Teaching Maths Tricks – A free e-book for teachers

Even though I am a veteran fighter for focusing on learning through understanding rather than tricks, I am still having to weed out a few old habits after reading this interesting e-book.  Good luck if you think that you are innocent.  I am sure that you will find at least one “technique” that you are guilty of teaching in your classroom!  Having said that, I am not totally convinced about every one of these proposed items.  I believe that you must make the right decision for your classes and your individual students based on your own expertise, experience and intuition.  Some students (and dare I say the ones who tend to “struggle with maths”) will not simply flourish under perfect learning conditions where understanding is everything, because we work in a climate where testing is the measure of our effectiveness.  As long as tests, exams, rigid schemes of work, pacing, box-ticking and clipboard carrying “learning walks” prevail, we are all going to be tempted to get a student through their GCSE’s with a few tricks up their sleeves.

I teach A-level students.  I am fully aware of the damage that these tricks can do to students who need to develop robust skills and insights while going through their secondary school years, but I am also aware that many students, parents, schools and systems are totally focused on the final grade that appears on a set of GCSE results regardless of how the child got it. If anyone or anything is to blame, we need to first accept that it is the result of a system that is focused on “teaching to the test” and then worrying about the damage later, or letting someone else (usually the A-level maths teachers) deal with the consequences of this goal-oriented, competitive, business-like highway that demands that we get more and more A* to C grades every year from students who are tired of being the passengers on our runaway buses.  Take away the idea that it’s all about the grade, and we will certainly end up having more students who enjoy and want to learn mathematics because it’s interesting, not because the school needs to show that it has met its target for the year.

Nix the Tricks.

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