`Today I will just observe’

Today was a pretty important day in my approach as a teacher of lower sixth mathematics. It was the first time where I can genuinely say I planned for and observed for learning.

I have blogged previously about our approach at Wellington to Sixth Form Maths – following the Harkness philosophy where students come in with questions done and we talk about their solutions in class.

Usually these lessons involve me chairing a discussion and letting student A talk through his/her solution before the odd pupil chimes in. I then proceed to ask some question to try and touch on the conceptual ideas. “Why is it important to write the equation in this way?” “What does this mean we can now do?” “Why do we care how many roots this quadratic has?” etc.

This morning, however, I decided to remove myself from the lesson and watch. I told the class this was my intention and I would only intervene when they had confirmed they were happy with the discussion that took place and I had spotted some mistake.

What then followed was some brilliant student leadership – a couple instantly took it upon themselves to dictate pace and timings of the lesson. They decided to focus on 4 questions and the atmosphere was far less judgmental than it feels when I am involved. The students seemed far happier to interject and offer slight changes to solutions than when I am leading the discussion. I think this was probably because they are waiting for me to jump in sometimes.

I only had to step in on two occasions. One was to be slightly more rigorous with a proof and the other when a conversation was going round and round in circles. The second in particular was a valuable learning point for all about how to bring yourself back to basics when finding a problem with a mathematical question.

The problems with this lesson were that the conversations were very procedural. “I did this and then I did this” “But how have you got from that line to that line?” “Yes I got that answer too” “Did you do that on the calculator?” “Is my answer the same?” and so my challenge for them was that next time I want to listen to some conceptual conversation.

This is something I will almost certainly try with all my classes in the near future. I felt like an empowerment happened and the students surprised me in the quality of the discussion. I have since learnt that “this won’t work in maths – the teacher is too important” was an egotistical feeling more than a fact.




`Today I will just observe’


Edfest Thursday, Edfest Friday morning and then a train up to Leeds for my third straight day of CPD can only mean one thing…it must be time for a maths conference! My third of the year (and ever incidentally) and I still have the same emotions leaving this one as I did after leaving Sheffield in September last year. Getting to Leeds from Crowthorne isn’t the easiest journey but 5 hours after departing, we landed in the hotel, had some food and prepared for the day ahead.

The day itself began with the usual coffee and chats with a couple of stands and I was particularly impressed with the number and quality of the stands present at this conference. A very good representation from all exam boards and some new exhibits that I hadn’t seen before – I am particularly intrigued by how Brix can benefit our students. We arrived quite late so there wasn’t much time before Mark McCourt opened up.

As a semi-experienced #MathsConf goer, I knew the routine of Mark introducing the keynote and then speed dating before starting the first session but this was slightly different in that the keynote speaker, Professor Mike Askew (@mikeaskew26), really captured my attention. I would listen to him speak all day.

Research into problem solving techniques

I will be as brief as possible but in short, Mike was discussing the current research into how students solve problems, what does and doesn’t work, ways in which we can incorporate this into our teaching and the journey between abstract and concrete and back again.

Some superb things came out of this talk. He emphasised the idea of testing students on topics they have learnt previously (not necessarily the ones being studied right now) before discussing, with evidence, the ideas behind ‘sleeping on’ a thought and remembering it better. His final introductory point looked at the impact of asking ‘deep explanatory questions’ and their impact on student learning. This was profound and if I take anything away from today, it will be that “we are a problem solving species”. It is in our nature!

Mike had us thinking about the questions we ask and the tasks that we set against an “indirect” criteria: is it improving fluency; is it improving problem solving or is it improving mathematical reasoning? What a brilliant checklist for every question you ask of a student. If you can answer yes to one of those, I believe it is worthwhile. If not, why are you asking it?

Shortly after, we look at Kahnemann and his ideas behind quick and slow thinking. There is research proving we are a little sad when we don’t get something quickly, is this why students push back? How can we fight this in the classroom? Teachers must think about the culture in their classroom and how they can aid their students in coping with this sadness that comes.

