Introducing (some) problem-solving skills

Problem-solving is not only a prominent Maths activity, as shown in the Maths ability pyramid. It is also a discipline of its own, with its specific know-how. In other words, the specific skills of problem-solving can be learnt too. By doing so, students will not only learn to solve problems more efficiently, they will also make the best of problem-solving’s high educational value.

For Maths teachers, it means that it is possible to choose problems for students not only according to a particular Maths topic (fractions, algebra, trigonometry, etc.) but also with a view to practise one or several problem-solving skills.

In order to do this, it is necessary to identify and name these skills. This post covers 10 problem-solving skills, which you can see in action in UKMT JMC 2015 (cf. my JMC 2015 teacher’s notes).

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UKMT (teacher’s notes) – JMC 2015

This is the first post presenting my teacher’s notes of past UKMT papers, starting with JMC 2015.

The objective of these teacher’s notes is not to provide solutions — UKMT already provides an excellent Pdf of solutions and further investigations, which you can download here — but to provide insights to teachers as to how UKMT questions can be used in the classroom.

In other words, these teacher’s notes are about making the best of the educational value of UKMT questions. Which, by the way, extends the scope of UKMT questions beyond their target age group. For example, some JMC questions, although intended for Year 7-8 students, can be used for educational purposes up to GCSE, sometimes even with A level students with the addition of relevant extensions and investigations.

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What is a logical progression ?

Maths makes a lot of sense when it is taught in a way that makes sense. If you teach something that makes sense in a way that doesn’t, at the end of the day it doesn’t make sense.

In other words, if we teachers don’t get our conceptual thinking right, then we can’t really expect students to, can we ?

The most important dimension of this conceptual thinking depends on the age group you are teaching to. However, there is definitely one dimension of conceptual thinking you cannot overlook from secondary school on: the logical progression.Read More »

Are Maths exams robbing students of the fun ?

After weeks of writing and talking to teachers about behaviour management, I am back (with relief) to posting on my favourite topic: Maths teaching. That is no doubt the effect of meeting two highly inspirational people (one Maths teacher and one Headmaster) within a few days.

I would like to start this post with a seemingly remote comment which was kindly sent to me by a reader concerning the Maths ability pyramid, pointing out that the pyramid does explain ‘what we do in Maths and why we do it’, but not HOW we do it.

Which is absolutely true: the HOW question is extremely important and it will require several posts to develop this (inexhaustible) point. One could even say that, for Maths students, it’s the ‘HOW we do Maths’ that makes a huge difference.Read More »