Archive | October, 2010

Does ‘mean’ mean ‘mean’, ‘mean’ or are you being mean?

26 Oct

In researching for my assignment (about whether social media can enhance maths learning), I've come across lots of interesting stuff about language. I'm bemused with myself that I'm saddened at the fact that the mere 2500 words I've got to write my assignment won't be enough to include many of the interesting things that I've found out. Interesting questions more than anything – because it's a whole world of learning. But it's also another essay to be written at a different time.

Suffice to say, at this point: maths teachers – you are amazing.

Why are we amazing?

Because we can explain to our children when leaves means equals.

And when vulgar isn't rude.

We know that multiply can make things smaller; that even isn't always smooth; divide can mean share and group; differentiation is more than just good practice for including all children in learning.

And we can explain that mean means mean (as in average), as opposed to nasty (although it might feel like it), or intend.

Maths. It's all about the words, don't you know.

How to deal with remainders

23 Oct

Two Year 6 children explain how to deal with remainders after division

This was an entry to the Next Vista video competition.

How to do column addition

23 Oct

Two year 5 children try to explain how to do column addition.

This was an entry to the Next Vista video contest.

Preacher’s Forum

21 Oct

On Monday 18th January, my church began a new thing:

Preacher's Forum.

I've only preached* once and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. It was the penultimate week of my summer holiday, which is always much valued by any teachers, and I'd spent the previous five weeks preparing and panicking about what I would say. For some reason, ten years of standing up in front of children and teaching hadn't prepared me for 12 minutes of standing up in front of adults and preaching. Then the aftermath was disastrous too. I'd 'given' so much of myself into that 12 minute sermon that I couldn't get much energy to start the term right – and it was about the worst start to an academic year I ever made.

So obviously I'm not a natural preacher.

I was really interested as to what would be said. Preaching is not the most fashionable of activities, so in this world of blogging and Twitter how does or should it fit in. Bishop Andrew of Aston (Birmingham, UK) was leading the session. He himself is said to preach about five times a week, so he should know a thing or two… Well – I tweeted my notes using the hashtag #preachforum and here they are:

  1. Bishop Andrew of Aston about to speak at #preachforum – wonder how this will affect my teaching?
  2. Apparently Spurgeon once preached a sermon in his sleep, his wife wrote down the main points and gave him the outline next am #preachforum
  3. Mark Earey (a regular preacher at St. John's) #preachforum hands out feedback forms for the congregation after a sermon. Ah – the backchannel in church…
  4. SEEA – state, explain, example (as in give one), apply #preachforum
  5. Bishop Andrew says the idea of children growing up on boring, irrelevant teaching makes him frustrated and angry. #preachforum
  6. Preachers don't clone ourselves – variety is important for the user. #preachforum
  7. Why is preaching important? Very few occasions when people can give a talk in society. #preachforum
  8. Basic convictions about nature of God are key to preaching. Otherwise it's just arrogance. #preachforum
  9. How do you measure what happens to a sermon? (my suggestion – use Google Moderator). Bishop Andrew – look at the long term. #preachforum
  10. Revival is linked to prayer and preaching – St. Dominic, St Francis of Assisi, Wycliffe, Wesley, Charles Simeon, Billy Graham. #preachforum
  11. Preaching is an antidote for advertising #preachforum
  12. 7 images of preacher: herald, sower, ambassador, steward of God's household, shepherd, workman, priest or bridge buillder. #preachforum
  13. Preaching: stick to one point, keep on track, refresh old commentaries, reach for the Bible first. #preachforum
  14. Preaching: don't preach your pet subject, don't tell jokes, don't overdo personal anecdotes, don't rely on Powerpoint #preachforum
  15. Preaching: use humour, especially self-deprecating, so that the preacher isn't put on a pedestal #preachforum
  16. Preaching: don't just prepare the sermon; prepare yourself. #preachforum
  17. Preaching: don't circle round the runway at the end of the sermon. Think about the user's response. #preachforum
  18. Preaching: don't preach to impress; preach to inspire. #preachforum
  19. Story and narrative is very important to preaching. #preachforum
What came across to me the most was that

Preaching still has a place in society – they are very few other opportunities to just give a talk on something. Yet in church it happens every week and can be the starting point for interesting dialogue. In addition preaching can be an antidote for the highly consumerist messages that are given constantly through advertising in the media.

Preaching is very separate from teaching – my own skill has to be teaching. I love the dialogue of a good lesson. The interaction between student and pupil. But I can appreciate that preaching has it's place too. The exposition of a positive message; the declaration of truth.

Success of preaching is measured in the long term – here I think preaching is very similar to teaching. While the backchannel in the classroom is very useful, the true success of a teacher is what your students are up to in 20 years time. Just as the quality of the preaching is measured by the long term life of the congregation, not just stewing over the sermon during Sunday lunch.

*preached – although I'm often tempted to say 'praught'

How to divide 3 by 4

20 Oct

divide 3 by 4.mp4
Watch on Posterous

Many people would say: divide 3 by 4? No can't do it.

Except if you use packets of stuff maybe you can.

My kids haven't got it completely yet, but they're on the way as this video shows.

Number systems

11 Oct

I love using different number systems to teach understanding of number. I often use binary, base 6, Egyptian and roman, but here’s four more that will definitely find a place in my lessons.


Do you know which is which?

What is Maths?

4 Oct

This is my definition of maths.

Maths is elegant. It is graceful and swift.

However my favourite is by my MaST colleague Matthew Cham who worked with his children on the definition. Together they came up with:

Mathematics –
a spoonful of numbers,
a sprinkling of symbols,
200g of quantity,
100g of measurement,
All mixed together and moulded into the 
shape of your choice!

MaST stands for Mathematics Specialist Teacher. It's a Master's level study designed to help us primary school teachers be a bit more clued up on the big picture of maths. We all had to come up with our definitions of maths, but they're all hidden away on the universities Blackboard system.

So did the exercise with my children on this wallwisher.

Please respond to this post with your own definition of maths or post on the Wallwisher (although as I write, wallwisher does seem to be misbehaving a little at the moment – bizarrely I find it works best on IE8)