I spent yesterday afternoon at NTU for our latest 3 hour session which was all about the third of the course’s big ideas ‘Proportionality’.
We had the first session on this topic at the residential and I found it really hard going. I don’t know whether it was because it was the third session on the Saturday and I was pretty much brain dead, or whether it is just a hard concept. Most likely a combination of the two I expect.
Yesterday’s session took us deep into the mysteries of fractions, especially methods of multiplying and dividing them, something that I never really got to grips with at school. For me at any rate, it seemed to be the session that has concentrated most on improving teacher’s subject knowledge. There were ideas for us to use in our teaching but the focus seemed to be very much on getting us to understand why the rules that we learn about fractions work.
I have to say that I left the session with a lot more understanding about multiplying and dividing fractions. As with most things, it all seemed so simple when the tutor demonstrated it.
I had always been able to deal with multiplication of fractions, the idea that it’s really half of or a third of something. Dividing was something that I hadn’t really got to grips with though. Taking it back down to a basic division calculation where you simply ask how many times can you get x out of a given number seemed so obvious that I don’t know why I never saw it before.
We had an interesting conversation with the tutor who was actually from Northampton university who are running our particular MaST course. It was all about the desire to teach well and allow our children to discover things for themselves and the opposing pressures of demands that so many children achieve level 4 or 5 or whatever by the end of the year. There was no real agreement, just a sharing of ideas. Interestingly, those who taught younger age groups were more in tune with his point of view that you shouldn’t be pressured by outside influences such as targets.
I still try to teach for understanding to as great an extent as possible but sometimes I feel that you do just have to teach ‘how’ to do something rather than why.
As always, the session was interesting and thought provoking. I then headed off to the library to continue to research useful ideas for my essay.