Hello test scores, good bye life skills??

It was once believed that to master a skill required 10,000hours, technology has enabled this to be rapidly decrease. I’ve had students see a rubix cube for the first time on a Monday, and completing it under a minute before the weekend arrives.

It is well documented that education has take on a lot more in modern times, and a child’s life contains so much more than ever before, but it feels like nothing has been removed… Technology and Globalisation has increased access to information, connected us 24/7, faster production of work, instant feedback, more creative presentations, productions, platforms, expenses, equipment and more awareness of opportunities.

Students lives are more challenging and more busy than any previous generation. To be successful, these students are expected to master all skills that were expected of their parents generation, plus prepare for the next, while surviving the current. Through the internet, the world has changed more in the past 20 years, than the previous 50.

Students that I am teaching this year were born after the invention of the iPod. September 11 is part of their history curriculum. Having mastered basic computer skills is an expectation before they turn 10, and most out skill their parent before that age.

Not to mention schools competitive nature, to be the ones to have a more rigorous program, and best test scores, all students being to read at a younger age and do more maths than their schools competitors, just so that the school looks good, but at what expense to the child?

We used to live in a time where bills were hand calculated, phone calls required dialing numbers and research was done using encyclopaedias. And today, cash registers are more powerful that the computers that sent man to the moon, phones dial on voice command and information can be sourced with a simple search on a device that lives in almost every pocket.

My point being.. the world has changed.. let’s teach for tomorrow, not just for yesterday.

School days are longer, as before school, after school and even extra schooling activities fill the lives of almost every student.

Globally there are more tertiary graduates than ever before, but at the same time, more obesity, less social sports, more hate crimes, and less harmony. The world is constantly documented through mobile photography, and social commentary, but not lived or cared for. Expectations for parents, teachers, and children to do more, results in really doing less of what matters.

I have come across students who can write computer code, read more challenging books that many adults could, play Mozart on a violin, and solve algebraic equations, yet have difficulty conversing with their peers, have self esteem issues and lack grit or resilience. And I’m sure parents are trying to do their best, but as a teacher of mathematics, in an Asian country, I am often asked by parents, how can my child be better at maths? We have a tutor, do they need more?

In my head, I’m thinking, “your child got 99% on the last assessment, yet is sleep deprived, has no friends, is uncoordinated, overweight, miserable and lacks manners, so let them go play, have fun, make mistakes, and make friends, the skills they will learn from that, are much more valuable than perfecting the grade 6 mathematics curriculum.”

Basic skills that are required to survive on this planet are being neglected, just so that a test score is acceptable… Is that really what we want?

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Going grade less.. what does that mean?

For a while I have wondered what psychological effects grades have on students. Some thrive on it, and use it as a motivator, but how much do they really learn? Or are they just ticking boxes? While others try so hard, but just run out of time to satisfy all criteria.. and are devastated, and never try again.

Do students learn more or try harder when there is a graded component? And how does this affect them as a learner beyond school?

Inspire and Explore

Last year, my team began trialing some ideas from Stanford’s You Cubed program, lead by Jo Boaler. And decided that all of middle should all kick off this school year with the week of inspiration maths.

One of our goals this year is to unify some of the language used across the grade levels, and while we are all on the same page regarding the requirements of growth mindset, challenge by choice and conceptual understanding, this was a great way to have the students enjoy it too.

If you are a math teacher, I highly recommend that you checkout youcube, and the messages Jo Boaler has to offer.

Here to learn

For a while I have been unsure about the true reason that schools exist in the modern day, or at least operate in the way they do. I have been aware that education is years behind industry, and there are valid reasons how this happened, but less, why.

Education is slow moving, because it is repetitive, and it must meet the expectations of previous generations.

Take the current mathematics curriculum, in almost every country you will come across teachers and testing institutions that do not allow calculators (or only allow 1 specific type). This was fine, when the curriculum was first written, using the abacus and slide rule. But these days, we should utilise our technology, and progress. Education should be about accepting what previous generations did, understanding, and improving. Not just repeating, for the sake of repeating.. to quote a colleague of mine.. “onwards and upwards”.

Math is amazing and we have to start treating it that way

Check out Eugenia Cheng on why math is in need of a makeover. Do you agree?

“When did schools stop being about learning, and just focus on performing”

2016/17 Final Faculty Meeting…

Finishing the year off a lot more confident with decision making and encouraging progress. I have spent a lot of time reading articles and watching presentations (videos) to support a modernised direction for maths education. Carol Dweck is someone that I was introduced to a few years back, promoting a growth mindset in the classroom, particularly necessary when it comes to maths. But in recent years other professional consultants include Dan Meyer, taking on 3 act math, take up time, and allowing students to think, and be inquisitive. But more importantly this year has been influenced by the work of Jo Boaler from Stanford university. With the push for a mathematics revolution, using number talks, removing the focus from speed and computational skills, with a greater focus on perseverance and thinking.  Moving from traditional teaching methods to more multidimensional classrooms, where students were each engaged in their own learning at different levels. An approach that I was unknowingly playing with when I was teaching in Australia, with the use of capacity matrices, collaboration tasks, self reflection and most importantly, student orientated learning.

      

Reflecting on the year, progress is off to a good start, but there is still a long way to go. Many parents and students are still very grades driven, and focused on the speed and calculations ability, not the understanding. But we will get there…

Below is the 5 strands of mathematical proficiency that has beed driving our attitudes of how to learn mathematics. Historically there has been a large focus on procedural fluency, the practice of rote learning calculations, which is still a valid skill, but as we progress into a digital world, calculations are just not enough anymore.