What do your pupils think of Maths? What do their parents think of Maths? What do YOU think of Maths?
My memories of primary school maths lessons were of a much more interactive and fun experience than those of my secondary school years. As soon as I reached secondary school it felt like I was chained to the desk and questioned every time I stood up, even it was just to sharpen a pencil. I am quite keen to make sure that my pupils today do not leave secondary school with similar feelings about my maths lessons.
In most maths lessons I have observed in recent years, pupils are craning their necks to look at the whiteboard while we as teachers model and demonstrate the intended learning outcomes. I have some ideas as to how I want to change this, some of which I have put into practice, but I am looking for help in how to make it a more regular reality.
Last year when, I was teaching transformations – I liked using my floor as a demonstration area. I put some string down as my x and y axes and then wrote numbers on pieces of paper for my scale. This worked reasonably well. It had the desired affect of motivating pupils and they enjoyed getting out of their seats and standing, crouching, sitting around this large set of axes.
Pupils learned how to reflect, translate and rotate but this method just wasn’t quite accurate enough. Reflections weren’t in the exact position, rotations were a few degrees out of place and enlargements were a little bit ‘wonky’. This lack of accuracy would lose them marks in an exam, so I am keen to make sure that they don’t develop sloppy habits. I’ve been thinking about how to improve this teaching method, and I would like to make some sort of plastic sheet with a giant-sized set of axes on it that I can place on the floor. Whiteboard pens could be used to show any necessary working out the axes can be used over a whole range of topics.
Has anyone ever seen anything like this before? I’d love to know whether I can buy something like this, or whether it is just my own invention!
My next idea (not really mine) comes from the fantastic www.numberloving.com blog: dance mats. A lot of answers in maths are between 0-99 and you can use dance mats for pupils to give their answer, placing their left foot on number to represent ‘tens’, while the right foot represents ‘units’. See the Number Loving blog for more on this idea, including how to make the dance mats. Their technique involves getting some of the material used at the swimming centre (webbing style mats) or some non-slip material from Ikea. The lazy teacher inside me does wonder whether something like these dance mats can be bought ‘fully formed’ – have you seen any?
I have trialled this lesson using a very basic canvas dance mat and the pupils loved it, so I am keen to repeat it. Unfortunately, I have so far only managed to make two dance mats so the disadvantages are obvious – not everybody could take part and they were made from fabric and slipped a lot, no matter what I tried (including taping them to the floor!).
Calculator corner is another idea I found on Number Loving, but we are in a new building and using blue-tac on the walls is strictly prohibited. To get around this I made my own calculator as part of a display in my classroom using velcro tape. I would like to take this a step further and make an interactive calculator for each of our maths classrooms. I think this will benefit us when we teach topics like trigonometry or indices and we can model exactly what our pupils need to type into their calculators.
Finally, I would like a giant number line in my classroom. I am sure 99% of us have had a number line somewhere up on the wall but I want to go a step further and make a transfer that can be stuck down on the floor. Then when pupils are adding and subtracting numbers they can get up and walk along the number line. Below London Bridge tube station there are lights built into the path that everyone enjoys walking along, I don’t want anything this fancy but I thought I’d share my inspiration.
I do have plenty of ideas, but sometimes executing them is the hardest part, so if you have any tips and tricks, please please share them. I really want to make resources that enhance teaching and learning, and that pupils remember. I have a unique opportunity coming up in which I can take this proposal to my head teacher and get funding to make some of this stuff so if you have any ideas that will help me, please do get in touch.