Mike finished talking about the ABC’s of problems (Burkhardt) and highlighted a key point. “The real skill of an educator is when it comes to facilitating the discussion of solutions”. I cannot agree more with a statement and his idea of private vs. public talk is one that anyone should talk to him about if you get a chance. Mike offered some really simple advice to further understanding when students are speaking in a public domain – repeat, rephrase, revoice, agree. In that order.

A great way to start the conference before a little speed dating!


Speed Dating and Mark McCourt


The speed dating is one of the highlights of the conference, always, and it did not disappoint this year. I picked up a couple of valuable teaching ideas and hopefully shared our Harkness resource with others to see how we are going about teaching A Level maths at Wellington. The excitement is palpable between all when this happens.


Mark (@emathsuk) then spoke himself. This was the first time I have heard Mark speak but after the reviews of his researchEd chat, I was not missing this. He always talks so passionately when hosting and the same love was evident this morning. He discussed the amount of hours teachers spend not teaching and ineffective ‘working’ hours. I could almost copy and paste his transcript but the major messages that hit home were that “every lesson has been taught before” and “if something isn’t working, stop it!”. This actually resonated a lot with me after listening to Clive Woodward say that we must put enjoyment at the top of our priorities and Mark is trying to encourage the same message.

We listened to Mark talk about the Singapore approach of teaching less and discussing teaching more. This strikes me as an ideal we will not quite reach in England but it does leave me thinking, how often do I sit and talk about teaching? What worked and what didn’t? Was it effective? How could it have been more effective? Mark showed us how Complete Mathematics is trying to help address the balance and regain some of that enjoyment which was exciting and showed that maths teaching does not need to be reinvented every year.

The overriding question Mark has burnt into my brain is “Am I being impactful?” This can be transferred to a whole spectrum of teaching. Marking. Resource design. Questioning. Testing. Is what I am planning going to impact the students’ learning? If not, why am I doing it?


16 Things about the new A-Levels

Straight after Mark, we went off to listen to Andrew Taylor (@aqamaths), Gary Wing from Hills Road VIth Form and Christine Andrews from AQA talk about the new A Level. This was fascinating and I always find it interesting to get inside the exam board’s head. We were given answers to the most common questions asked of AQA and were  advised on topics such as large data sets, calculators and which papers to enter. All in all, a very helpful and important session to attend.

All 3 spoke excitedly about the new reforms and showed the positive side to the new specifications and how they will benefit students. I enjoyed listening to this side and I can certainly see the benefit myself now. Well done, all.


We then scooted off for lunch and enjoyed a more relaxed hour or so before the last two sessions with Danny Brown and Craig Barton.


Be aware of being aware

Danny Brown (@dannytybrown) really impressed me. I have followed him on twitter for a while now but listening to him speak showed me that this is an educator who cares. His students can count themselves very lucky.

This was one of the few workshops I have been at where not one person is tweeting about it or taking notes/photos. The whole message was about being present and recognising whether or not you are present when listening/talking/reading aloud. Danny is obviously well informed and he was a pleasure to listen to and discuss mathematics teaching with – I would certainly like to do so again some day. I took a lot from his session and I certainly want to implement a values-based teaching philosophy of my own moving forwards. What do I care about? How does that affect my decision making as a teacher?

Incidentally here, a discussion came about into how 1-2 year olds count and whether or not they know they are counting. Why do kids say “one, seven, two, six, three” before they know that these are numbers and why do they eventually work out the order in which these go? Truly fascinating and I look forward to reading more!


Guess the misconception

Craig Barton(@mrbartonmaths) closed the day for me with a fabulously engaging talk about students’ misconceptions. Craig’s website is fantastic and offers students a chance to give an explanation for why they selected the answer they chose. This offers tremendous insight to us as teachers and should be something that is seen more in classrooms across the country. Very rarely are students just plucking a number out; they have some sort of thought process. It is our job to find this out and act on it.

