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World Book Day and Teacher Tapp

March 11, 2019 Leave a comment

Have you downloaded the teacher tapp app yet? Ive had it a long time now and I very much enjoy it. It asks you 3 questions a day and gives you a suggestion for a blog post to read as well as a run down of the previous days answers. Usually they are pretty goid and give you food for thought. I’ve discovered nee blogs through it and revisited dome blogs and blog posts ive seen before.

On a monday, however, instead of a link to a blog you get a lovely post written by teacher tapp that analyses the data for the previous week. You see how questions are answered by subject, by phase, by geographical location and many other factors where there are interesting differences.

This week some of the questions related to World Book Day. One of the pieces of information that I found interesting was that students in poorer areas are more likely to be asked to dress up for world book day. The teacher tapp post seemed to think this was counter intuitive as the families at these schools would have less money to create outfits etc, and I can see that logic. However, I see another side.

1 in 8 children from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t own a book of their own. Many more have few books of their own. Libraries are closing in droves and school libraries appear to be being replaced by “learning centres” that put a higher emphasis on new technologies than books. This suggests that many of these children who have no books of their own have little access to books at all. I’m sure that children from disadvantaged area’s are far less likely to read for fun, due to the lack of access to books. There are many reports that reading for fun increases the chance of success and it definitely increases literacy which is key to learning pretty much any subject.

I feel that this means world book day is much more important in deprived areas than in the more affluent areas. The about us section on the world book day website states that the charity is on a mission to give every child a book of their own, lots of children in deprived area’s dont have one, buti would be willing to wager that the vast majority of chikdren in affluent area’s do. World book day gives all children a voucher they can exchange for a book, which in itself is great, but its also a great opportunity to promote reading for fun. Which is something i feel we all shoukd be promoting all the time.

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Socialist Mathematics Education

October 22, 2015 1 comment

Earlier this week I was in the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds doing some reading for my dissertation. I saw this book and couldn’t help but pick it up:

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Socialist Mathematics Education edited by Frank J Swetz.

This wasn’t particularly relevant to my dissertation focus, but being a socialist and mathematics educator I was intrigued..what makes mathematics education socialist?

I embarked on a a mission to find out, but it turns out it wasn’t actually the mathematics education itself that was socialist. It was a study into the mathematics education that was happening within “socialist” states. I use the inverted commas as it seems the authors have a blurred definition of Socialism that seems to encompass Socialism, Communism and those regimes that are set up I  their name that don’t hold true to the ideology at all.

The book was released in 1978 and the countries it looks at are: USSR, East Germany, China, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Hungary and Tanzania.

There are detailed chapters on each state and the mathematics education within it, and the final chapter looks at themes and differences. It’s a very interesting read, if you are into that sort of thing.

One commonality that occured within these states was the heavy government debate on Maths Education, to a level where they were discussing the benefits of different approaches to each topic. One example cited was a debate on whether the vector approach to geometry was the best method. The authors pick out the positive of this as increased buy in from Economists, Labour leaders and other areas as they have a say and it increases the profile and visibility of education reforms. I agree with them that this is a positive, and feel that Gove’s greatest feat, whether you love him or hate him, was bringing Education  back to the forefront of political debate.  He made it a topic discussed around breakfast tables across the country and that can only be a good thing. The flip side is that this could de-skill teachers and remove from them some of the independence that is require in their classrooms. So educational debate on this level is good, but we need to be wary of producing something over prescriptive.

Other benefits of this approach to a collaborative approach to maths education from all sectors suggested involved the curriculum itself. The schools were trying to produce people to work in the government factories and industries and as such there was a strong focus on maths and science for all. There was also good links built between the education sector and the employers.

These societys all showed a heavy focus on mathematics, believing that mathematical advancement is paramount to the advancement of society. This lead to a hollistic approach to maths education with the aim of ensuring all young people had a strong foundation in the subject. This is an ideal I believe we should all be striving towards.

Books

March 5, 2015 4 comments

It’s world book day today, and despite dressing up as Rudy Baylor from “The Rainmaker” (you know, suit, shirt, tie etc) my pupils didn’t believe I was dressed up! I have been working on a pupil facing site, and wanted to include a page on suggested further reading, so far I have:

You all have textbooks to help with your course, and revision guides. If you want any further books/websites to specifically help with your course, try the revision page.

This page is a selection of books that are about maths, but not specifically related to the course. The maths in them should be accessible to A level maths students and they will help deepen your knowledge of maths.

For those of you considering further study they may be particularly helpful in shaping the direction you go in, and may provide excellent fodder for UCAS statements and university interview discussions.

