multiples and prime numbers:
    (it works better in browsers, like Opera and Safari, that support the HTML5 slider control)
  15. Completely agree - there needs to me more time for children to develop understanding in their maths through visual exploration rather than being just 'shown'. Yes, you can tell them that 'square numbers are'... but surely it's better if they can work them out for themselves? The question is -
    How do you make sure the children have learnt them so that they remember?
    This is an interesting article:

  16. gchand

    gchand New commenter

    I am sick to the back teeth of everyone blaming teachers and teachers thinking its their fault.
    We use subject knowledge and our personalities to motivate students and for most of them it does work. But without intrinsic motivation it is very difficult. The teacher works harder and harder to get them through the C boundary and the kid watches TV, facebook, computer games all evening.
    It's the parents and today's society that is to blame not the teachers.
    You can have the best pedigogy (I always knew I'd use that word one day) in the world but witout support from home it's futile.
  17. Interesting. I am a sessional tutor teaching Maths from Basic Skills to OU level in a prison. I have mixed classes - small - and am pretty much left to my own devices.
    When I arrived I took everyone below A level through Levels 1 and 2 Basic Skills (if they didn't already have them) which teaches all the underpinning stuff using the ideas in Thinking Through Mathematics. Then they moved on to GCSE, a couple of them completely aced some of the AQA units getting 100%. But it was not only seeing the talented thrive, I had a tattooed prisoner speechless with tears in his eyes after getting a B in his Unit 1.
    OK special circumstances but it made me wonder why we didn't offer Basic Skills in schools? Worse, we are actually scrapping them for post-16's and they are being replaced with Functional Skills. Now I do think Functional Skills can be great, but really I would have to teach the underpinning maths anyway. Take the 13-year-olds who have been left behind in schools and give them 6 months doing the Basic Skills courses in which they can actually achieve something and get a certificate to show it!
  18. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Because they don't fit in a scheme or work that is written to demonstrate progress though the levels of the National Curriculum.

    (Remember that as maths teachers [in state schools] we live or die by "1/3rd of a level progress each term")

    And, of course they don't give any league table benefits either.

    I couldn't agree more. But the targets by which we are measured make this very difficult to do.
  19. Wow. I only ever taught in the state sector teaching Alevel modules whilst doing my PGCE (post 16). But this looks like putting the cart before the horse. Isn't Michael Gove receptive to sensible ideas even when (perhaps especially when) they appear to conflict with bureaucratic measures?
    "1/3rd of a level progress each term" just sounds ridiculous to me ! Also it doesn't seem to be working terribly well, does it?
  20. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter


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