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The World Is Maths

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General Teaching

The Problem with Education in England

Did you know England tops the world’s league table in rote memorisation? This is, most certainly and without equivocation, a bad thing. There are three main reasons this is a bad thing: Continue reading “The Problem with Education in England”

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To talk or not to talk? That is the question.

People have been talking about silence and dialogue lately.

Is silence golden?

Do talking and collaboration improve learning?

Does it matter whether or not pupils talk?

What type of talk is good talk?

This is probably one of those edu-topics that gets people all partisan, so I’m going to nail my colours to the mast and see what happens. Continue reading “To talk or not to talk? That is the question.”

Guest Post for the Learning Scientists

I was very excited to have written a post for the Learning Scientists last month, whose work is fabulous in spreading the word about effective (and ineffective) strategies throughout the teaching community.

I wrote for them about how I created a mathematics scheme of work trying to embed effective learning strategies from the outset.

You can read the post on their blog.

Designing a Feedback (not Marking) Policy

I wrote in this post about how many examples of poor feedback and ridiculous marking I have come across in recent years, much of which is still going on now.  Examples of ridiculous and pointless marking include tick-and-flick, “dialogic” or “triple” marking, anything that makes more work for teachers than students, and anything that provides feedback far too long after the original work was completed (we all know how short our students’ memories are!)

I also mentioned how we are trying to find a better way in our maths department, and the exit ticket forms the basis of this.

After discussions with SLT I’ve designed a new Feedback Policy for the department (note, not a Marking Policy).  As with everything I do, it’s a work in progress and I want to get things right.  When thinking about feedback I have three overarching aims:

  1. Feedback must help students to improve.
  2. Feedback must be useful to teachers.
  3. The benefits must outweigh the costs.

I will come back to these at the end, but first here is the policy. Continue reading “Designing a Feedback (not Marking) Policy”

A Plea to Heads of Maths and Senior Leaders (On Feedback & Marking)

A colleague of mine was leading our TSST (Teacher Subject Specialism Training – for non-specialists who find themselves teaching maths) course this afternoon and was brave enough to mention feedback.  We were chatting at the end of the day and he couldn’t believe the stories he’d just heard.  Mentioning marking and feedback in a room full of teachers from different schools is something I’ve learnt to avoid now, it’s one of the most agonising discussions I encounter.

Let’s make this clear from the start: the evidence of the efficacy of marking is scant (EEF).  Marking is not the same as feedback (Toby French) and the time it takes a teacher to mark a set of books is, most often, disproportionate to the effect that marking actually has on students’ progress (Michael Tidd).  Ofsted does not demand a particular type or frequency of marking (Alex Quigley), so no-one can say they are implementing an insane marking policy thanks to the inspectorate.

Here are some of the worst atrocities my colleague and I have heard: Continue reading “A Plea to Heads of Maths and Senior Leaders (On Feedback & Marking)”

The Importance of Vocabulary

Glaring truism alert!  Subject-specific vocabulary is extremely important. The right academic vocabulary turns a clumsy conversation into an elegant and precise one.

In mathematics we have the issue that certain words have a different meaning in common speech, take “roots” or “degree” for instance (degree has more than one meaning even in mathematics – the degree of a polynomial, degrees in a turn). We also have words that it is perfectly plausible to leave out of the curriculum, and that you will find many students never encounter (such as “commutative” or “subtrahend”). But how much better is it if teacher and student have a shared technical vocabulary, one which helps us to be mutually understood and to express ourselves unambiguously. Continue reading “The Importance of Vocabulary”

Subject Knowledge and Initial Teacher Education

In 2015 the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) released their report Beginning Teaching: best in class? High-quality initial teacher education for all teachers of mathematics in England.  The report found that there are many inconsistencies in the provision of maths initial teacher education (ITE) in England, in part due to the variety of routes available into the profession (including university-based postgraduate courses, School Direct, School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) and Teach First)) but in the main due to the absence of a shared standard for maths ITE. Continue reading “Subject Knowledge and Initial Teacher Education”

A Plague On Both Your Houses! (Or ‘Why I Don’t Like Observations and Lesson Plans’)

Over the last [insert large number here] years, the lesson observation and associated lesson plan have been the status symbol of the excellent teacher.  Schools living in dread of the next Ofsted inspection elevated them to their position at the top of the individual’s evidence pile.  For any observation, objectives were set out, detailing what ALL must learn, what MOST should learn and what SOME were lucky enough to learn, the minutiae of every activity and its purpose were described, every instance of cross-curricular/social/moral/cultural learning was noted and, in all probability, everything was colour-coded (ok, I made that last bit up, but it wouldn’t surprise me).

The thing is, this doesn’t really help anybody: Continue reading “A Plague On Both Your Houses! (Or ‘Why I Don’t Like Observations and Lesson Plans’)”

Cognitive Load and Problem Solving

I was asked recently to deliver a training session for two maths departments on the topic of problem solving.  After internally balking (problem solving as a discrete entity is something that gets on my nerves, “problem solving lessons” even more so) I decided it was the perfect opportunity to talk about cognitive load and relate it to the requested topic. Continue reading “Cognitive Load and Problem Solving”

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