Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Maths needs a makeover

Dan Meyer is a young Maths teacher from the U.S. He recently presented at the TEDx New York. It is a refreshing look at the teaching of mathematics.

Dan Meyer raises a number of points that are worth considering.

He identifies 5 symptoms that you are doing maths wrong in the classroom. Part of the issue, he argues, is that students expect simple problems that can be resolved simply. He argues that the way text books present mathematical computation and patient problem-solving reinforces this. It conditions students to solve problems in a particular way - simply decoding, and applying given information within a very short time frame.

I like his notion that the maths serves the conversation, not the conversation serving the maths. Real problems either have too much information or not enough information. Students need to be engaged in deep thinking and in the formulation of the problem as well as the solving of the problem.

He proposes 5 actions for maths teachers:
  1. Use multimedia
  2. Encourage student intuition
  3. Ask the shortest questions you can
  4. Let students build the problem
  5. Be less helpful.
"Maths makes sense of the world. Maths is the vocabulary of your own intuition."
"We need more patient problem-solvers!"
The ideas presented in the video are timely given the development of a National Curriculum for Mathematics in Australia.

Here is Dan's TEDx talk:

Dan's blog is also worth checking out:


Virginia said...

Hi Andrew
thanks for the link to this presentation- I just loved it!
Interestingly enough at a couple of schools I have been to lately they have been talking about teaching problem solving techniques in maths. I think the ideas presented here would change people's thinking about real problem solving and 'text book' problem solving.
Also, there are so many links on your blog that piqued my interest. I will spend some holiday time reading I think!
AND...when I clicked on your site and saw the cartoon character for the WOKI (?) I thought, "Gee he looks just like Andrew". Then I realised it was meant to! Have never seen that before..very clever.

Michelle said...

Dear Andrew,

I have just tuned in to the blog and found it to be very thought provoking. Loved Dan's analysis and recommendations.
For those wedded to the text book, his insights make it difficult to defend in light of problem solving, risk taking and what we know about good learning.
The lack of transfer for what we know to be best practice is probably nowhere more evident than in mathematics and I found Dan’s argument very well articulated and well presented.

Good to share with groups.

Mark Walker said...

Viewed the clip a little while ago and showed it to my staff - he proposes a cultural shift in the way we view mathematics in schools.
We are working with the Australian Catholic University as it has a noted maths depratment around the big ideas all students need to understand in mathematics: e.g. trust the count, multiplicative thinking etc... and the context around these ideas so that things are not abstract.
Like your list.
Thanks Mark Walker

Andrew said...

Thanks for your comment Mark!
In CEO Sydney, when I was leading the diocese's Numeracy Strategy we were working closely with ACU, Melbourne and Doug Clark around the big ideas. This has been going on for about 8 years now in the Archdiocese.
In Broken Bay, where I currently work we have introduced the "big ideas". Primary schools have embraced the concept. The learning continuum that describe the big ideas along with the a diagnostic interview aligned to the learning continuum are seeing a shift in practice (and the culture) in the teaching of mathematics.

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