Posts Tagged ‘maths’

Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

December 6, 2014

 

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Teachers almost always come from a humanities background. It therefore doesn’t surprise that they tend to feel more comfortable teaching English, History and Geography more than Maths and Science.

A very experienced curriculum coordinator recently told me that it is very common for primary teachers to skip fractions because they aren’t confident with the topic to answer some of their own text book questions let alone explain it to their students.

 

TYPICAL student teachers have the maths ability of a 12-year-old child, leaving them ill-equipped to teach the subject — let alone even pass a Year 9 ­NAPLAN test.

The warning comes from leading univer­sity maths lecturer Stephen Norton, who said that half his students would not pass the Year 9 national numeracy test, even after three or four years of tertiary study.

“Every year I test my students and they’ve got the understanding of a Year 7 or Year 8 kid,’’ the senior lecturer in mathematics education at Griffith University told The Weekend Australian. “They struggle with fractions and proportional reasoning and anything to do with algebra. They should have mastered this by the end of primary school. I believe it is our responsibility in univer­sities to make sure we can remediate that.’’

Dr Norton tested the maths ability of all 125 students who enrolled in a Griffith University graduate diploma of education — a one-year course for those who have a bachelor degree in another field — last year and this year, as well as 40 students in the third year of a bachelor of education course in 2013. Barely half the would-be teachers knew how to convert 5.48km into metres — and 17 per cent failed to convert 6kg into grams. Only 16 per cent could convert temperatures from degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit, using a formula written on the test paper. Just one in four knew how to convert a fraction to a percentage.

Barely one in five students could find the highest common factor of the numbers 28 and 70, and just 13 per cent knew the lowest common multiple of the numbers 40 and 140. More than half the students could not answer the question: “If the total cost of three tickets is $5.64, how much will 10 tickets cost?’’

Just one in three students knew how to calculate the areas of rectangles and triangles.

The alarming results of the only publicly available tests of student-teacher numeracy in Australia will fuel calls to reform the teaching of mathematics at schools and universities.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has already flagged the introduction of compulsory literacy and numeracy tests for aspiring teachers. The most recent OECD Program for International Student Assessment test reveals that four out of 10 Australian teenagers lack basic maths skills.

The federal Education Department’s newly released 2013 teacher survey shows that only two-thirds of primary teachers and a quarter of high school teachers were trained at univers­ity to teach maths. Five per cent of the nation’s high schools had at least one ­unfilled vacancy for a maths teacher during 2012.

The official survey found that almost a third of teachers involved in teaching numeracy wanted more professional development on the job.

Queensland’s Auditor-General has found that one in three maths teachers in Years 8 to 10 lack a tertiary qualification in mathematics. Dr Norton said half the students he taught flunked his entry test — although their results improved by 30 per cent after they completed eight weeks of maths study, including 32 hours of face-to-face instruction.

“Most prospective primary teachers struggle with upper primary mathematics upon intake,’’ he said.

“It is interesting that the third and fourth-year undergraduate students were on par with the entry postgraduate students.

“Inability to carry out accurate division and convert a decimal to a percentage, or to carry out basic whole-number problem solving, prior and post learning, was cause for concern.

“Most students found any mathematics associated with fractions, proportional reasoning and algebra challenging and in many instances this was only partly remediated over the study time.’’

Dr Norton — who has a PhD in mathematics education and a master of science, and taught maths and science for a decade at Brisbane high schools — called for more face-to-face maths instruction for all trainee teachers.

He said he believed he was the only academic who tested trainee teachers’ maths ability before and after their maths instruction.

 

Click on the link to read Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

Click on the link to read How Kids Learn Maths

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

December 2, 2014

 

What do you get when you add a proud father who happens to be a sports star and a child who can calculate difficult equations in his head? A great endorsement for mathematics!

 

Click on the link to read How Kids Learn Maths

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

 

How Kids Learn Maths

August 18, 2014

 

 

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My favourite subject to teach is maths. This is not because I have a personal affinity with the subject, but because I believe that it can be taught in an extremely engaging way. I prefer to dispense with mundane text books and mindless mental math activities and concentrate on games and outdoor maths lessons such as the one I came up with called Mission Impossible.

