Saturday, June 23, 2007


My, but there's a lot of blogs out there in Maths-land! For someone like me - who ends up saying "times" instead of "multiply" on a bad day - the maths can be rather high-powered, but all the same there's some fascinating material out there. When I remember how to add links to this site, I'll list a few.

Meanwhile, this leads me nicely into linking to an amusing maths video link here - scroll down to the second clip. Made me laugh.

I might even try to show it to some of my classes this week, as they begin to demand that they be allowed to play games etc as the end of session approaches. After all, they've been watching DVDs in History and RE for ages now... but never fear, we maths teachers are made of sterner stuff, and keep the little darlings busy to the end. More or less.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Letters to my mathematics class, volume two

(With apologies to Dr "Bones" McCoy of Star Trek - "dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!", this is more of a postcard than a letter... but any teacher will recognise the sentiment.)

Dammit class, I'm a teacher, not a branch of WH Smiths!!


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hands up, baby, hands up...

(Apologies for quoting terrible lyrics from way back... the blog goes tabloid!)

So, someone somewhere in "the government" has issued advice, apparently, telling teachers not to ask pupils to put their hands up to offer answers to questions, because (apparently #2) some pupils get left behind if you do this.


Well, some initial thoughts.

First up: are we talking UK here, or Scotland? I can't be too bothered to try and find out, but given that I heard about this on BBC 5Live, methinks this is probably south of Gretna. In which case we can just ignore it.

But honestly, chances are, this is yet another media misrepresentation of a small part of advice to teachers regarding the importance of varying their techniques for Q & A sessions (or "direct interactive teaching", if you're writing your cv).

Getting pupils to put their hands up does have its place. For one thing, you get a quick idea of how much pupils are understanding (or how many of your class are still awake - all useful stuff). If you only ever have a couple of hands up, then you need to vary this, 'cos something is clearly not right.

For example, I sometimes use a calculator to throw out a random number, then ask the next question to the pupil corresponding to this number in my register. Keeps the class on their toes, I can tell you! And if this sounds cruel, well... (a) yes, and your point is? (b) who says I'm honest? I know my classes well enough that if I think wee Johnny can't answer I'll either ask a different question or just say another number has come up. (The key thing here is to generate the number away from the gaze of the class, and ask the question AFTER you've seen who's in the firing line.)

There are loads of other ways of assessing pupil understanding, but asking for hands up is hardly a criminal offence.

It really gets my goat when certain people (maybe the media, maybe even teachers) seize on one aspect of teaching and think this is or isn't the definitive answer to all our prayers.

Let's be sensible.