Monday, 27 June 2016

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Another Gem from the Wilkie Way Newsletter

“Children learn best in an environment that is vivid and stimulating.
The more vital we can make their (children’s) lives the more they will be able to
retain their natural qualities of interest and wonder and that love of learning which
is the birthright of all children.”

This is transcribed from the short film The First Two Years at School (1950)
produced by the NZ National film unit for the Department of Education. The 22
minute film is archived and can be viewed on UTube.

The next paragraph comes from the same source and focuses on the learning of
mathematics - which in 1950 was called arithmetic.

The number class looks like a play period. Arithmetic is far more than a question
of figures and sums, It involves all the children’s first
conceptions of measurement, size, weight, shape, space.
It also includes an understanding of what number means

in the world outside of school. The early teaching of
number is based on activity and experience ........ The
children proceed at their own speed day by day they
change round to other activities until they have covered
the whole field. All is valuable number experience.
Number games play an important part too.
Only when they have practical first hand knowledge of what number means
will they begin to settle down to abstract book work. They then make rapid strides
due their early practical understanding of number.

Only in the curriculum document (New Zealand) have we separated out the strands of
mathematics and made the number and algebra strand more important than
measurement, shape and space.
Number is an abstract idea and practical knowledge of number is gained through
practical experiences of measurement, shape and space and early statistical ideas
of sorting and matching and seeking and explaining relationships.

At level one (NZ Curriculum) I would like to see a more even balance
between the strands as even in 1950 it was known they
are all valuable number experiences.

Even at level two, three and four the other strands cannot
be side lined they must form an integrated part of a school
mathematics programme. To work with digital models
students must have first hand experience of the three dimensional world and
experience of practical measurement to make sense of what they are seeing in a
two dimensional setting.

In the digital adult world never before has practical hands
on experiences for children been more essential - “play”
is the most underused teaching and learning style in our
schools today.

 Some weeks back an online site that shares maths games and activities, had a measurement activity and the author asked for feedback about the activity.  I was amazed to see that "Schools which were totally technology based" were asking for the game to be created as an App for the "iPad"
How does a child learn what measurement is-time, length, mass, area.. unless they experience the practical nature of doing those things?  I would suggest an measurement App will be mainly crunching numbers rather than measuring.
(Dont get me wrong, I have an iPad, and iPhone and two computers, BUT I advocate exploration with real life problems before manipulating numbers on a screen!)  Len

Using Specialist Mathematics Teachers

This article was in the latest Wilkie Way Newsletter
One would think that having a specialist subject teacher would raise student
However new research from Harvard University shows that students who were
taught by subject-specialists in English and maths saw their grades drop rather than
improve. Research results showed specialist primary teachers are 6 per cent less
effective than their non-specialist colleagues.
Roland Fryer, faculty director of Harvard University’s Education Innovation Laboratory,
conducted an experiment with 50 elementary schools in Houston, Texas. Schools
adjusted their timetables to allow for specialist teaching in maths, science, social
studies or reading. Specialist teachers saw pupils only for their allocated subjects.
However, rather than improving academic
outcomes in these subjects, specialist teaching
had a negative impact on pupils’ grades in mathsand reading. The research found that the effect of
such teachers went beyond a decrease in student
achievement, it also decreased student attendance
and increased behaviour problems.
The findings of the study were unexpected.
The research highlighted the importance of the teacher - pupil relationship and raised
the question of the wisdom of cross grouping students where they have a different
teacher for one subject.

Source: 3 June 2016 edition of TES

Do you cross group your students for mathematics?
If so why do you do it?
The ability range is there in your class across all subject areas so why make
mathematics a separate subject with no links to other areas of the curriculum?

NZ research has stated how important teacher - student relationships are for all
students and absolutely essential for Maori and Pasifica student.

A question for inquiry:
Do the students in your mathematics group and home class make more
progress than students in your math class but not in your home class?