A few weeks ago I blogged about what I thought mathitude was – I discussed it with colleagues at the national maths conference in September and we all basically agreed that it came down to these things.
In my experience of teaching over the last 15 years, I have been in the same situation many times.
Where caring teachers, driven managers, worried head teachers, new QA directors but all adult professionals have looked up and down columns of Meta data or cohort level analysis or ALPS of Fisher Family Trust or.. or..
You name your data provider; I’ll show you an anxious looking adult face identifying an issue.
And there is an eyebrow furrowing, and the concerned nodding and then, pause. And then someone says something like:
And there is the rub. We know what we could do, but we can’t afford to do it. So that leaves us with
So either we find someone to blame or we change exam boards, or textbooks or more commonly, we do what we have always done.
We invest more professional adult time directed at more closely supporting and monitoring and tacking and mentoring and coaching and what ever term you choose. Squeezing the next fraction of a fraction of a per cent out of a system that can’t take any more adult based intervention.
Well actually no more squeezing, because I was never one to make too much of a noise unless I was fairy sure I was right.
So I started my mathitude last September. I worked on two premises.
One, you can learn things. You can learn to be good at music, and to sing, to juggle and dance. And even to draw Mr Richards my art teacher yr. 8 and 9 – you were wrong! You can learn to be good at maths and you can learn an attitude to it.
And two, if you want to get students working independently, with mathitude, then it takes time and practice. But you will see a reward greater in the long run.
And this is where I need to be honest about the results of this trial. It did not change the world; it did not produce a group of students that were ‘captain, my captain’; some much better than the others. But it did not have a negative effect. It was no worse than the existing method. And that was a small consolation. Really I wanted significance. And I was a little disappointed. But this year, this year is where I’ve seen the potential. This year I have had colleagues noticing the difference in the groups they have inherited, and being slightly warmer to the ‘cult of mathitude’.
So this is how I did it…
I did it just the same way as I would do my other teaching. I did some initial tasks, identified where the students were and then gave them activities that developed, stretched, challenged their resilience, or their communication.
In the early days I used role cards a lot, I choose roles from Nrich.
Later on I played about with it and introduced other roles. Such as Presenter – who would demonstrate the group’s ideas? Marker, who would take the work away and mark it for homework. Question makers. The person whose role was to identify each time the students shared a mistake.
I tried to make a clever point with one group, which on the face of it was a clever way to demonstrate the importance of teamwork.
Idea maker (variant) you are successful if your team chooses your idea.
That back fired and some of the students were really cross, so don’t do that. But the rest I can be fairly sure works no less effectively than the current market leader. And what more a convincing claim can you really ask for? Because last year I enjoyed teaching more.