These books are available from all good bookshops, we are looking at getting some into the library, and Mr Cavadino has a few of them which I’m sure he’ll lend you if you ask nicely.

Fermat’s Last Theorem – Simon Singh

This is Mr Cavadino’s favourite book. It is based around an enigma known as Fermat’s Last Theorem. Fermat was an amateur mathematician, but a brilliant one. He did Maths for the live of it and he came up with, proved and solved many great mathematical theorems and puzzles. When he died he left a number of theorems unproven. Slowly as the years progressed mathematicians proved them all, except one. His last theorem. One he posed with a note “I have a truly marvellous proof that this margin is too narrow to contain”. In the book, Simon Singh looks at the evolution of maths, and how this amazing theorem drove so many people to make so many amazing discoveries. If you only read one maths book in your life, make it this one.

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets – Simon Singh

Have you ever watched an episode of The Simpsons, or its sister show Futurama, and noticed a maths reference? Well so did the author. It turns out it’s not just a coincidence, but that the writing team are all mathematicians! For years they’ve been sneaking mathematics into the world’s most popular cartoon. The book looks at the maths they’ve included, why they’ve included it and how it relates to the episodes it’s in. If you like maths, and the Simpsons, then this book is for you.

The Code Book – Simon Singh

Another classic from the pen of Simon Singh. This one looks at the evolution of cryptography and cryptanalysis over the millennia and includes some fascinating accounts of where codes and encryption have been used throughout history. If you feel you may be interested at pursuing this as a career, or just have a passing interest in it, then make sure you read the book!

From Here to Infinity – Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart is a Professor of Mathematics and has written many fantastic maths books. This one is a particularly good one for learners who are interested in picking Maths at university. The book tracks the evolution of mathematics and gives a great introduction to many of the mathematical topics that will be covered on the course. The maths in this one does get quite heavy, and there may be a coupe of points where you can’t follow it. This shouldn’t matter as you should all be able to follow the majority of it and if you do read it and want to discuss any of it then mention it to your teacher. The variation of topics included in the books gives a good start point to future mathematicians who are unsure which areas of maths they would like to study.

Music of the Primes – Marcus Du Sautoy

Marcus Du Sautoy is a another Professor of Mathematics and he has also written many great maths books. This one is based around unsolved problems in Maths. He says the reason he wrote it was that when Fermat’s Last Theorem was getting a lot of press the non-maths world seemed to be of the feeling that when it was solved that was it, we had “done” maths. This is obviously not the case, as maths is infinite, and he uses this book to explore some of the big unsolved problems of the subject.

I am also going to include more books by Marcus Du Sautoy, some Rob Eastaway ones and Tony Crilly’s “How big is infinity”, then add books as I read them, but I’d love feedback on it and I’d love suggestions on what other books to include.

Categories: Books, Maths Tags: ,

The Code Book – A Book Review

March 4, 2015 Leave a comment

It may not surprise you to discover that Simon Singh (@SLSingh) is one of my favourite authors. I have previously reviewed “The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets“, and “Fermat’s Last Theorem“, the latter of which is still my favourite ever book.

The Code Book” came out quite a while ago, but I’ve only just read it, and as with Simon’s other books I was hooked pretty much straight away. The narrative Simon weaves throughout the ages is amazing. Seamlessly switching between the hardcore maths of the subject and the historic events that drove the discoveries. What did Mary Queen of Scots use codes for? What about Julius Caeser? How brilliant was Alan Turing?

I was lost I’m a world of espionage, war strategies and amazement at how cryptographers (code makers) and cryptanalysists (code breakers) managed to keep in out doing each other, whether the driver was military power or purely academic.

The book covers some heavy maths, but it is broken down into terms that anyone with a high school education should be able to follow. At times I felt it was broken down a bit too much, but I realise I gave quite a strong mathematical background, and the subject of codes may appeal to people who don’t.

This book is a great read, a must read for anyone with the slightest interest in codes, which is probably a growing number in tge wake of the imitation game! I think if I’d read it as a teenager I may have ended up in cryptanalysis! There is also a version of the book aimed  at young adults.

Textbooks

November 21, 2014 13 comments

A lot has been said recently on textbooks, the benefits they have and the bad press they get. This has had me thinking a lot about them, and their use in lessons. I rarely use them, certainly not the way they were used in my own schooling, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t think they have their uses. 

Why do they have such a bad press?