To me, maths is an everyday skill with real relevance. That relevance must be apparent to the students. If they can’t understand why we need addition or fractions or measurement, how on earth will they be able to apply what they have learned?

That’s why I’m against teaching times tables by heart as an end point. Sure, students may be able to recall 9 x 7 instantly, but if you ask them how many tickets were sold for a sell out concert if there were 9 rows of seat with 7 seats in each row and get a blank response, they just haven”t got it!

I appreciate studies into maths like this one, but ultimately, I think it is about finding an engaging way to show how maths is applied in everyday situations:

Stanford University researchers first peeked into the brains of 28 children as they solved a series of simple addition problems inside a brain-scanning MRI machine.

No scribbling out the answer: The 7- to 9-year-olds saw a calculation — three plus four equals seven, for example — flash on a screen and pushed a button to say if the answer was right or wrong. Scientists recorded how quickly they responded and what regions of their brain became active as they did.

In a separate session, they also tested the kids face to face, watching if they moved their lips or counted on their fingers, for comparison with the brain data.

The children were tested twice, roughly a year apart. As the kids got older, their answers relied more on memory and became faster and more accurate, and it showed in the brain. There was less activity in the prefrontal and parietal regions associated with counting and more in the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus, the researchers reported Sunday in Nature Neuroscience.

The hippocampus is sort of like a relay station where new memories come in — short-term working memory — and then can be sent elsewhere for longer-term storage and retrieval. Those hippocampal connections increased with the kids’ math performance.

“The stronger the connections, the greater each individual’s ability to retrieve facts from memory,” said Dr. Vinod Menon, a psychiatry professor at Stanford and the study’s senior author.

But that’s not the whole story.

Next, Menon’s team put 20 adolescents and 20 adults into the MRI machines and gave them the same simple addition problems. It turns out that adults don’t use their memory-crunching hippocampus in the same way. Instead of using a lot of effort, retrieving six plus four equals 10 from long-term storage was almost automatic, Menon said.

In other words, over time the brain became increasingly efficient at retrieving facts. Think of it like a bumpy, grassy field, NIH’s Mann Koepke explained. Walk over the same spot enough and a smooth, grass-free path forms, making it easier to get from start to end.

If your brain doesn’t have to work as hard on simple math, it has more working memory free to process the teacher’s brand-new lesson on more complex math.

“The study provides new evidence that this experience with math actually changes the hippocampal patterns, or the connections. They become more stable with skill development,” she said. “So learning your addition and multiplication tables and having them in rote memory helps.”

Quiz your child in different orders, she advised — nine times three and then 10 times nine — to make sure they really remember and didn’t have to think it through.

While the study focuses on math, Mann Koepke said cognitive development in general probably works the same way. After all, kids who match sounds to letters earlier learn to read faster.

Stanford’s Menon said the next step is to study what goes wrong with this system in children with math learning disabilities, so that scientists might try new strategies to help them learn.

 

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

 

 

Brilliant Teacher Alert! (Video)

December 27, 2013

Take a bow Mr. Wright! You are an inspiration!

A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

October 22, 2013

 

 

Is there anything more powerful than a proud parent? Watch how much this positive math result means to this father.

 

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Click on the link to read 10 Steps Parents Can Take if their Child is Being Bullied

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Click on the link to read 20 Reassuring Things Every Parent Should Hear

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Click on the link to read Seven Valuable Tips for Raising Your Child’s Self-Esteem

 

Meet the Armless Math Teacher

September 21, 2012

I love stories about remarkable people overcoming adversity:

A woman born with no arms is proving to children they can achieve whatever they want to – by teaching them with her feet.

Mary Gannon, who works at a Lakewood, Ohio middle school, writes on the board, types on her computer and hands out worksheets with her toes.

Ms Gannon, who teaches maths and science, grew up in a Mexican orphanage and was adopted by an Ohio family when she was seven.

