We brought together maths education experts from around the world for a series of online expert panels and webinars to consider how we can equip maths learners for the future – whatever that future looks like. This series of blog posts aims to highlight the key takeaways to help you empower today’s learners to embark on a lifelong adventure with maths through resilience, connection, curiosity, and creativity.
In this blog we summarise the closing panel where we invited three classroom teachers to share their perspectives as practitioners, reflecting on their experiences during the pandemic and what this means for the future of primary maths teaching and learning.
Meet our teacher panel
Maths Subject Lead and Year 2 Class Teacher (UK)
“We need to alter the sometimes fixed mindset that surrounds maths and start thinking about it as something where we have strengths and areas for development, with a growth mindset.”
Primary Maths Lead for GEMS, Wellington International School (Dubai)
“Teachers need more time to develop their conceptual understanding and thinking, so that they can adopt a mastery approach.”
Primary Maths Subject Lead and Year 6 Leader of the Cognita Schools Maths Network (Spain)
“I want maths to be seen as a collective collaborative subject of wonder, discovery and exploration, rather than a subject of fear and worry – for teachers, and parents too.”
What were our teacher panels’ silver linings from 2020 in terms of maths learning?
Life skills brought to the fore
Life skills like resilience, adaptability, empathy and organisation became real for the children. They had to develop independence and be proactive, making their own choices and self-differentiating. They took responsibility for their learning and can take this forward into the future.
Acknowledging gaps in understanding
Every child’s experience was different and this may have had a negative impact on their maths confidence. Now it’s time to restore this confidence by prioritising the fundamentals of the maths curriculum so that they are prepared and secure moving forward.
Maths is all around
Environmental manipulatives were used creatively and showed learners that maths is not just what happens in the classroom. This is something to keep up back at school to help children understand why they are learning something and to apply their learning to the world around them.
The availability of digital platforms and resources to children and their parents increased exponentially, and they can continue to be used for consolidation at home, to enhance teaching and learning in school, to boost hard to reach children’s engagement, and to reduce staff workload.
Learning at their own pace
Children were able to learn at their own pace – pausing to go back and watch recorded lessons again. This allowed many of them to identify their own areas for development, take time to review and become more confident. Back in the classroom, they are not afraid to ask for more time, or to ask for the teacher to go back and explain.
Lots of children took great pleasure in explaining to their parents and carers what they already knew, using mathematical language, modelling the learning, and they now have more confidence to do this back in the classroom with their peers.
Embracing new learning environments
With time spent out of the classroom, learning and exploring maths has become less bound to the school environment. Our teacher panel reflected on how schools might build on this to positive effect.
Continuing parental engagement
Sharing concrete methods and modelling with parents needs to continue into the future. In general, parents and carers want to be involved and confident, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to support them. This helps to reduce misconceptions and anxiety for both parents and children, and ensures consistency between home and school. Things like ‘talk homework’, where the teacher supplies open question prompts for children to work with their parents at home, are a great way to keep them involved and talking about maths together.
Focus on maths talk
Children need opportunities to converse and collaborate, responding to open questions, so that they are more aware of the thinking behind an answer and have the chance to imitate the teacher’s language and that of other students.
Advances in tech
Children love tech; it inspires them. Schools need to keep up with its continual updates, and bring along staff who were previously reluctant and engaged with it for the first time during school closures. Features like breakout rooms can be used to encourage children to interact, to lead groups and model concepts.
Inquiry-based learning promotes lifelong skills – debate, problem-solving, critical thinking. Shifting mindset towards not simply transferring knowledge, but rather facilitating deeper understanding, posing questions that engage and foster maths discussion, and assessing in real time in order to address misconceptions, engages children. By fostering a growth mindset, allowing children to work through problems with their friends, any stigma attached to maths is removed.
What skills do our teacher panel think will be most important for teachers in the future?
- Listening – Teach less and learn more. Become competent at questioning so that you allow your students to do the talking.
- Fluidity – Take a step back and be flexible when planning and delivering lessons. A mathematical discussion that takes you down a different route to the one you had planned leads to incidental learning and making connections.
- Behave like a mathematician – Help children learn what being a mathematician is so that they become independent thinkers. Model this for them, and give them time to investigate and to have conversations.
- Peer observation – Be there for each other and harness a sense of collaboration to overcome any insecurities you might have as maths teachers. Peer observation, coaching and empathy create a positive atmosphere for staff that carries over to children.
You can watch the full webinar ‘The future of primary maths (closing panel)’ here. (Note: you will be taken to a sign-up page and asked to enter your details in order to access the recording).
We hoped you enjoyed this series of blog posts based around our #mathsadventure webinars to see the complete collection click here.
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