Craig showed us some data analysis from around the world – the Americans can’t do lower or upper bounds – and then looked at our own children’s issues. We were shown 5 questions that students struggle with (in the easier parts of the syllabus) and discussed why we thought these students had misconceptions.

This was a great, light hearted way to finish the day and it left me thinking about how often we delve into wrong answers and how often do I really probe and discuss why a student made a mistake. I should be asking more about what it is that made a student give a particular answer.


Overall, this was a superbly impactful day and, as always, left me excited about being part of the greatest profession in the world. This is a profession, we all care and we can all help each other. I will keep going to these events as long as time and means allow and I will always recommend them to others. Everything went smoothly and La Salle should be complimented on their part in this as I am sure it is not easy to organise something on such a scale while keeping the quality that high.

Well done all on a great day. See you all at #MathsConf8







Let’s have an argument!

Through recent re-watching of “The History Boys” and “Dead Poet’s Society”, I came to realise that I am far too conservative in my approach to lesson planning and, more importantly, resource writing. The two films, for those that haven’t seen them, centre on eccentric History and English teachers who employ a teaching methodology inspired by argument and free thinking.

I wonder how often we, as maths educators, write a resource or ask a question with the answer we want in mind vs. not having anything but the beauty of the subject in mind. What happens in both of these films is that the teacher conveys a complete love of the subject – their faces light up when a pupil starts arguing about Hardy’s use of adjective, for example. I wonder whether that happens enough in our mathematics classrooms. Do the educators truly convey a passion for the subject? Do all your pupils really know that you love maths? This shouldn’t just come up when you talk about irrational numbers or proofs or the real top end of your interest but it should come up when talking about similar shapes and scatter graphs and everything else.

It is with this in mind that I have gone about writing my latest set of resources for next year’s Year 9. With Year 11 and two upper sixth form sets gone, I have some time this Summer term to really knuckle down and concentrate on creating a quality resource. I have taken our Scheme of Work and gone through the relevant things I have to cover before half term. This gives about 10 different areas to go through. The general pattern I am following is to have all the topics combined on each sheet and teach them all incrementally. To carry out this process, we write 10 different problem streams and then combine the questions as we see fit ensuring that things are not introduced too quickly nor too early.

What does all that have to do with arguing and promoting passion? Well, when putting together the sheets, I have tried to include at least one question where all the students in the class will have an opinion. This is not an easy goal and has truly had me thinking about the “low threshold, high ceiling” idea that Craig Barton (his rich maths tasks do this fantastically) first instilled in me. The brilliant thing about this will be that when the students are having their discussions from these questions, I can embrace it and I will be a part of it. I will just be another part of the discussion, hopefully a truly passionate part. With the questions included (for example, should we include 0 as a counting number?), I don’t know any more than a 14 year old, we can have a live discussion.

I also hope to achieve the dream goal of getting away from “is this right?” or “will this be in an exam?” by asking questions on each worksheet which are so obviously not examinable that the students can just try. Robin Williams in “Dead Poet’s Society” has a wonderful phrase whenever a students answers of “Thanks for playing!” and rings an imaginary bell. It doesn’t matter what the answer was, the positive feedback is for answering the question. This is the sort of thing that I hope will push the students to truly love the subject and it is nothing to do with the methods they learn or the numbers they meet. It is do with the subject itself and the history of maths and all the things that are constantly changing. For example, how would Deep Blue the Computer write “100” in comparison to Tutankhamun…which is more intuitive? Which is easier to understand? What problems are there with these number systems?

I encourage all to argue more and let your students discuss stuff. It might be complete rubbish but there will be one statement from one student that may just remind you why you love the subject so much. Here’s hoping!








Let’s have an argument!

Mr. McDonald the English teacher?

‘A music teacher, an English teacher and a maths teacher walk into a staffroom.’ No this isn’t some corny joke – we did and we sat down and planned an English lesson. The lesson was going to be delivered by the maths teacher – me! We are seeking to understand the effectiveness of coaching within a classroom environment and what happens to pupils’ learning if led by a non-specialist. Later on in the term, Sarah Donarski, the English teacher aforementioned, will teach Music and Sean Farrell will lead a cricket session. The three of us outside of our comfort zone and relying on the expertise of the children to drive the lesson in the right direction.

