Residential – the final hours

Saturday evening after a peaceful hour spent reading the paper began with dinner at 6. People were a bit more relaxed about what time they came in and the hotel staff were all set so things went more smoothly. Have to say that the food has been brilliant, and so much of it!

The evening session was run by Paul Andrews again and was all about folding paper. We made equilateral triangles out of sheets of A4 paper and then had to prove that they were equilateral triangles. We then turned them into a sort of truncated pyramid and made different size ones to look at ratios.

This was followed by folding strips of paper into thirds by using convergence and then seeing if we could fold our paper into 5ths and 7ths. I was starting to feel a bit daunted by the whole thing at this point, The proportion session had been difficult and although I could follow the proof of the equilateral triangle, I had no idea how to start it on my own. However the idea of finding fractions by convergence was one that I could follow and I managed to find fifths and then sevenths without too much difficulty which made me feel better.

The session ended earlier than planned as Paul was finding it difficult to talk to so many people at once in a large room and a lot of people were having trouble in hearing him and watching what he was doing.

We ended up in the bar (obviously) where we were easily the liveliest (loudest?) group. It was strange how our network group of 10 seemed to have bonded as a group so much better than the other groups. Most others were in 3’s or 4’s whereas we averaged at about 10 plus or minus a few who came to join us at times. It was a fun evening, verging on the hysterical at times which I think was probably the reaction to all the work during the day.

Sunday morning and our final session before going home.

The final session was on Generalisation. I hadn’t realised before how much maths depends on being able to make generalisations about things. We looked at how our generalisations change as we gain more awareness of how complex things are. We tried different generalisations with the ‘Always, Sometimes, Never true’ activity. I have done this with my class before but will definitely use it more often as a way of getting them to explain their ideas.

For our directed tasks we have to develop opportunities for pupils to generalise and note these in our PLL and read and reflect on the article ‘If you can count to ten, you can count to infinity really’.

After coffee we had the plenary session where Debbie brought the ideas of the whole weekend together. We were also taught a clever way of working out answers to tables over 6x by  using your fingers (or in this case rubber gloves). It was clever and I had never seen it before, Definitely one to teach the children

It was a very intense weekend and I veered between feeling confident and enjoying the input to feeling inadequate and struggling to understand. I think that the overall experience was positive, it was just so much to to process in such a short time.

The main problem that I think that I and many maths teachers face is still how to balance the demands of the school and the curriulum against the desire to teach in a way that will foster real understanding and enjoyment. I do try and always teach for understanding but if the children still do not understand then eventually I have to just teach the rule as they need to be able to do the relevant calculations before they leave me. The children are expected to achieve a certain level and I have to make sure that the right percentage reach those levels to meet my targets. This isn’t always compatible with the things that the course is teaching.

So I have lots of new ideas of things to do in the classroom as well as lots of reading to do. My next meeting is at Nottingham Trent University on Tuesdayand is our final session on Mathematical thinking. Before then I have to read the first chapter of Primary Mathematics, Teaching for Understanding byBarmby et al which I have just ordered from Amazon.

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