Sunday 23 August 2015

Looking back, looking forwards

There's been loads of developments in my maths lessons over the past year. And a lot of that’s down to the #MTBoS - the Maths Twitter Blogosphere. I'm looking back, and also looking forward to a new Year 4.

I’ve been drawing a lot from the 3-Act lesson, particularly the first act, where there is a stimulus and then space for responding to it. There are the brilliant questions What Do You Notice? and What Do You Wonder? that put the ball in the children’s court. We’re moving in a direction where the children are having a bigger slice of the mathematical authority.

We’ve been estimating like crazy with Andrew Stadel’s Estimation180, going on to develop our own estimation challenges. I owe Joe Schwartz thanks for inspiration with this.

We’ve been using counting circles lots too. Here, it’s the children that share strategies at the end of these brief sessions. They are getting used to explaining their approaches, and looking for other ones.

And we’re relating arithmetic to algebra, looking for general patterns in the way number operations work. Linked with this is valuing the claims that children make, seeking discussion on these claims, and asking if we can justify them. (Thanks: Kristin Gray especially.)

I’m always looking for ‘open middle’ activities, but I’m keen to find more that are student- initiated and open-ended, following up from their own tinkering and questions.

In fact here’s a lot of things I’d like to really start using in the coming year:
  • Keeping maths journals
  • Always, Sometimes, Never
  • Creating polygons and more with Scratch
  • True or False questions
  • Expressing equations as real life situations/stories
  • Modelling real-life situations
Alongside this I’m always keen to try new lessons. For instance I came across a couple by Federico Chialvo that I really liked recently: Number Bracelets and Squarable. And Joel David Hamkin's second booklet, Graph Theory for Kids.  And Iva Sallay's Find the Factors. Then there's Envelopes by Alan Parr, which I came across just today (on nrich too). 
And I’m usually coming up with a few ideas myself. For instance, I’d like to do a lesson discovering Thales theorem (semicircle) together – creating triangles with different angles first.
Caleb Gattegno with Cuisenaire rods

I use Cuisenaire rods lots. But I want to do so more, à la Gattegno/Goutard (thanks; Caroline Ainsworth), to give lots of hands-on awareness of arithmetic, looking for generalisations. And linked with this, I want to go further with the children making and justifying claims.

The problem, the challenge is, where do we make time for all of this? Already, there's not enough time in the year! I’m hoping to recast existing lessons that are too teacher-telling-class, or just not important enough. I've made a quick list of all my lessons last year and I'm going through it, thinking about changes to make, things to drop, add in, or move. That bullet point list will get to work on my list of the lessons. Watch this space.


  1. It will be interesting for you to look back on this post at certain times in the year Simon and see if you are fulfilling this goal.
    It would be sweet if you blog about your experience during the recasting/restructuring of the task. I'm super intrigued to see what you keep and what you let go.

  2. I'm really looking forward to trying lots of things out, and I'll try and post about some of the changes, Graham.