I walked into the English classroom this morning very excited by the prospect but also incredibly nervous. The aim of the lesson was to discuss “how to write a perfect 40-mark response to the 2-part English literature question” in particular to do with Macbeth. After some planning as a triple, the other two teachers sat back and observed how well the coaching methodology was working in progressing the students’ learning.

First up, we broke into groups and the students analysed someone else’s response to a similar question. This was the first chance I had to walk around and talk to the students, who by now realised this wasn’t a joke and a maths guy was trying to teach English. It was remarkable to have a handful of conversations with students and never correct them once. I hope the students felt empowered by the process and it will be interesting to hear their feedback. I offered nearly no advice and I learnt a lot myself about how the students think and what they get from such exercises.

After this activity, we came back together as a whole group (my basic premise was to break into small groups and come back as a whole cohort – akin to my sports coaching) to discuss the essays. Together, we came up with a criteria for a perfect essay before we would go away and have a go at planning. This whole group discussion took 10 minutes and my goal was to always try and bottom-line exactly what students were saying. I was not going to write anything up until I had been told explicitly what they meant by “write good sentences” or “use clever words”. This was an important exercise from a teaching point of view and I think it will affect how I go about teaching my own subject. Far too often, we do the bottom-lining ourselves, I feel. It is a very important part of a conversation and a coachee must be able to succinctly say what they have learnt or what they will do from now on.

This was used to then go and have a go at writing/planning a response before coming back as a group and having a similar conversation. While they were doing this activity, I walked around and asked more questions and had more conversations with students. As an aside, it was fantastic to talk to children about Shakespeare and what they think of the play. Well done, Miss Donarski on instilling a genuine enthusiasm towards the story and Shakespeare’s writing!

The highlight, from my point of view, of what coaching can offer happened when a student said “I don’t anything about the play”. This is the absolute nightmare for a teacher who actually doesn’t know anything about the play! What can I offer? I can’t lead him to think about the question asked because I have no idea, myself. The solution was to just talk about the story (which I know a little) and the student proceeded, with help from his pals, to tell me the abridged version of the story. From this, he convinced himself he did know a little more than he thought and he now had an idea of where to start his work…absolutely the end goal we were looking for. The student found a roadblock and just from talking to someone, found a solution and “taught himself”.

Coaching is something I have spoken about in the past and I cannot thank Graydin and Iain Henderson enough for the training we have received here at Wellington College. This whole experience showed what a powerful tool it can be and for the first time, I really saw how it can be implemented in the classroom. I hope the pupils enjoyed themselves and I hope the English teachers observing me don’t think I desecrated the subject or Shakespeare too much! I had a lot of fun throughout and I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of this term pans out!


Mr. McDonald the English teacher?

Maths Conf 6

Yesterday saw my pursuit of getting better travel through the East of England and into Peterborough for the first time in my life. It was my second Maths Conference and I am still of the same belief that it should be a constant in every maths teacher’s calendar. The best CPD never feels like you have to be there and it feels like every conversation you have will improve your teaching. The two maths conferences I have attended have certainly felt like that. I met some of the guys I idolise on twitter and spoke to many more both about my own practice and what we do at our school and listening to their new ideas and how they approach mathematics teaching.

I headed up on Friday night and wanted to head out for a drink beforehand but timings didn’t allow – I resolve to make these drinks at one of the events!! After a hotel dinner for one and a good night’s sleep – kudos to The Bull Hotel – we were off to Kingsgate Conference Centre for #MathsConf6.

Almost as soon as you walk through the door at these events, you are astounded at the quality and quantity of things that people are producing to help mathematics education. We had stalls ranging from the awarding bodies, resource producers right through to one-to-one tutoring and feedback specialists. These are almost worth the entrance fee alone – the people who work on the stalls are as passionate about education as the teachers who are there as punters and this comes across fantastically when talking to the staff working here. I was particularly impressed with what Complete Mathematics could offer any school and the “All About Maths” opportunities through AQA. I will spend some time looking into these two things this week. Both will give the chance for teachers to spend their time loving the subject and engaging wholly with it as they take away the time-consuming aspects of lesson planning.

