StephenL: Tell me about yourself.
PeterMattock: I have been teaching maths since July 2006 when I started my NQT year, and running maths departments since January 2011. I now have a role in an 11-16 academy 4 days a week, where I run the maths department, oversee whole school numeracy, and work on timetabling. The other day in the week I work for the East Midlands South Maths Hub as their Secondary Mastery Lead.
Then of course I am the author of Visible Maths!
StephenL: You have so many different roles. What does a typical day look like?
PeterMattock: There isn’t such a thing!
When in school I will either be teaching 3, 4 or 5 lessons a day. In the lessons I am not teaching I could be looking at teaching in my department, writing homework booklets, curriculum plans or resources, or preparing for meetings. I also run Further Maths Level 2 certificate after school on Wednesday so I could be preparing or teaching that. My day might include leading a department meeting, taking part in a ML meeting or a RAG meeting (Raising Achievement group), or ESLT meeting (extended senior leadership team).
I also have a responsibility for the school timetable and duty rotas, so I could be working on that (you would be amazed how many changes are required mid-year to timetables as teachers move on or go on maternity leave).
On my day working for the maths hub I would most likely be visiting one of my mastery specialists to talk about the journey they or their team are taking, work on joint planning or reviewing something they have planned and offering insight, or sat at home working one a presentation or doing some admin.
StephenL: Can you talk about the writing process for Visible Maths?
PeterMattock: I started writing Visible Maths (although the original title was “Representations in Mathematics”) in about May 2017.
I wanted to pool together all of my thinking and the research I had read around different representations, and provide guidance for teachers in starting our on the journey of using manipulatives and representations for making sense of mathematical structures.
By the summer holiday I had the original introduction and first chapter written, where I introduce the basis for using representations in teaching mathematics and some of the major representations that could be used. I sent that to two publishers who I knew through friends were open to publications in the field of mathematics education. One of them wanted pretty much the whole book written before they would consider whether to publish or not, however Crown House (who I chose to publish with) only wanted one more chapter and the plan for how the rest of the book would proceed.
So between the summer and October half term I wrote the second chapter where I began to look at using representations to teach integer arithmetic, and sent those documents off. Crown House were happy with those and so I signed the contract that said I would complete the initial draft book by April 2018, and they would publish it, or pay for my time if they chose not to once it was finished.
I spent most of my school holidays writing (as well as time in between where I could) and eventually finished it in the second week of the Easter holiday of 2018 (with a number of very long days in that holiday to get it done).
There was a significant editing process, with 3 sets of back and forth between April 2018 and the summer. There was then a long delay as the image team at Crown House had to recreate all 639 images that appear in the book to bring them up to publication quality – I am no image editor and so all of the images in the original drafts had basically been screen captures from Jonathan Hall’s (@StudyMaths on Twitter) website “mathsbot.com” that I edited in Microsoft Paint. This took up to Autumn of 2018 and once this was done, and I had checked and amended them, we settled on the title and front cover (which again the image team at Crown House did a great job in producing) and produced a pre-production pdf version which we sent to certain people for reviewing – I had contacted people in the field that I knew and that had expertise in this area. Once that was done the book went into production in late 2018 (the original publication date of New Years Eve 2018 was pushed to February 2019 to accommodate this) and then the book went on sale in February.
StephenL: You have a demanding schedule as a teacher. Are you planning another book and, if so, do you think it will go smoother (and less time than the first one) now that you know what the publisher needs.
PeterMattock: A second book is in the very early development stages, but not enough to really reveal anything about it yet!
I won’t be working on it in earnest until after my wedding in October. To be honest the previous process was very smooth, I don’t think there are any places we could save time except if there are less images.
StephenL: Congrats on your upcoming nuptials! With Visual Maths, did you do any book signings or TV/radio interviews? What was that like and would you do it again?
PeterMattock: I didn’t do any official book signing events, or TV/radio interviews. It wasn’t really that sort of project. I did do the podcast with Craig Barton but the publicity comes from the publisher through their catalogues and stands at events, and whilst I am out doing different PD sessions.
I have had a few people who have asked me to sign copies when I have been out and about at different events though!
Is she getting frustrated because it is too easy? Or because she doesn't really get it? If the first there are some great spaces out there for recreational mathematics for young people. A great one in the UK is https://wild.maths.org/wild-maths and I am sure there are similar in the states. If the second then this is often because pupils can’t make sense of what is going on. In this case the use of manipulatives and representations is a proven strategy. My book can be a good starting point for that, and there are some great videos out there - a good friend of mine Bernie Westacott filmed several with Craig Barton for his you tube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/mrbartonmaths1/videos (parts 5, 6, and 7 would be most applicable) and two excellent colleagues Mike Ollerton and Dr Helen Williams have created some videos exploring different manipulatives (the one on Cuisenaire rods is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RUQbKU_FhY)
One thing we do is make sure there is an opportunity for some interesting maths in every hour. We plan activities designed to provoke interest and wonder into every hour. We also have a dedicated extra-curricular club for maths problems that runs each week, and we signpost the opportunities to joing things like The Society of Young Mathematicians, which one of the subject associations we have here in the UK runs.