I am a big fan of Einstein. Not just because he was an outstanding mathematician, but because he showed a profound understanding of teaching and learning and many of his findings resonate deeply with me and have helped direct my journey as a Maths teacher.
He said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”. I find myself quoting this almost on a daily basis – mistakes are good, we can and should learn from them. In essence, this is resilience and a vital element for any good learner. Resilience involves staying positive in the face of failure, the ability to try again and persevere - all vital characteristics when faced with problem solving, not just in Maths but in life. So my question as a Maths leader has always been, are we exposing children to enough challenge in school so they can develop this vital life skill? Achieving this in the classroom has long been my aim as a teacher and as a head of a department, to share this ambition with other teachers.
You may have noticed a slight change in the way we are teaching Maths this year at Craigclowan. That is because we as a school are moving towards the idea of teaching for ‘Mastery.’ Teaching for Mastery has been inspired by teaching approaches developed in Singapore and Shanghai and much research has been undertaken which indicates the positive impact this approach has on all learners, from the most able to those that find Maths a little tricky.
Teaching for Mastery involves, amongst other things, being fluent in a mathematical principle so that is can be applied to solve problems, being able to reason mathematically, to develop conceptual variation and, above all, to develop a deeper understanding by encouraging mathematical discussion and using the correct mathematical language. To quote the man himself, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” [Einstein].
In order for the teachers at Craigclowan to implement Mastery teaching, it requires a shift in how children perceive themselves as mathematicians and encourages children to foster a positive relationship with maths from the very beginning. The move towards mixed ability grouping, not only allows for greater peer collaboration and exposure to mathematical vocabulary and discussion, but most importantly in my opinion, is that it promotes a growth mindset. This cements in children the belief that ability is not fixed and finite; everyone can succeed and achieve if they work hard, are determined and persevere – vital ingredients for any successful learner!
Head of Maths