After a few too many cups of coffee, the day begun:

Mark McCourt and Andrew Taylor (AQA)

Mark opened up with a great 30 minute introduction. It was both funny and welcoming and although I’d been to one before, I was instantly excited about the day ahead and what I might learn. The take home message for me was a very simply one: we should expect every single child to be able to master maths. Very succintly, Mark put it this way:

“From counting to calculus, there are 320 topics to learn. Children have 1200 hours of mathematics learning. Why can’t every child achieve this?”

We then had a live demo of what Complete Mathematics can do for us and I think a lot of teachers (particularly those like myself at the start of the career) can learn a lot from the ideas on there all backed up by research and shared by people who have tried the resources themselves.

Andrew Taylor then came on to talk about assessment and there were so many quotables I could relate to. Andrew conveyed an absolute passion for mathematics and the line that summed it up for me was:

“Nobody ever got taller by being measured; nobody ever got cleverer by sitting an exam.”

Andrew was reinforcing the point that exams should not be the end in themselves – they are a good feedback tool for what the next step should be in a child’s development. This falls exactly in line with our school’s ethos and Andrew also proposed that “teachers go back to teaching and enjoying it”. Absolutely! There are far too many that don’t fall into that category which is a shame – this is the best profession in the world when we’re enjoying it!

Following on from this, we had a 20 minute speed dating session which is a great opportunity to talk to others about what they do to benefit their students. I picked up on  lots of ideas and it was nice that there seemed to be a common theme that we are all trying to promote independence and problem solving. This was also my first opportunity to really talk to people about Harkness teaching and what we are doing in our department. I’ve blogged about this but everybody I spoke to seemed interested in the idea and rather excitingly, a number said that they would like to come and see it in action. Please do – we’d love to have you!


Technology should not get in the way

Douglas Butler (@douglasbutler01) delivered the first workshop I attended and he was awesome! The man clearly loves technology but the point is that we have to use it in the right way. We found the world’s largest hexagon, pentagon and the world’s largest parabola with nothing more than some clever googling. We also looked at how poweful Autograph can be and how children can engage with things when it’s something they see so often.

Douglas conveyed great energy about mathematics and given the title I was a little anxious that it may have been a “let’s get back to talking” discussion but it certainly wasn’t that. Douglas was showing us all how we can use technology to engage pupils and enhance understanding. The latter in particular was personified by a tremendous Autograph demonstration to look at why we find imaginary roots of quadratics.

By far and away though, the best thing that Douglas did was generate lots of similar sharks and get them to eat each other (all with the Jaws theme tune in the background)! He followed this with an awesome showing of how 3d shapes are created in the cinema – it’s just triangles and enlargements after all!

I enjoyed the first 45 minutes of workshop and it left me wanting to learn more about the capabilities of Autograph, Desmos and the other applications I am supposedly using in my teaching.


Using Software and Games to help A-Level

Next up, Tom Bennison (@drbennison) and Jazmina Lazic carried on the theme about the power of computers and how we can use this to help our students. Firstly, Tom exclaimed that he has cheated on every Sudoku ever and had a computer solve it; secondly, Jazmina live-coded a solution to the Monty Hall Problem that would convince even the most quizzical of students!

This session opened my eyes to what MatLab could do and similar to the session before, left me wanting to learn more about this particular bit of kit. Jazmina and Tom delivered very well and it was exciting to see yet more presenters trying to excite their students. The Monty Hall idea was proved mathematically and shown using the power of computers. Students can see both and if you time it correctly, you’ve excited them enough by the solution that they are interested in the proof and the key mathematical ideas.

All of the first two sessions followed this pattern and technology was the common denominator behind these presenters’ desire to excite and inspire their students.


