Every Child is a Mathematician

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

My daughter has been asking lots of questions about what her school calls ‘Fun Booklet Week’ so I showed her some Y2 'fun booklets' from previous years. Isla loves having jobs like this to do and she took herself to the living room to work through them by herself (with one eye on iCarly - of course, and a bowl of Haribo nearby - multitasking by a 7 year old at its best!) I watched her freely work through them whilst giggling at the TV and happily sucking on her sweets and several things struck me.

1. The manner at which she approached the booklet was so happy and positive and eager. What a shame that engagement and enjoyment of learning is not assessed because as a parent that means so much more to me. I want to know about my unique child’s attitude to learning in school, not how highly she scores in tests. And from a teachers perspective, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to everyone if homework tasks and schools’ support for parents focussed on building this love of learning rather than worksheet tasks which could bring back parents own anxieties as well as uncertainties about how to explain?

2. Her thinking style was fascinating, and of more interest to me than whether or not the answer was right. Sometimes she wandered around the house repeating the question until she got her answer, sometimes she drew pictures either to support her working out or just doodling as she thought, sometimes she verbalised her thoughts, sometimes she stared at the telly - half listening and half thinking. Isla is very creative and very active. It saddens me that she is in a system that requires her to sit quietly and will judge her on her performance under adult test conditions.

3. The environment meant that this really was a 'fun booklet’ to Isla. Her score wasn’t important to us, what was incredible was her pride at completing it, her confidence, her willingness to have a go at all of it, her determination to stick with it, her perseverance when she wasn’t sure. I wonder if she shows these traits in her classroom.

At the end of year 2 we will be told if she is working below, at or above age-related expectations in reading, writing and maths. I want to know more than that. Is she happy? Is she confident? What about art? Music? Drama? Science? My son, Harry, is in Reception. At a recent parents’ evening, his teacher spoke at length about how Harry is as a learner. It was wonderful to hear not just what he’s been learning but how Harry learns it - unique to him. This should not stop when children turn 5.

Let’s ensure that when talking to parents about children’s ability in maths, that we don’t just focus on content but we also emphasise character. How are they as a mathematician? Every child can learn mathematical content. It’s how they learn it which makes them unique.

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