She joined the school last year as a substitute teacher and now tutors 6th, 7th and 8th graders full-time, driving to work in a car with the number plate: ‘Happy Feet.’

Speaking to Fox 8, she said hopes her determination teaches the children a valuable life lesson.

‘I’m doing what I wanted to do, what I love to do,’ she said. ‘And if you set your mind to whatever you want to do and you love to do then – go for it – no one can stop you.’She said she does not like being called handicapped or even different ‘because it has a negative bias’, she said.

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

Click on the link to read School Fires Entire Staff!

Top 10 Math Apps for Children

August 21, 2012

Courtesy of teacherswithapps.com:

 

iDevBooks – Educational Math Apps, by Esa Helttula, are par excellence when it comes to educational tools! This suite of apps are a must-have for any school using mobile devices, as well as for parents who want to encourage mastery of math concepts for their children. This collection of 16 iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad educational math apps are easy to use and offer intuitive interfaces. The iDevBooks math apps are used by schools, parents, and students worldwide. They are also popular in special education.

Jungle Time, Jungle Coins & Jungle Fractions!, by Andrew Short, of Jungle Education – We still need to learn to tell time, utilize money, and understand fractions. These three essential concepts are not easy to teach and harder to learn. Lots of hands on practice is needed and Andrew Short has got the “lots of” covered. All three games offer five levels of challenge, they start with the rudimentary concept and gradually progress over several grade levels. A MUST HAVE!

Motion Math: Hungry Fish, by Motion Math, is another MUST HAVE math game! Mental math is such a key component for success in building a strong foundation in math, and building on this early on helps all other math concepts fall into place with relative ease. Our students were enthralled by this simple, yet brilliant game – and they were polishing up on their number skills with smiles on their faces! Brilliant job Motion Math!

Math Evolve, by InterAction Education and Zephyr Games, has really pushed the envelope. This app introduces a revolutionary “video-like” gaming app for practicing math facts. One of our students called it, “The Call of Duty,” of math games. Adam Coccari, teacher and creator of Math Evolve, sums it up best when he says, “Achieving success in all levels of math starts with having a solid foundation in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.” Mastering these facts takes time and lots of practice, Math Evolve has taken care of all of that in an enormously engaging format.

Operation Math, by Spinlight Studios, is sizzling with excitement! The mission is possible with this new app, which grabs kids attention immediately and keeps them engaged on their quest to do good. The goal here is to help destroy Dr. Odd and practice your basic math facts along the way. In order to open the series of locked doors, you must perform either addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or any combination of operations. You can first train in the infinite Base10 Training Room, where your performance will be tracked. When you are up for the challenge, you choose a mission.

Sums Stacker, by Carstens Studios Inc, is an amazing app. It incorporates critical thinking, problem solving, and strategic planning skills, all while you’re “playing” with math concepts, with great gaming style! Carstens’ says this about math, “It wasn’t until after my school years, that I became a lover of math. I managed to slip through all of those classes, text books, and homework assignments, without learning one of the most important math lessons of all – math is fun!” This app challenges your reasoning, your number sense, your addition and subtraction facts, and your knowledge of coin values, and oh yes, reading, if you so desire.

  iTooch MATH Grade 5, by eduPAD, is a terrific app that covers a lot of ground conept-wise and shouldn’t be limited to just fifth graders. This app combines a no-frills approach to content while still providing the user with an exciting learning experience. The mascot is adorable and keeps kids on task with lots of encouragement and there is a lesson summary available when needed. iTooch MATH now has grades three through five available.

Oh No! Fractions, by di Luna, came recently to our attention, but if a colleague hadn’t said, “It’s tough for kids to grasp fractions”, it may have slipped through the cracks. Luckily, it didn’t and we are here to sing its praises.Oh No! Fractions is as simple as it gets. This gorgeous app lets the user decide whether the given fraction is less or greater than another fraction. After the child has decided and chosen less or greater, it asks ”I’m Sure” and then “Prove It” where a visual representation of the two fractions is shown and manipulated by the child.