Lunch time called and this was my chance to catch up with a few people on Twitter and in particular I got to catch Tom Bennison and talk to him about our Harkness style teaching at Wellington College. After watching him work and listening to him speak, it was an honour to have him listen to me and discuss the profession.


How to approach tricky topics at GCSE and improve problem solving

Luke Graham(@bettermaths) was delivering this talk and this was a name I had never come across. The session was superb – messy planning was the order of the day.

‘Messy planning’ is a great concept where we start with some big question and let the kids try and find the answer. The lesson also comes with a starter which aims to get the students talking about mathematics. One of the examples given was “here are 10 ‘facts’…which ones are true?” let the children have an argument and debate. Yes, you are right it does depend or why do you think that is true sometimes and not at others?

I loved the idea of this and it is one of the examples of how I will almost certainly change my practice immediately in the classroom.

The second part of this session I really picked up on was that his school have a policy where SLT will not observe a lesson if the teacher is trying something new (such as this planning method). Any teacher is allowed to come in and watch but it’s not a formal observation. I love this idea as I am wholly of the opinion that observation is one of the best learning tools for a teacher if it wasn’t filled with such dread about not meeting the requirements every lesson should. We should all be happy to let our colleagues come in and let us know what they think and we should be happy to go and watch others too.

Well done everyone at Luke’s school!


AQA vs Edexcel vs OCR

The last session of the day was a Q+A session with the three exam boards and funnily enough, it was mainly centred on the new GCSE grading system and what the exams will be like, what a grade 5 means and which paper should we send our children to. Some of this was above my current position but it was insightful nonetheless. All 3 boards have the same issues and the truth is nobody knows what a level 4 looks like nor a level 7 nor anything else.

All three advised we focus our attention on the new question styles – 4/5 markers with not as many parts. Children have to unpick the writing to work out what the question is and then pinpoint the critical information from the question. We must get our students talking about maths in order to be able to tackle the proofs and discuss the importance of significant figures when it comes up in an exam.

The interesting thing towards the end was a question from Jo Morgan about their opinions on the new A-Level reform and Andrew Taylor made a point I’d not thought about that it will definitely impact on the numbers of people selecting to take Maths (in particular Further Maths). I’m undecided on my own opinion yet but I think it is a better assessment system in terms of ensuring the best candidates perform better than weaker student.


That was the end of the day. What a brilliant Saturday it was too. I must say it again but I would heartily recommend to everyone and it has absolutely reinforced to me that I need to present myself one day. For those interested in the resources I shared or for anyone who spoke to me about Harkness, please see my other blog posts or go to the following sites:




We will be running our own course in this teaching style in the first week of July. This was a fantastic 4-day course last year – a chance both to learn with and socialise with other great maths teachers.


Well done everyone at Maths Conf and thanks once again to LaSalle and Mark McCourt for putting on an amazing event.












Maths Conf 6

“Sir, why are we sitting in a circle?!”


I teach mathematics whilst sat in a circle. I sit at the same level as the students, they come to class with 45 minutes of work done and they talk all lesson. We don’t do a lesson on integration followed by a lesson on the trapezium rule; we don’t write our answers down and we advocate mistakes.

Above is a link to a blog I wrote a few months back about the “new” style of teaching that we are implementing at Wellington College. I write “new” because I don’t think it is a million miles away from an ideal that is based on general good practice. I won’t go into full detail here but we embrace the Harkness philosophy in the Wellington College maths department and it is something that I am 100% of the opinion is the best way to teach mathematics; no matter what level. I likened it to playing sport and this is an analogy I have seen extend even further now. We want our students to go and play. We want to create an environment whereby students feel no step is embarrassing and not doing anything is worse than doing the wrong thing.

Our Harkness course takes all the subtopics of the A-Level and pupils explore these all together. We do not have a week teaching calculus then a week teaching series then a week teaching graph transformations; we have two terms teaching maths. For example, if I open our C1 and C2 book to a random page, I will see Q1 about the binomial expansion, Q3 about coordinate geometry and Q5 relating to the discriminant. On the next page, the students will revisit similar ideas and improve their knowledge in each of these areas. Topics within mathematics are not discrete and as educators, it is not our job to make boundaries between them. Let’s see how coordinate geometry and finding the area under the curve are linked; let’s not call that Chapter 5 and Chapter 7 from the textbook.

