Why Maths Really Matters To Us - Whiteboards showing what students think is cool in Maths

Why Maths Matters In My Classroom

Crowding each other, ’round the main whiteboard, they delight in the difficult computations they create for each other. Others create confounding puzzles that attract the interest of many. 

  • Now I finally understand being captivated by the beauty and fun of numbers.

Lying on the floor, she measures her partner in sections, from toes to knees, knees to waist, waist to neck, neck to top of head.

…Nearby they’re discussing the height of their parents, “I think he’s bout the same height as my dad.”

…Up on the main whiteboard they’re measuring Mr Stadel, comparing him to the height of a nearby fence and bush.

” I think those fences are about….Yeah and those bushes grow to about….”

“Mr Curran, I see another pattern.”

It’s a recurring comment across each week,  leading to plenty of fascinating number explorations.

  • Now I’m seeing more patterns than ever before

Eyes fixed to the screen, we watch and sing The Pi Song (as requested by many) for the upteenth time.

Returning to the classroom (after time-release), my eyes are immediately drawn to the six wall length whiteboards at the back of our room. I couldn’t be more stoked, wearing a grin from cheek to cheek. Their responses to my question,  ‘what’s cool in the maths we do?’, completely cover the boards. 

“Mr Curran, can we play Prime Climb?”

It’s a really challenging math game with enduring appeal among my students. 

The year’s 1742 and a mathematical conjecture (from that time) has got my class completely captivated. Each team tests a range of numbers to see if Goldbach’s Conjecture holds true. And yes, this task makes our ‘what’s cool in the maths we do?’ lists.

  • Now I see the importance of being more open-minded as to what will interest my students – mathematically. Also what we can soar towards if we build an open-minded, diverse learning community – mathematically.

It’s the self-published book collection that continues to grow across the year. Cheekily dubbed our ‘Brag Books’, they’re evidence of the deep thinking we’re most proud of in Maths and English. When we have classroom visitors, they’re the books we instantly reach for.

It’s Daily 10 time, 10 questions on a range of maths topics. I’ve sorted all the questions now so that we only solve two question types a day. That way we can dig deeper, focus on strategy and then apply such. I also encourage students to show how they arrived at their answer.

Anyway, one day we’re working away at a question and a student says the answer is “cow.” After the bursts of laughter die down, I ask if anyone can connect cows to the question we’re solving. This opens the class right up and a myriad of amusing connections are forthcoming. I then ask students to devise mathematic questions that relate to cows. No worries, they’re in (big time)!

This Cow Mania leads to a fierce competition to design a Daily 10 Cow and we include one to two of the students’ Daily 10 Cow questions each day. No surprise to learn which questions they’re most eager to solve. We’ve also sorted,  classified and labelled our questions ensuring we develop a wide array of question types that encourage deep thinking and strategising. 

  • Now I definitely see the value in responding in the moment and seeking to build connections when none may seem apparent. Plus always running with that which engenders laughter and fun especially if that focus on mathematic connections remains central. 

This is why…

This is why I love teaching Maths in ways that challenge and provoke with low floor, high ceiling rich tasks. 

This is why talking in Maths matters to me. 

This is why strategising is such a crucial aspect of our maths classroom, and why #MathStratChat (lead by Pam W Harris) and The Development of Mathematical Reasoning by Pam W Harris are MUST CHECK OUTS for me.

This is why developing a culture of thinking where unpacking and explaining our thinking, along with digging deep with mistakes, matters to me. 

This is why I’m so grateful for my Maths specialist friend Margarita Breed who listened to the challenges my class and I were facing in Maths – and made one suggestion from which I haven’t looked back – do the How to Learn Maths for Teachers Stanford University course. My interest and growth in mathematics continues to grow with our ongoing chats.

AND this is why I stand for a more rigorous, deep thinking, investigative maths teaching and learning program – and am able to show the impact of this type of program in my classroom. 

Maths Matters – Here’s What’s Fuelling Me

The shifts I’ve made in my teaching of maths are a result of my ongoing engagement with the following people, websites, and podcasts. 

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Listen to my Education Podcast

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Pushing The Edge with Greg Curran

I chat to teachers, principals, and community leaders who challenge the business as usual in teaching and learning. 

Not content with traditional approaches to diversity and inclusion they’re re-making their environments, supporting and uplifting the voices and worlds of those students and communities who’ve been sidelined for far too long.

Here’s some of my guests from Season 5 – Standing Up for Our Students in Challenging Times.

Images of all guests in Season 5 of Pushing The Edge podcast - Standing up for our students in challenging times