TallyTots, by Spinlight Studio, is a simple yet invaluable learning app to teach youngsters number concepts. The intent of the app is to teach your child number recognition, one-to-one correspondence, and how to count to 20 – all while having a delightful time. When the app starts, you are taken to a screen that has all 20 numbers. Your child chooses the number they want and the counting begins. Each number is outlined as it is counted up the number line.

KidgitZ, by TapDream Arts, is the second in a series of mental math challenges for kids of all ages. Addictive, it is! Students were so engaged that they never even heard the bell ring… and the next period was lunch and recess! Several students came looking for me and my iPad to continue playing during extra help. Their responses were all similar, with mentions of how hard it was to stop playing this AWESOME game!

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Girls and Maths

Click on the link to read Putting Your Children to Sleep With Math

Putting Your Children to Sleep With Math

August 1, 2012

 

A fun and interesting math activity to do nightly with the kids:

Bedtime Math (TM!) was created by Laura Overdeck, an astrophysics graduate and mother of three in New Jersey who turned a fun activity with her kids into a website of the same name. Overdeck told NPR’s Ashely Milne-Tyte that Bedtime Math — or maybe bedtime math — started when her oldest child was two years old. Every night, while tucking her in, Overdeck would ask her a math problem. Her daughter loved it so much, they began doing it every night. More kids came along and the challenge of creating one problem that would keep three different kids of three different ages engaged became ever greater.

Overdeck worked it out. Her friends got interested. The website was born. And now, Bedtime Math is a thing (or at least I think it is. I keep hearing about it this summer.)

In February, Overdeck launched her website, where she posts daily problems and puzzles for kids of different ages. More than 5,000 people subscribe to her daily emails. They’re pretty cute and work nicely as short bedtime stories, too.

Click on the link to read Making Maths Fun is Not Mission Impossible

Click on the link to read Maths is Taught So Poorly

Click on the link to read  The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Where Have These So-Called “Master Teachers” Been All this Time?

July 19, 2012

I am very frustrated by the lack of investment from many of our “best teachers” in helping mentor their less experienced and less confident colleagues.

In a post in May, I raised the question – Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession? I argued that these experienced teachers could be a vital resource for improving teacher quality.

It seems President Obama agrees:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed a $1 billion program to recruit high-performing math and science teachers to mentor and evaluate their peers and help students excel.

The so-called Master Teacher Corps program calls for recruiting 2,500 such educators at the outset and increasing that to 10,000 over four years, paying them $20,000 stipends on top of their base salaries. Each teacher would be required to serve at least four years.

To help launch the program, the Obama administration has pledged to release $100 million already available to school districts that have made plans to develop and retain effective teachers of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the plan would raise the prestige of the profession and increase teacher retention.

I just wish experienced teachers could offer more voluntarily without having to be bribed to help with costly incentives.

Click on the link to read my post, Do experienced teachers give enough back to the profession?

The Maths Professor who Understands the Importance of Engaging a Class

July 13, 2012

It’s fantastic to see a teacher who understands how important it is to keep the class involved and engaged:

Maths is not usually top of the list when it comes to favourite subjects at school.

But one teacher has found a novel way of getting his pupils attention.

Professor Matthew Weathers starts all his lessons with comical introduction piece – and now his endeavors are causing a stir on YouTube.

In the latest of his videos, the maths genius, who teaches at the Biola University in California, piques the curiosity of students learning about imaginary numbers with an impressive display of computer wizardry.

He creates a double of himself on a computer which appears on a white board behind his desk and then proceeds to chat to his imaginary self.

His class burst into fits of giggles as his double asks him to stop interfering in the lesson, asks him to leave the room and tells him off when he tinkers with the microphone.

The video has already amassed 17,000 YouTube hits.

Mr Weather said: ‘I like asking interesting questions or telling interesting stories but with a smaller class, it’s easier to do tricks on them.

‘I upload my videos on YouTube so my students can see them but then other people start looking at them.’


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