Learning new things just means extending prior knowledge a little bit more. Without prior knowledge, we can’t learn anything. At this point, I cannot answer why World War 1 finished when it did but if someone built it up slowly while looking at other wars, I’d be confident that eventually I could coherently form a conjecture about its culmination. This is what we are trying to achieve, we know how to find the area of a triangle, so let’s use that fact to find the compound angle formula for sine. Why not? We know how to use similar triangles, heck let’s use that knowledge to find out about the secant and cotangent functions!

Last Summer I was lucky enough to be a part of a course delivered by the EMI (http://www.exeter.edu/summer_programs/7327.aspx) which opened my eyes to this style of teaching. There were 60 maths teachers from all over England sitting in classrooms tackling problems and talking about how students would go about it or what questions we can draw out of these problems. It was a fantastic 4 days and a course I would recommend to anyone either as subject knowledge enhancement or as teaching CPD. The course itself is delivered by 4 supremely talented teachers from America and I cannot speak highly enough of them. They certainly created an environment in which no question was silly and no answer was a waste of time. By the end of the week, almost everybody felt like they would be welcomed when answering a question. An absolutely invaluable course for myself and much like the maths conferences run by La Salle Education, any atmosphere where maths teachers are talking about teaching has to be positive for maths education.

We are always happy to invite people in to come and see this pedagogy in practice and/or indeed talk about how we are teaching our A-Level course. Please do get in touch with me on twitter (@jk_mcd) if there is anything here you would like to talk about.




“Sir, why are we sitting in a circle?!”

The year 11111011111

The end of a calendar year is a great time to reflect on my own personal practice and whether or not I have grown as an educator. It is also an opportunity to really be thankful for everyone who helps me in the pursuit to be the best. I am thankful for all the maths tweeters; I am thankful for all the maths teachers I teach with and I am thankful to all the colleagues I see every day. I must also give thanks to the children and their ability to inspire a love of learning within me that I had lost until this year. 

2015 has seen me pick up books to read for pleasure for the first time since I was a kid. 2015 has seen me become interested in things that I was 100% against previously. 2015 has seen me realise that intellect is the single most sought after human trait. I have enjoyed this year and I have enjoyed being a part of something bigger in other people’s lives. 

I rediscovered my love of maths and I affirmed my belief that I am fascinated by learning. I want to know how children learn. I want to know how adults learn and I want to know the best ways of measuring this learning. 

In terms of my teaching, I feel confident in where I am now vs where I started the year. Two major courses really helped me grow professionally – one was the Maths Conference 5 (an event I would recommend to anyone) and the second was a Harkness course held at Wellington. MathsConf 5 was a phenomenally well organised event with so many stars delivering workshops. I particularly enjoyed Kris Boulton’s history of maths where he showed a combination of knowledge and true passion that must be infectious to his students – they are very lucky. I have previously blogged about Harkness and the reason I enjoyed both courses was that I am in a room with other maths teachers. Teachers become better if we discuss teaching. Maths teaching is not an individual sport. All maths teachers want every child to be better at maths, no matter what age, school or background. I think that has been the best lesson I have learnt this year. There are others on my side and people will help me. This is the best job in the world and I do not want to lose sight of that. 

So, 2016? How are we going to be better? I want to improve my IB teaching and I want to really hone in on the total learner ideal. This also includes my Theory of Knowledge teaching. I want to improve my mathematical skill so I can stretch the top end a little more. I also want to make sure I attend more maths coferences and perhaps deliver my own to help others. I would like 2016 to be a year where people ask for my advice and a year where I can help others. 

Overall, I am happy with how I taught in 2015 and I am thoroughly enjoying stretching myself every day. I hope everyone has a fantastic 2016 and continues to inspire me like they’ve done this year. Keep being amazing!

The year 11111011111