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Maths learning and teaching Discussion

Ma-Ma-Me-Mo : Making Maths Mean More

by Stephen Hansard 2016Dec4, Wow Maths Tuition, LiveAndLearnWell.co.uk

“I was never any good at Maths.” How often have you heard somebody say this? From a wide range of ages, school children to adults; not just those who struggled with academic learning but many school-successful students as well. Why is it so common to find not just lack of confidence with maths, but whole-person feelings of failure? Thus why do we see so many learners failing to learn maths at least satisfactorily, if not well? And thus it all taking far too much unproductive time and effort, on the teaching / tutoring side as well as by the students themselves?

Surely we teachers and educators, parents and wider society are failing many maths learners? Somehow we make maths, or allow it to become mysterious magic, and - worst of all in my opinion - we judge those students, whether consciously or not, who cannot at least perform the magic, let alone make any sense of how it works. Learners are branded “good” or “bad” at maths (as with other skills). Lots of people rate their artistic skills, for example, as poor, but this rarely dents their whole self-esteem as much as does poor maths performance.

I suggest what we need is Ma-Ma-Me-Mo, to Make Maths Mean More:

* Generate more confidence, including “it’s OK if your maths fails sometimes” - like mine does occasionally as a tutor! And this is much more helpful than “you failing”.

* Make the maths make more sense, not just for it’s own sake, but to help you chose the best way and to see where it goes wrong as well as pin-point what works.

* More choice of maths methods for cracking the nuts. What’s the point of flogging a dead horse (no offence to dead horses!), such as traditional long division, if it has failed you repeatedly?

Wouldn’t you just love to be able to avoid long division...!

* More honesty and openness from teachers with how their maths stumbles sometimes, since “Sir” or “Miss” always getting it right might inadvertently put them up on an unreachable pedestal.

* More attention on how we learn, not just on the what; thus much more emphasis on what I call “learnability”: powers of learning, especially “making things stick”, since what’s the point of learning how to do something if it later gets lost in memory or comes out jumbled up?

* More helpful ways of assessing performance and progress, that inform learning, especially how to develop it further (for individuals and groups); rather than dominated by exams to just produce performance scores.

We need to get a grip on how learners feel about their maths - and make the way we talk, and thus think, about their performance much more helpful. We need to separate the performance from the person.

The big question is how can we Ma-Ma-Me-Mo. Maybe it’s not as difficult as it might seem. For example, it’s easy-peasy to train ourselves to say, “Shucks! That method doesn’t work for you,” instead of “You’re no good at that.”

We need much more “E.A.R” focus: making maths Easier to do +to do Accurately and Repeatedly.

Watch this space... Including what do you think?..... - via message  or  send your comments.

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