Maths Fear and Anxiety

Teachers and parents need to be aware of their role in the creation of maths anxiety. At times, I have seen students suffer massive debilitation because of it. One young lad, who had strong academic credentials and was expected to do well, go to a good university and have a strong academic future became so anxious that he required me to meet him outside the examination room before the exams, to talk him down to stay calm and to walk him in to the exam room. He then wanted me to be there to meet him when he came out, after the exam was over.

If we care about students fulfilling their potential, we have to acknowledge the existence of maths anxiety and do all in our power to help children to address it and to empower themselves with the tools and the confidence to be in control of their feelings about the subject.

Amazon Dives in to Maths Education

It's intriguing to see one of the giants of online business diving in to the online Maths market

The Seattle Times - Amazon Launches Math Education Movement

The article suggests a particular aim to overcome fear of Maths which can pose such a very real challenge for some children. Interestingly, they have latched on to the concept of the Growth Mindset of Professor Carol Dweck at Stanford University.

They are promising resources to support teachers, so this is going to be a very interesting initiative to follow.

Could You Pass PISA?

The PISA tests are conducted on a regular basis across schools throughout OECD countries as a means of benchmarking the education systems of those countries (particularly State systems). It is, for example, the result of these tests that caused so much focus in recent years on the education system of Finland as many looked to see what they might learn for their own countries from the way the Finns approach education. When Chinese students first took the tests they performed extremely well, though there have been acknowledgements that the students all too often lack other skills having been drilled in a very rote-based education system. For an understanding of India’s position – see below!

This article is very interesting. Firstly, it offers access to the full “The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2012 Education at a Glance Report”. This carries a wealth of information about everything from the comparative levels of social mobility the education system creates in different countries (how possible is it to achieve academic levels significantly above one’s parents) as a representation of fairness to the relative levels of teacher salaries, training and other facilities in different countries (regrettably data not available for India).

This page also provides an interesting ‘hands on’ experience of doing PISA test questions so that you can pit yourself against the challenges it presents to class 10 students. I’m feeling kind, so won’t ask anyone to reveal their scores here (unless, of course, you can genuinely claim full marks!)

Huffington Post Article – Test Yourself Against PISA

So, what’s the Indian scenario? I’m afraid a very sad state of affairs that makes very clear the long road ahead. India agreed to take part in the 2009 test (taken a year later in 2010 for some technical reasons alongside some other ‘first timer’ countries. Two States were chosen, being those perceived to be amongst the most advanced in State education and development; Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Some complained that instead some top private schools should have been entered. However, that would have been out of line with the OECD objectives of comparing the education available to all in the country. When the results, came, they had performed second from bottom, better than only Kyrigistan. What happened next is contained in this Times of india report:

Times of India – PISA

What can we say – there’s a long and hard road ahead, but we must start somewhere.

The Value of Prediction in Learning

Here’s an interesting article that confirms something I’ve long suspected – students encouraged to use predictive skills achieve better levels of learning, particularly in Maths.

This suggests to me that around class 4/ 5 we need to build in key practice sessions which are about students predicting ahead of carrying out computations, akin to the way we teach students in science how to arrive at a hypothesis and to then test against it:

Mindshift Article – Prediction

Maths – Challenges for Parents

There is no doubt that when it comes to helping and supporting children with their school work at home, the subject that arouses most parental passion/ concerns or even downright fear is Maths.

Here’s a very interesting article that sets out to explain what’s gone on in the Maths teaching field that has contributed to the fears for parents – the fact is the methods have morphed since the time when parents were in school, so parents and children can find themselves talking at cross purposes and getting very confused.

BBC Magazine Article on Maths teaching methods
(click on link above to open article)

Homework & Class – Reversed !!

When i read this blog post from an American Maths teacher I was blown away with a massive WOW! factor.

His starting point is simplicity itself, but the implications and ideas that can spin off from it are, I believe, enormous.

Please read Karl Fisch’s blogpost in full:

KF Blogpost

Imagine the implications – class time in school used totally for exploring concepts an issues together, seeking to find the underlying principles. Then the ‘lecture’ part delivered as a video (which, ofcourse, the student can watch as many times as they want/ need to).

The more I watch this, the more the potential uses I can see. The other reason you have to like it is that it’s so much less harrowing for children than the old-fashioned approach to sending ‘problems’ home for Maths particularly. We all have memories lurking in the back of our minds of the torture that we underwent when we discovered that the homework was beyond our current level of comprehension and understand. Caught between obligation, expectation and a feeling of overwhelm caused by ‘impossibility.’ This could transform all of that.

Head Scratching in USA

The woes of the American school education system continue to get debated and worried over. The PISA results in OECD countries provide lots of interesting clues about what is (and what isn’t) working in school education worldwide. They test primarily Maths and problem solving skills of 15 year olds.

One thing they prove, especially in the case of Finland is that starting last in the ‘race’ can still win. Finnish children start pre-school at the age of 6, school at 7. Before that, no pressure about who is reading, who isn’t, who’s making academic progress (whatever that means) and who isn’t.

To me, the other thing that marks out the top performing countries is great pre and in-service training and professional development for educators, clarity of national learning objectives coupled with lots of localised autonomy about how to achieve those objectives.

It would be fascinating to be able to gauge where India sits currently compared with the OECD countries on PISA. My guess is we would have all extremes – a handful of schools where students would achieve at levels comparable to the best in the world, but the majority producing weak and disappointing outcomes.

We owe it to all children to work tirelessly on these issues., quality education.

New York Times Article