I am a qualified secondary school maths teacher, and have taught maths to children from year 7 (age 11) to year 13 (age 17) in a few different secondary schools. I thoroughly enjoyed my PGCE year. Nobody who has done a PGCE can deny that it is tough, but I really enjoyed relearning maths from the point of view of teaching. I had never struggled with maths myself, and didn't realise the depth of difficulty and misconceptions that students can experience. I became passionate about helping students to enjoy maths and really understand it. I wanted to encourage students to engage and see the beauty of maths.
However, like many teachers, it did not take me long to realise that teaching wasn't going to be exactly what I expected. Too much of my time was spent jumping through hoops, doing things that were of no benefit to the students learning. I was expected to spoon feed the exam classes so that they could pass an exam, but didn't necessarily have any understanding of the mathematical content we were covering. All the reports, meetings and marking meant that I was left with very little time for the most important part - the planning (and teaching). I found myself teaching lessons that I was certainly not proud of - I had to rigidly stick to the scheme of work and didn't have the flexibility or time to help the students develop a deep and fundamental understanding of mathematics. There were too many students in my classes for me to make sure that every student had the teaching and tasks most suited to their style of learning and to their prior understanding. I could go on, but all in all I was not doing what I had trained for, I was stressed, over-worked, unable to help the students in the way I wanted and I had no time left over for my own young children.
I decided to leave the secondary school environment and now teach maths to engineering apprentices. However, I still have my passion for helping kids to really understand maths. Through teaching, I realised that by secondary school age, for many students it was "too late". They had already decided that they hated and "couldn't do maths". Trying to convince these students otherwise was almost impossible and so much time was spent undoing negative feelings and misconceptions that they had built up. I now have much more time (I leave my work at work) and I spend some of it researching how to help children to really understand maths from the beginning.
Purpose of my blog
This blog is designed to explain mathematical concepts (that can sometimes seem obscure) and provide ideas for tasks and activities that can be carried out at school and at home to help kids gain a deep and fundamental understanding of the subject. I want to help teachers, students and parents understand why certain mathematical concepts are vitally important, and where the knowledge can lead. I want to bring the passion back into teaching and learning maths, helping those who have become disaffected by the rigidity of schemes of work, and the hoops that have to be jumped through for exams. I have nothing but the greatest respect for school teachers and their hard work that I know they put in to inspire and engage children in such a (poorly) politically run school system.
I know that I have never taught in a primary school, but teaching secondary school kids has made me aware of the misconceptions and lack of understanding that kids have. These misconceptions are normally built upon lack of understanding of basic, fundamental mathematical concepts, such as place value. I believe that helping kids investigate and discover mathematical facts and ideas for themselves helps to enhance and embed deep understanding. The national curriculum requires students to learn so many different facts and topics that it can be easy to rush through ideas, teaching rote methods and not allowing students time to discover true knowledge.
The tasks in my blog posts are mostly tasks that I have found in books and on websites, along with some of my own. They are designed to really help students to understand the mathematical concepts. They encourage students to link their new found knowledge to other areas of maths and to develop problem solving skills. These are important skills to learn. I believe that school maths can be very compartmentalised, and I have found many students who are more than capable in one topic, but are then unable to apply the same mathematical concept when studying a different topic.
Popular posts from this blog
Telling the time is a rather abstract concept to begin with and some children find it extremely difficult to get to grips with. To be able to tell the time or solve time problems, children need to have understanding in many different areas of mathematics. Although it can be difficult, if you take it one step at a time, learning to tell the time can be engaging and fun - it is a fantastic mathematical concept that can easily be linked to a child's real-world and time problems can greatly enhance their problem solving skills. This post talks about common misconceptions and difficulties that children may experience. It also highlights different areas of maths that are involved in learning to tell the time and ideas for activities that can be done at home or at school in order to improve a child's time-telling skills.
I got quite excited about writing this post. Measuring length is a very practical mathematical topic, and so the potential for fun, hands-on maths is endless. I started with the title 'introducing measure' but soon realised that there was too much content for one post. This post, therefore, contains an introduction to measuring length using non-standard units. Posts will soon follow for understanding the importance of units, introducing the standard unit, measuring area, measuring perimeter and an introduction to capacity.
In a previous post I discussed how to introduce the idea of measuring length to young children. The post explored the use of non-standard units (such as Lego bricks), with a particular focus on how and why we need to measure things. In this post I continue with non-standard units, this time demonstrating the importance of unit choice when measuring length. I will evaluate important points to consider when introducing the idea of units, and give some practical, discovery-based task ideas to help provide a deep understanding.