I think they bad press comes from bad use of textbooks. I remember when I was at school lugging a ridiculously heavy bag around all day every day because there was a huge textbook for each lessons. I remember many lessons which began “Turn to page 6, Stephen (or whoever) can you begin reading.” then after the page was read the class would attempt the exercise. I remember a biology teacher who read the book to us, she’d fire questions off if she thought you weren’t listening. I sat next to Liam, and we’d sussed that you could answer the questions if you had the textbook on the correct page. One time the lesson was on organs, and the question was thrown at Anthony, who sat on the next table along. Liam and I often gave him answers. This time the question was “what’s the largest organ in the body”, I whispered “pipe organ”, which he then shouted out. It was hilarious.

I could go on, but I’m sure you all had your share of uninspiring textbook lessons. I’ve seen them as a professional. I witnessed an A Level lesson where the teacher sat at the front and read the textbook to the class verbatim. It struck me as rather pointless, as they all could have read it themselves. I’ve seen a KS4 teacher, when I was an Nqt, hand out textbooks with the instruction “look at the example on page ten, then attempt the questions”.

All these examples are uninspiring, and not conducive to good learning. But I think it’s unfair to lay the blame on the textbooks themselves.

How can textbooks be used then?

During lessons, there will be a point when you want the students to do some work. Practicing a skill or solving a problem. Using textbook exercises isn’t necessarily worse than a worksheet or questions on the board. In fact, it could be argued it’s better. It’s a greener and cheaper long term alternative to a ton of printed worksheets. The right textbooks have extension work built in, or offer a selection of exercises of differing difficulties. They also usually have plenty of examples, so learners can use them if they’re struggling, then can request help if they still need it.

I’ve seen a large variety of maths textbooks, I own a fair few. Here are some of them:
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My favourites of the ones I have are probably these for KS3/4:

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And these for KS5:

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Within all these books there are some great things, but none of them are what I would call ideal. Each has plenty of flaws. I find that having access to all these, and many more, textbooks allows me to use ideas, examples and exercises from them as and when required. I sometimes think I should write one, it would be great!

So you think the right textbook would be fine?

Not on their own, no. The recent Sutton Trust report showed that a teacher with strong pedagogical subject knowledge is extremely important to the learning of a class. The right textbooks could aid these teachers, not become a band aid to cover for poor teaching or teachers with shallow subject knowledge. I also wouldn’t like to see them used in isolation. There are many other activities that can aid learning. Things that are quick and easy to check pupils have correct without the need to check each bit, resources such as Mathsloops and Tarzia or activities on mini-whiteboards. All these have a place in lessons, and all would be complimentary to the perfect textbook, which would aid, not replace, good teaching. Examples would be additional to the lesson and offer help learners who are still struggling.

Further reading

Here is the BBC report into the comments by Education Minister Nick Gibb on textbooks.

Here is a nice article from the inside classroom project entitled “Why textbooks matter”.

And here is my post on the aforementioned Sutton Trust report (which can be accessed here).

Nix the Tricks – A Book Review

July 15, 2014 3 comments

A little while ago I wrote a piece around BIDMAS and the problems it can cause just teaching mnemonics without bothering to fully explain the underlying concepts. It was borne of the frustration of many conversations along the lines of

“Sir, you’ve got that wrong 9 – 3 + 2 is 4 because you do addition first.” 

“No, addition and subtraction are inverse operations, they are of the same order you we perform them left to right.”

“No, Mr so and so taught me that you always follow BIDMAS”

“AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH”

Someone responded to my post with a tweet which linked to “Nix The Tricks“, which is freely available as an ebook, and I downloaded and read it.

The book itself is great, it is a collaborative effort by many maths teachers who share my frustration with the problems that teaching this sort of “trick”, rather than deeper understanding, can cause. The book has been put together by Tina Cardone (@crstn85). Tina and her collaborators go one step further that venting about the tricks and offer some brilliant alternative methods to help teachers who haven’t thought in detail about how to teach certain topics.

Its a fantastic book and I would advise any maths teacher to download a copy, especially those new to the profession.

 

20 Questions about C4 integration – A Book Review

July 15, 2014 Leave a comment

A while a go I got a copy of this fantastic little ebook authoured by Colin Beveridge
(@icecolbeveridge). The book is great and written in Beveridge’s usual style- accessible, witty and very informative.

The book covers integration. IT is based on the current Edexcel A Level spec and covers all the integration you need to know for that specification, not just the bits that are solely in that module. There are some handy mnemonics, some really clear and concise explanations and some very funny quips.

The book would work really well as revision guide, and is something students can dip in and out of if they are having trouble with a particular aspect of integration. I think the section on which integration to use is perhaps the most handy bit of the book.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book as a companion to anyone studying integration, but it should be used as that, a companion. It is written in a way to review stuff already learned and add clarity to areas you are struggling on, rather than as a book for the original teaching of the subject.

I hope Colin is planning an update for the new syllabus, and I would also love to see print copies available.

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