2+2 != Maths

February 12, 2012

I used to think I was a good teacher

Filed under: Musings — Numbat @ 12:35
Tags: ,


I have a confession to make. I used to think I was a “good teacher” because I could do my “prep” on the way to class, or even better, I could do my prep once I’d got to class and opened the book to where we were yesterday.

“Oh Yes! Yesterday we did 3B so today it’s 3C” I’d think to myself, greet the students then start making notes off the top of my head. I’d be thinking about what examples to put on the board while I was creating my class notes on the spot and make up some numbers along the way. Once I’d managed to create a board full of notes, I’d quickly scan the questions in 3C to make sure I’d covered all the bases.

These days, I think I’m a better teacher because I spend quite a bit more time on my prep. I will think about a particular concept for ages, in the car on the way to work, during my morning walks and at other times when the brain is sitting mostly in idle.

When it comes time to actually sit down and “do my prep” I’ve actually thought about the concepts in some detail so that the actual prep time is shorter than it might otherwise be, but still a couple of orders of magnitude longer than when I was a “good teacher”.

I find that my notes (I am trying to do fewer and fewer of these by the way) are much more comprehensive and my examples cater to a number of different aspects of each concept. But perhaps one of the best outcomes from actually planning my lessons was completely unanticipated – the students respond a whole lot better. It seems that the students know when I walk into class and “wing it” and they know when I’ve put hours into the preparation and they respond accordingly.



August 22, 2011

Maths must be beautiful

Filed under: Musings — Numbat @ 20:06

Just wandering around the twitter-verse tonite and came across these in two separate tweets.

Coincidence?  Me thinks not!

“The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s, must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colors or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. … There is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.

– G. H. Hardy

And then this..

August 7, 2011

Balancing Questions with Content

Filed under: Musings — Numbat @ 13:11
Tags: , ,

Teaching the same class to multiple groups has it’s challenges and rewards.  One of the best rewards is that it provides very quick feedback to what works and what doesn’t.  You don’t need three or four years to really figure out the dynamics of a particular lesson if you teach it multiple times in the same semester.

Recently I was engaged in some group activities where the classes were divided into groups of four and the students investigated certain websites and Apps.  The task itself worked quite well and most of the students were on task and actively engaged in learning.

When it came time to the group discussion, however, it was a different story.  I had two classes at the opposite ends of the spectrum.  In one, the students responded and worked well with each other in a very informal setting.  The questions and answers were orderly and stayed on topic.  Most of the students participated in some way, even it it was just sitting back and listening to their fellow student’s thoughts.  I came out of the lesson happy that we’d been very productive and covered the content.

The other group was the totally opposite.  The students did not respond and it was virtually impossible to keep them on track.  The questions and comments were mostly irrelevant and try as I might I was unable to get any momentum in the group discussion.  Two students in particular appeared to be actively sabotaging the discussion (although I don’t think this was a conscious decision on their part) although I got the feeling from the rest of the group that if those two were not present they would still have been totally disinterested.  I left this session feeling disappointed, knowing that we’d not covered even half of the content I’d hoped to.

So my question is how to balance the informal investigative/discussion/questioning style session with content delivery.  I understand that it’s all about the learning, not the delivery, but I still worry about covering all the things I’d like to cover.


July 2, 2011

Simple tasks can work.

Filed under: Musings — Numbat @ 08:18

I had an interesting session in IT classes this week. As a lead-in, I set the students a simple task in groups, to draw a picture which represented the Internet.  I must admit that going into the sessions I thought the task was a little weak and I was worried about the

Walking around the class while they were doing this, I was amazed at how they reacted.  There was genuine discussion within the groups, with students sharing their ideas about the Internet with each other.  Of the 40-odd groups so far, only one managed to stray off task.

What was even more interesting was that students were asking each other questions.  These are the same students who would never put up their hands and ask a question of me.

So, the question here is this…

How do I get this level of enthusiasm and engagement in my Math classes?

June 28, 2011

They’re learning, just not what I’m teaching

Filed under: Musings — Numbat @ 10:36

One thing really struck me this week.  A Yr 7 class and I’m trying to introduce them to Spreadsheets and Charting.  I do the usual “smarties” experiment and ask them to do a bar chart and a pie chart.

The kids are really good, they’re engaged and actively working on their spreadsheets, when I overhear one student say “Hey, I’m gunna try every chart there is and see how it looks”.  As I was about to pounce on the student and direct them back to “my” activity, I think to myself “Why?  What’s the harm in letting them explore the different charts, how they look and how they alter their perceptions of the data”.

My only regret was that I didn’t have time to get back to those students and ask them for their opinion on which was the best chart to represent the data.

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