I was very good in Maths back in high school – I was one of the best there. I wasn’t as good at university – just a tad above average; there are some truly clever people out there (but I digress). It’s not clear to me now whether I enjoyed Maths because I was good at it or that I was good at it because I enjoyed it. I did well, too, I think because I persevered with practice – lots of pencil-pushing, especially in Algebra – my favourite maths strand. The closest we got to technology was a scientific calculator!
As a teacher now, I cannot even imagine teaching the way I was taught….certainly not for every lesson. I’d like to say that it’s because I want to be a good teacher and engage my students, blah, blah blah. There is that, of course. But also, I get bored and a bored teacher is seriously bad news. Just as much as a teacher’s passion is infectious, so too is boredom.
Variety is key for me. Undoubtedly, access to technology makes this easier for me. Even if technology is not physically present in the classroom every lesson, quite often my ideas have been ‘harvested’ from the web, and increasingly from my PLN via Twitter. The amount of time I spend trawling the web for ideas is quite significant and that includes following the leads from my PLN. The more I explore, the more ideas open up and ultimately it’s the lack of time that stops me dead on my tracks.
Today, I had a review session with my year 8 class. A recent assessment revealed that many students really haven’t understood key concepts I have taught. I found it interesting, however, that they got the Extension topic – the one I did using the Vitruvian Man (see previous post). When I can, I do try to teach mathematical concepts within a given context – make it real so-to-speak – and usually, the class is engaged. I realised today that engagement in the classroom is not enough. Not for maths. (Yes, I give and check homework). I suggested that perhaps I should teach by the book, i.e. have more time doing pencil-pushing work. There was a rather loud and unanimous, “No!”
When a student deemed below average in Maths can enjoy Maths, surely that’s a good thing, right?
Another problem is that it would seem that my students struggle with transferrability. That is, they struggle to apply what they learned in a different context. So, it’s not that they didn’t really learn but that they can’t apply it in an unfamiliar context. For example, we can talk about Percentage Composition in the context of polls but they struggle with using the same skill with just plain numbers (“out-of-context”).
For now, I’m not sure which way to go.
Do I teach the way I was taught or teach the way I was taught to teach, i.e. emphasis on the learning processes and the learners themselves?
All advice welcome. I don’t promise to follow but I promise to listen!