Go for hybrids ! (How to spark off a Maths topic ? – Part 3)

This is the last part of our review of possible ways to spark off a Maths topic (preliminary note: it is recommended to read the 2 previous posts: How to spark off a Maths topic ? – Part 1: concept processors and How to spark off a Maths topic ? – Part 2: memory reinforcers).

Actually… the best sparks are often hybrids. It’s quite nice to have logic (conceptual processor) + emotional engagement in order to activate memory (memory reinforcer).

Let’s look at a few examples…Read More »

Memory reinforcers (How to spark off a Maths topic ? – Part 2)

We continue our review of possible ways to spark off a Maths topic (it is recommended to read the previous post: How to spark off a Maths topic ? – Part 1: concept processors).

Today, we are talking about the second category of sparks: memory reinforcers.

The idea of memory reinforcers is to spark off a topic with something that engages beyond the intellect in order to reinforce memory. What you choose may not seem logical, but that is beside the point if you reach your goal of memory reinforcing.

As memory champion Josua Foer explains: ‘We remember when we are able to take a piece of information and experience it. We remember when we pay attention. We remember when we are engaged’.

A memory reinforcer can be…Read More »

How to spark off a Maths topic ? – Part 1: concept processors

This post is about sparking off the core topic of a Maths lesson. (NB: This is different from starting a lesson with a Do Now or Starter, which are often used (and quite rightly so) as retrieval activities or stimulating/settling activities, but are not necessarily related to the core topic of the day’s lesson). Therefore, the spark will often be the second item in the lesson, but it is the first point of contact with the main topic.

Choosing the right spark to introduce a topic is important for 3 reasons:

  • First of all, the spark should totally serve the core topic, either through raising a question that will inevitably lead to the new concept or skill being introduced, or by catching attention and reinforcing how the lesson will be remembered.
  • Secondly, the spark should be in direct correlation with the way the main point of the lesson will be wrapped up (more about that in a future post).
  • Thirdly, the spark should introduce the first increment on prior knowledge, i.e. building up on what students already know.

Read More »

How to develop fundamental abilities

This post provides a few practical tips on how to develop fundamental abilities (i.e. the first level of the Maths ability pyramid), thus helping students to become more confident by increasing their awareness and fluency with the mental manipulation of objects and processes such as order, numbers, causes and consequences.

There is a double benefit in working on this development: not only does it help teenagers to focus and develop mental resources, but it does so by involving them in a series of lively exercises that look very much like collective games with relatively little Maths involved. In other words, developing fundamental abilities is both low-cost and high-benefit.Read More »

Stephen Hawking, the ultimate teacher

This post is an ‘extension’ of the previous post concerning the Magic of Q&A beyond expectations.

Back in May 2015, thousands of people gathered at Sydney Opera House for a talk by Stephen Hawking. Appearing in 3D hologram form, beamed in from Cambridge University, the physicist was asked the following question by an audience member: ‘What do you think is the cosmological effect of Zayn leaving One Direction, and consequently breaking the heart of millions of teenage girls across the world ?’Read More »

The magic of Q&A beyond expectations

It is always very stimulating when questions and answers in a Maths lesson suddenly go beyond all expectations.

This might sound like this is something that only happens exceptionally. Not so. In a class where a climate of questions and answers has been set in mutual trust, exceeding expectations happens almost every day.

In this post, I would like to show two such examples, one where my expectations as a teacher were exceeded, and another where a student improved his own conceptual understanding starting from a misconception – which was of great benefit to the whole class.Read More »

Three things your Maths students should not be afraid of

For many students, Maths is not fun, it’s fright !

That is not necessarily what they will show in the classroom. When students experience difficulty in Maths, they might appear bored, annoyed, rebellious, ironic, puzzled, defiant, etc. but not afraid, because they are proud.

It’s adults that tell you how frightening the experience was when they were kids. Adults are not in the classroom anymore, they can let the fright out and even laugh about it.

But where does this ‘Maths fright’ really come from ?Read More »

Why is it so important for students to have a sound number foundation ?

Yes, you’ve heard it before… ‘Students can’t do sums anymore’.

You had heard it before, hadn’t you ? Well, just in case you hadn’t, that’s exactly what someone was telling me last night at the pub: ’Oh, you’re a Maths teacher, eh ? Well, I’ll tell you one thing, mate: kids can’t do sums anymore !’

That was just in case you hadn’t heard it before.

True or not true ? Important or not ?Read More »

The Maths ability pyramid

Pyramid

The Maths ability pyramid is a communication tool I have created in order to explain more easily to students and parents what we do in Maths and why we do it.

The initial idea behind the Maths ability pyramid is not only to access a better understanding of what learning Maths is, but also to get rid of this highly misleading fiction: the one monolithic so-called ‘Maths ability’ (you know, when parents or students tell you: ‘Sir/Miss, I’m not good at Maths anyway’…).Read More »