Sunday, May 31, 2009

Things I'm doing well - Teaching Maths

At the moment, I'm taking a bit of time to reflect on where I want to improve and what I'm doing well. You can find the master list of reflections here.

Teaching Maths

This last week I took 15 children to the district maths competition. The maths competition is rather awesome - around 150 6th and 7th graders working in teams of five to solve very difficult maths problems. In this competition, brains are everything, and cheers ring out when students solve a particularly difficult problem.

I love it. I love the enthusiasm and I love the way the children approach the problems. I even love giving up my lunch times to help them train.

The rather sad thing is that I really love maths. It's always about solving the problem - about unravelling the different strands to find a secure answer which can be absolutely proven. And I love teaching this to my class.

One of the things I do well in maths has been in increasing the confidence of students who think they are terrible at maths and that there's no way they'll ever get better. These students tend to be girls, who are very good writers, and somewhere along the way have 'found out' that being good at writing means you can't be good at maths. I firmly believe that everyone can do maths - we just need to find the right way to teach it or approach it. And if that means we're outside making angles with students, or turning mathematical concepts into comic strip - then that's how we do maths.

We've had some interesting investigations this year, but our best one was the 'school tour' maths investigation where we went and did maths based on the school library. One group was out measuring different parts of the library, another were using compasses to work out distances, another were estimating the number of books in the library, while yet another group mapped out the library. Everyone was engaged and doing maths and it was exciting.

Another success this year has been the introduction of novel problems. Basically, you put up a problem the children have not seen or been 'taught' before. The students try to work it out and are graded on the amount of help they need to eventually solve it. This allows us to see the students' thinking and reasoning. At first, some of the students would give me the worst death stares when I'd put one of those problems in front of them. After some time (and some sticker bribes) those students are now completing these problems first. Their confidence is growing and so it their enthusiasm and their skill. I love it!

Where to now? Well more investigations. More different ways of learning. I keep looking wherever I go online and finding more ways of making math exciting. We're a class happy to be doing maths!


No comments:

Post a Comment