Becoming more adventurous in the mathematics classroom

I have met a wide variety of mathematics teachers throughout my teaching career, all with their own distinct style. Some stick in the memory, for different reasons, whilst others influenced the way I teach.

One teacher, let’s call him Graham, was supremely organised. Lessons were planned to the minute, resources laid out on the desk, seating plan taped to the teacher’s desk. Students knew the routine, sat in the correct place, listened attentively and completed the work in an orderly fashion.

Alice’s classroom, however, always looked like an explosion had just happened, whether it was the beginning of the lesson, during the lesson or at the end of a lesson. Students seemed to be sitting anywhere, resources scattered on the desks, and the floor, and the whole atmosphere was very lively: students appeared to be enjoying themselves as Alice careered around the classroom like a whirling dervish.

Who was the best teacher? Both had their qualities, their strengths and their faults. I think Alice wanted to be a little more like Graham than she was, whilst Graham may have liked his lessons to be a little more like Alice’s.

The best teacher I ever worked with would wander into your classroom and just watch. He would ask the students a few questions to clarify what they were doing and then disappear. A few minutes later he would reappear with a couple of pages of hand written notes and say:

“Have a look at this, you might like to try it”.

On the page would be a number of fantastic ideas, activities and suggestions. I never knew how he dreamt up the ideas, or whether he had a secret gold mine of great ideas, but his suggestions were always engaging for the students whilst really getting to the crux of what was being taught. Observing his lessons was magical, approaching topics from angles you never knew existed. I learnt so much from working with him.

Like Alice and Graham, after a few years of teaching, most teachers feel more confident, have got their routines established and discipline is not a problem. If that sounds like you, then perhaps now is just the right time to take stock of your teaching style and start to become a little more adventurous.

Moving on with mathematics teaching: becoming more adventurous in the classroom is a CPD activity run at the National STEM Learning Centre, aimed at those teachers who are ready to explore new challenges and to take their teaching in new directions. The CPD provides a stimulus for further professional development through considering recent research in mathematics education and exploring case studies of innovative practice. Participants will then put their ideas into practice in some form of action research, reflecting and sharing through an online community, before meeting again to review progress and celebrate the success of their projects.

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