This is a classic Martin Gardner...
Well thats it, I could say something profane but instead here's a nice maths problem from the first British recreational maths fan... Alcuin of York (735 - 804 AD)
Little Hoole Primary is a good school with outstanding features. It provides good value for money. Parents have positive views of the school and one described it as a place where ‘children grow in self-esteem’. They praise the teachers who they say are ‘committed and approachable’ and the wide range of activities on offer. A strong sense of pride in the school is shared between adults and pupils and it has a very good reputation within the local area.
Drew, you clearly were doing great work there as head teacher, creating an outstanding environment of student learning, self-esteem and achievement. The videos you’ve shared today show the tireless efforts you’ve made to make learning fun and enjoyable through the effective use of edtech.
So let’s do a wrap up of highlights and key takeaways from our panel conversation.
We started our conversation on the question of “How do you make Maths Fun?”
Dan shared a framework for creating an environment where children can have an authentic experience with maths. Allowing students to have productive struggles and to reflect on their learning helps to create these authentic experiences. The focus should be on how and why a child chose to follow a particular solution, instead of on whether they got the right answer.
We then took a tangent and talked about problem solving and determining the problems that you shouldn’t invest time solving. Dan shared how he used Kickstarter campaign feedback to make the right decision with his games Prime Climb and Tiny Polka Dots.
Back to making maths fun, Dan provided suggestions, such as “tell me what you know,” to make math explorations an enjoyable activity for toddlers.
Sunil shared his journey from math teacher to education disruptor. His key insight, on the limits to bringing fun into the current maths classroom, bears repeating:
Students--and teachers--need space and time to dabble in math. I am not sure why we feel everything needs closure after 45 minutes everyday. Why can't we give problems that stretch out for longer periods of inquiry--just like in the real world of mathematics. Solutions are punctuation marks. We need more emphasis on the "drafts", the shards of thoughts, coherent or not, by students.
Drew joined in from the UK and was kind enough to share some of the recreational maths puzzles he creates. I highly recommend spending some time on “productive struggle.”
Drew and I then took a detour, discussing how he works with designers and developers to create effective edtech solutions.
Of course, you can’t have a panel of maths educators without a discussion on the challenges of providing meaningful maths education. It’s an uphill battle to make lasting changes in education, but all of our panelists are doing their utmost to bring mathematical joy to students.
Thank you, thank you, thank you
I want to first thank all of our panelists for allowing me to moderate this panel. It was an idea hatched on a Tuesday night on Twitter, and they all embraced the idea of an online panel to discuss a question of importance to all of us. Thank you to all for a panel conversation that exceeded my wildest expectations.
I agree on the need to dabble. It's interesting, because I think there's an ethical reason, especially when it comes to equity, to use class time really thoughtfully and effectively. And yet, if you want people to build their perseverance, you need to give them time to struggle (productively, ideally), because that's what it takes to improve. Perseverance is a muscle, and if there's no time to persevere, we never get better at it.
Dan, can you talk about how your new 4-part series provides students with multiple opportunities for dabbling and perseverance?
Absolutely! I've been working with Maths Pathway in Australia to help them produce rich mathematical tasks for their program. They brought me down November of 2018 with the express purpose of creating high quality instructional videos to help teachers understand and feel more confident using rich tasks in their classrooms.
Rich math tasks are a kind of holy grail of math teaching. They're the experiences that aren't just fun, but verge of life-changing. I don't think you can realistically give that kind of experience to every student, every day, but you can make offering it part of your practice, and math class becomes a very fun place indeed when rich mathematical learning is a regular part of it!
What I wrote about in my first posting here was based in my thoughts on rich learning in mathematics. Our goal, as teachers, is to light our students' curiosity, sustain them in productive struggle with an appropriate challenge, and honor their contributions and bolster their sense of ownership. Much of this conversation was us sharing some of our favorite tasks and problems for doing just these things.
In the video series, I try to break down HOW you do those things, and get videos of classroom teachers actually doing them in the classroom, as well as reflecting on what they did afterward. We've got some student reflections as well, which is super exciting. I was thrilled at how the videos came out.
My hope is that having access to a video series like this where you can hear the outline of how to, say, launch a rich task in the first place, followed by seeing several launches and then picking apart what happened and what made them effective, will help teachers take the plunge to try using rich tasks in their classroom. Because, to paraphrase Paul Lockhart, we all could be having so much more fun!