One of the greatest gifts teaching maths is when your pupils ‘get it’ and you can see their confidence grow as they confidently tackle questions using the method or skill they’ve acquired. Those ‘penny dropping’ moments are priceless. Maths can be harsh though, as answers are right or wrong. Methods may be intricately performed, but a misplaced number can prove unforgiving with the result being that the confidence can be knocked and you’re back at square one.
Another issue with mathematics learning can be a negative self-fulfilling prophecies and messages which often come from parents and other adults in the lives of children. Many teachers have heard parents confess, “ooh, I’m rubbish at maths”, or “we didn’t learn maths THAT way when I was young”, and so on. In primary education, many teachers won’t teach upper junior pupils because of their own lack of mathematics knowledge and confidence.
Mathematical teaching in secondary schools can be a completely different experience altogether. Usually taught by teachers who excelled in mathematics in their own schooling, this is their speciality – something done all day, every day.
One problem with the subject at all levels of schooling is that school measurements systems focus on how pupils progress in the subject by the end of primary or secondary phase, so ensuring you create a perfect series of mathematical lessons can be a challenge to many teachers. This is key for teacher/writer Ian Loynd who, in his Totally Practical Maths Lesson book, encourages teachers to provide practical lesson ideas that stimulate engagement and interest to pupils with ideas which can be taken straight from the book.
Cardiff based Loynd asks that teachers think about the following questions when planning maths lessons:
- Does the pace of this lesson vary with each learning episode?
- Is there a short, snappy activity to set the scene and ‘hook’ learners into the learning?
- Is there room for reflection and for asking questions? Will the lesson benefit from a gentler pace as the challenge increases?
- Are there long periods of static, stationary learning that need to be broken up with movement or a change in pace?
- How will I use time limits to keep learning focused?
- Are my resources prepared? How will they be deployed without sabotaging the pace of the lesson?
- Does this lesson involve me talking too much?
OK, so many of those question pointers are not exclusive to mathematical teaching, but provide a good reminder for setting the cadence of a lesson, especially getting brains working as soon as pupils enter the lesson.
With a great mix of practical classroom, assessment and advice, this is a useful book for secondary mathematics teachers who want to enhance some of the strategies they use in their classroom. For example, the focus on independent learning in maths lessons offers a great mix of activities where the responsibility is on the pupils learning and progress, rather than the teacher leading all of the time and using Assessment for Learning approaches to check progress rather than continued summative strategies.
The book concludes with a useful checklist ensuring that you are able to deliver perfect maths lessons, which are relevant for teachers at all stages of education. It is quite a long checklist, but if revisited a couple of times each term should ensure that mathematical teaching and learning enhances across your school.
The Perfect Totally Practical Maths Lesson by Ian Loynd is published by Independent Thinking Press, which is an imprint of Crown House Publishing Limited, with an RRP of £9.99, although available from Amazon on Kindle for £8.58. Click on the Amazon link below to view in store.