Monday, 11 July 2011

The yin and yang of maths education - Part 5. What was new and what was the same?

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I don't think my mathematics department was so different to some of the most inspirational department I had encountered and heard about in my early days of teaching.

Some of the subtle skills of teaching we wanted had been obliterated by our managerialist, ofsted centred culture but because our need and desire for them became obvious, we could spark them back into life with the help of retired teachers who came in and reminded us what to do.  But, as I've said before, they were only part of the story.  There were many types of teaching going on, the majority of which would not have appeared different to mathematics lessons in other schools.

My students matured in a way I liked.  Instead of having to sit down and shut up until they were permitted to express themselves, they were encouraged to express themselves until they learned how to control themselves.  A student passing test at level 6 might suddenly realise that they did not properly understand place value.  If I didn't have the time to work with them one-to-one I would show them the relevant part of mymaths and let them explore it for themselves.  Having done that they might do the same mymaths work again the next lesson, and again until the penny finally completely and irrevocably dropped.  20 years ago a teacher might have done the same with a text book, so my thinking is not so different.

So teachers were freer and students were freer and yet all the disciplines and demands in place previously were still in place.  We quite simply had better tools at our disposal to facilitate what we wanted to achieve.  I have chosen to teach in a school where I had a big, flexible classroom with plenty of space and ICT. It would be in appropriate to claim or recommend that it was just the ICT which mattered.  I had an interactive whiteboard at one end of the room and ordinary whiteboards at the other.  This helped me teach different groups different things.

I don't want to talk too much about exactly what I did.  Each teacher did it differently and that was a big part of the point and I'm sure if another school used the same structure for thinking they would be different again.  I'm not trying to get people to copy the detail of the way I or any of my teachers taught so I won't say any more about it in this part of the blog.  Hopefully I've said enough to stimulate others to think about their situations which is my main aim.

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