Missing the obvious

Missing the obvious is something that I seem to do all the time. I have been writing about how Representation and making things more concrete for the children in maths has been one of the areas that I have been really interested in this year but then I miss obvious connections.

My year 5’s were looking at areas of complex shapes made of rectangles last week. Some of them could manage by drawing the shapes and dividing them into rectangles on paper but some of them had got very confused by shapes in which all the measurements weren’t present. They kept ending up with larger areas because they were multiplying the wrong figures.

The following day I was at the final network meeting and we were discussing Representation and I suddenly had a brainwave. It was obvious when I thought of it but sadly I hadn’t managed to think of it before or during the lesson. If I got the children to cut the shapes into their rectangle parts, then it should be much easier for them to see what numbers needed to be multiplied.

I tried it this morning with almost total success. By cutting the complex shapes into 2 or 3 simple rectangles, the children had a much better understanding of the whole area. They could then go back to working on a piece of paper and it still made sense.

As I said, blindingly obvious when you think about it.

I need to try and think more in advance of how I can make maths more concrete for my children before they get bogged down over an idea. I think it is a danger with teaching higher or middle ability children that you can assume that they will understand what you are teaching.

Year one nearly completed

We had our final network meeting this week which was a review of the year so far. It was interesting discussing which parts of the course had influenced us most. My initial reaction is still that Representation has had the biggest single impact on my teaching. I am far more aware of how I need to support my children with concrete activities and images than I was at the beginning. The discussion made us all think about how interconnected all the main areas are though.

A general consensus seemed to be that Mathematical Thinking was possibly the most important of the 5 big ideas as all the others really support it.

Of course, we had at least 5 minutes (or longer) grumbling about the assignment. Most people seemed to be in the same position as I am. The assignment was just about done and we are going to submit it and see what happens. There was a general feeling of confusion though. People were generally unsure what was expected of them, especially with regard to the 1000 word allowance for extracts from the Professional Learning Log. Different tutors have had more or less impact which makes the whole process uneven. I would have loved to be able to submit it for a quick idea of whether it was on the right lines or not but was told by my tutor that they weren’t taking in drafts for this one. It does leave you scrabbling around in the dark a bit.

There was also some discussion about the assignment for next year as well. That will be a single assignment covering a whole school initiative that we need to undertake. I like the way that it builds up from an individual task to working with a colleague and then with the whole school. It seems strange thinking about Module 2 when I’m not at all sure whether or not I will pass Module 1.

I was amused to receive an email from our Network leader giving the link to this blog. I don’t know how someone came across it.

Wicked Witch goes viral???????

Nearly there now!

Well, it’s almost the end of the first year of the MaST course. My assignment is almost done and we have our last meeting this coming week.

I have cried and grumbled and lost sleep over the assignments and am still not at all sure whether this one will be good enough to secure a pass mark. It is as good as I can make it without more input from a tutor. Hopefully it will pass and if not, then hopefully they will tell me what I need to do to improve it.

The distance learning aspect of this course is the hardest part. We have had five tutorial sessions at the universitywhich have generally been excellent but we have been left to our own devices to a great extent with the assignments. This seems to be asking a great deal from a group of people with such widely differing backgrounds. My degree was with the OU so I am familiar with distance learning and capable of working on my own but I have found these assignments incredibly difficult.

The course itself has been fantastically useful and always thought provoking and I think that it has had a positive impact on my maths teaching. It has certainly made me reflect more on what I teach and why I select certain activities.

There is a conflict between what the course tells us is good teaching and what is demanded of me in terms of children’s progression. The course stresses that children’s mathematical understanding is vital and best achieved through investigative maths. The problem is that I have to get X% of my group to progress through 2 sublevels and to do that, sometimes I have to teach them certain methods and drill them in the use of those methods. This conflict has been apparent since the beginning of the course and I haven’t yet managed to reconcile it.

On a brighter note, the first payment of £1000 has been confirmed for everyone who completes the first year although we’re unlikely to see it until the middle of the year. By which time I will be stressing about next year’s assignment. Still, it’s something nice to look forward to.