Changing teachers' practices by Lynda Maple

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I have been a tutor for the Lets Think Maths courses for many years. Recently I have been responsible for the Yr 5 – Yr 9 course that has been organised in partnership with Ambler Primary School in Islington. One of the delights of the courses is the enthusiasm of the participants; their willingness to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences. This has been especially the case when teachers from primary and secondary schools work together. It provides the opportunity for everyone to develop their subject knowledge, further their understanding of how students learn and to experiment and practise different ways of teaching. All this in a safe environment where no-one is being judged and where it is safe to expose one’s misconceptions and fears.

A crucial aspect of the course involves teaching lessons that they have experienced as simulated lessons led by the course tutor. During the simulations, there are opportunities to discuss the maths involved but more importantly, how the reasoning strands are developed. These are very rich sessions and the teachers make a significant contribution by asking questions, clarifying their own understanding about what is happing and thinking about how they will tackle the lessons with their own classes.

Everyone is expected to teach each of the lessons at least once before the next session. They are encouraged to keep detailed notes about what happened for the students as well as themselves. We use these narratives at the start of subsequent days together. The discussions and observations enable us to reflect on many aspects of the lessons. But always, we look at how they enabled the students to develop their reasoning, rather than focusing on the mathematical skills and knowledge that form the content for the lesson. Many teachers find this very refreshing and quite often state that they feel ‘freed-up’ to try things out without the constraints they often feel in traditional maths lessons.

Over the years, teachers have found interesting ways to capture the lessons they have taught. Some use photographs with comments from the students, often they include examples of the students’ work; some focus on the teacher’s role and their observations. Where possible teachers work together, one teaching and the other observing and making notes of what the students say and do. On a few occasions, teachers have made short videos to capture particularly interesting events.

On the course last year, Kevin Groake, from St Joseph’s Primary School, Highgate set up his own Lets Think Maths Blog. Other participants on the course enjoyed his openness and honesty with which he told the story of the lessons. This year, Kevin has attended the Let’s Think Maths Level 2 course with Sarah Seleznyov, alongside other teachers from different introductory courses.

He has continued to keep his blog and you can see examples of the lessons he has taught using the link below.

Lynda Maple – Lets Think Mathematics Tutor