Rethinking What We Know About Teaching Maths

As I am reading Craig Barton’s book, ‘How I Wish I’d Taught Maths’, I can’t help but be in awe of a person like him, who questioned his already successful and validated outstanding teaching style. He was able to avoid confirmation bias as he scrutinised current educational research of how children learn and radically changed his teaching methods.

He starts with a list of ten beliefs that are wrong in the way we approach teaching mathematics. uses educational research to explain why as well as goes on to say how this has changed his teaching for the better.How many of you plead guilty to doing all of these and also feel good about going about teaching in this way? I know as I went down this list, a mental tick went right next to each and everyone on these beliefs to the same as my own.

Get ready to be flabbergasted:

  1. The best lessons have little teacher-talk and lots of student-talk
  2. Where possible students should “discover” things for themselves
  3. We can teach problem solving
  4. Effective differentiation means giving students different work to do
  5. The maths we teach should be relevant to our students’ lives
  6. Students should always know why they are doing something before they learn how to do it
  7. The more feedback we give students the better
  8. Tests are predominantly tools of assessment
  9. Doing lots of past papers is the best way to prepare for an exam
  10. If students are struggling, then they are learning

Hopefully I am not alone in having believed these things.

Omg! He certainly isn’t is he?

What I can’t help but wonder is why do teachers believe these things? Where are all these misconceptions coming from? We try to do what’s best, follow guidance from the DfEe and try to show inspectors that we are doing all that is required of us to help children learn, yet we’re still not getting it right.

Is it because education is evolving into an ever increasing profitable market and information inevitably becomes skewed and twisted out of context to suit businesses? Is it because some of these beliefs are passed down from intuitive practices? Is it because this is what inspectorates look for based on already warped beliefs?

I don’t have the answers to any of these queries and would love people’s thoughts on this.

Can teachers teach without diving into the research themselves? Up until now I thought the answer was yes, however, I no longer hold this assumption. I feel that we as teachers, should delve into the research out there to have a better understanding of why we teach the way we do and how we can teach better.

I’m sure, if you are a teacher, you are probably thinking… and when do we have the time for that? You have a good point and that’s a whole other post for this blog.

Like and share this post with others.

Is it time to rethink current teaching practice? Leave a comment below.

Till next time…

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