I hated high school maths. The maths curriculum was presented as a finished piece. The teachers were the keepers of the answers. We worked through content on a linear path and the more right answers you got, the further on you progressed. I found it hard because I couldn't make sense of it. Endless facts that I didn't understand but was told to accept. Sixteen year old me had no intention of ever studying maths again!
Contrast this with memories of my favourite teacher - to use Sir John Jones' words, 'a magic-weaver.' Mr Nolan, a maths specialist in middle school, would sing 'welcome to the house of fun' as we entered his classroom. We were given 'smile' lessons with puzzles and investigations to work through at our own pace. I cringed after one parents' evening when my dad told Mr Nolan, "She runs home from school to do the numbers game on Countdown because she loves maths so much!" I was 13. Within 3 years that confidence, willing and passion for maths learning had apparently disappeared.
Ten years after the demoralising GCSE experience, age 26, I was teaching a labelled 'less-able' group of streamed Year 5 pupils. What struck me most was their lack of confidence and their struggle with retaining content from previous stages. I understood the children's frustrations because I had been there too. Presenting learners with prescribed content that they are expected to grasp because a national standard dictates that all children in that year group must be taught this now has never felt just to me. I want my maths curriculum to go with the child, not be something the child is striving to reach; a curriculum that supports them at the stage they are at with the questions and big ideas they want answered. I may be an idealist but I want the unique child, their development and how they learn to be the heartbeat of a curriculum.
Why am I sharing this now? In the last few weeks my meetings have been largely focused on September and this notion of a 'recovery curriculum' (for the record - I hate that phrase). Thinking of my own children, my learning experiences and the pupils I have taught - we must prioritize confidence, engagement and a positive attitude to maths. To achieve this from a teacher's perspective, I would want to be entrusted with the freedom of creativity so maths is enjoyable to teach and allows me to reconnect with my learners. As a parent, I want the reassurance of knowing my children have opportunities to reignite the learning behaviours expected in a class of 30 - not through testing or a heavy focus on core curriculum 'catch-up' but through creative exploration and social experiences of mathematical learning.
The children's well-being will be at the forefront of teachers' minds for September. Let's apply that to maths too - the emotional connection with learning needs to be nurtured.
Fun, engaging, positive, creative, confidence-building,...