Sunday, 26 June 2016

Reflecting on How to Make Next Year Even More Successful

How to help children intrinsically enjoy and appreciate mathematical thinking?

Recently a term being used on Twitter amongst teachers is 'doing school'.

It's an interesting phrase and has made me think and reassess a lot of things we do in our classrooms. When it comes to maths learning, I feel a lot of us teachers mimic maths as we were taught in school more so than other subject areas. 

One of my favourite things to do is at the beginning, mid and end of year ask children to share their feelings about maths and place them on a continuum from negative to positive feelings.

In the first week, this was how the children in my class at the beginning of the year felt about maths learning:Link of what we did

After we discussed and made general statements, I explained how we would do this same reflection in our last week of school to compare any changes each of us might make.

In the last week of school, this is how we responded:

We then compared this to the beginning of the year chart (which I had kept).

What do we notice?

- We all have a positive feeling about maths learning.

- A lot of us have changed our feelings dramatically.

- A few of us still have a bit of a negative feeling about maths learning, but they still have more positive than negative feelings.

- Most of us feel very positive about maths learning now. 

- Only a few of us didn't change; some had a very positive feeling at the beginning of the year and they stayed very positive.

- No one moved in the negative direction.

Why did these changes occur do we think?

Small groups created and discussed theories they had about why our feelings had changed.

We then gathered as a whole class to share our theories.

Some of the ideas discussed mirrored the survey they had completed earlier in the week: Reflecting on our year as mathematicians

As teachers, we know that reflecting on our practise is vital for improved student learning. We need to constantly reflect on what engages students, what helps deepen their understandings and how to best cater for such diverse levels of conceptual and skill understandings.

What was successful with one class might not be equally successful with our next class. We need to reflect on each learner's attitudes towards learning and to tap into those to help foster more positive attitudes.

Attitudes to mathematical thinking are key.

Thinking about this, I've started reflecting on what we should more of next year and what we should do less of. 

What should I do more of next year?

° Allow even more student ownership /voice  into what they enquire into with our maths units.

° Begin our year again exploring the learning pyramid: Using the Learning Pyramid in Maths. Students frequently used this understanding throughout the year without my referring to it.  I think this resonated a lot with the children in my class.

° Not only begin the year with Growth Mindset Understanding, but continue exploring this even more throughout the year. This really helped children in my class to become more open-minded towards maths and a lot noticeably started realising that indeed they are and can be successful mathematicians.

° Continue using The Power of the PYP Concepts in Maths as these are incredible tools to foster student enquiry to deeper levels of understanding.

° Apply even more in every unit how mathematical thinking is about Visualising & Creativity. This understanding resonated a lot with students in my class who previously had somewhat negative attitudes towards maths. It helped them to understand that they have ownership of their maths discoveries and that maths isn't about merely meeting teacher / school standard expectations.

°  Continue referring to building neuron pathways when we learn skills in maths. The children in my class, again, constantly referred to this throughout the year without my reminding them. Children find it fascinating to discover how their brains learn best.

° Continue applying The Value of Pre-Assessing Maths Units. Pre-assessments are far more important than summatives mostly because we actually use that data gathered far more.  Effective learning depends on it.

° Goal: Try to begin every maths unit with a provocation that will entice curiosity and foster student-generated wonderings to explore.  I've found this a bit challenging with some maths units this year, but am making it a goal to focus on creating / finding / using these more frequently in every unit. I think it would also be an interesting way to end a unit with having children create a provocation themselves that next year's students could use to begin a unit. By creating a provocation, it could also serve as an interesting summative reflection for each child to do. 

° Continue beginning the year having children explore the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic and why it is important to develop intrinsic motivation. 

° Continue to make student wonderings and the central idea the basis for our maths units rather than them being created by the teacher: The Power of Student Wonderings

° Continue to discuss the importance of finding out the WHYs of maths rather than the HOWs throughout the entire year.

° Continue creating and Developing a Mathematical Enquiry Community.  This was really successful and I think giving more time throughout the year to build upon this will have some wonderful effects to the learning. 

° Continue to stop being concerned with school maths standard benchmarks. They aren't important compared to fostering an enjoyment and appreciation of maths thinking in children. It has taken me a few years to stop worrying about children making set standards. Its so liberating to do that though. Children enjoying maths thinking should always ride above children meeting grade level expectations. All children learn to talk and ride a bike at different ages and that is perfectly fine. Equally, it shouldn't matter at what age a child conceptually understandings what we are doing when we add fractions etc. They will get there at their own developmental pace. we shouldn't push children into trying to develop conceptual understandings until they are developmentally ready. Grade level standards can be overly prioritised. If it kills a love for maths, why do it?  Once enjoyment for maths is killed in a child, it takes a long time for future teachers to help respark it. 

° Continue to assess how much student ownership is being nurtured each week in maths Evolving Student Ownership in Maths

° Continue to never give maths tests No to Maths Tests

° Continue using these Effective Strategies for Creating an Enquiry-Based Maths Classroom and investigate and experiment with even more next year.

I feel we have had a really successful year of maths learning. I know this because the children in my class repeatedly remarked how much more they enjoyed maths this year. They also often remarked how much more successful they felt as mathematicians throughout the year. Their parents often sent emails throughout the year explaining how much more positive their child's attitude was towards maths this year.

None of this success is valued by tests or assessments.

We shouldn't value successful maths learning by student outcomes. 

We should value successful maths learning by each child's changed and improved attitudes and wonderings towards mathematical thinking.


  1. These are lovely reflections. I came back to your blog as I was planning for this upcoming year. These reflections from the end of a year were perfect to read as I am getting mentally ready for the new year. Thank you for posting so much about the PYP maths journey you and your students are on.

    1. Thanks for your kind feedback Helen. I'm glad you find it helpful. Should you need any help, let me know. Always happy to help :)

  2. Oh- and for Growth Mindset- look up "week of inspirational Math"-- it's a great week of activities to kick off an awesome math/ growth mindset environment in class!


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