2018 Professional Development: Developing Mathematical Inquiry In a Learning Community.
Pt England staff were privileged to begin 2018 with professional development taken by Dr Roberta Hunter.
Dr Hunter gave us the startling fact that "62% of Maori and Pacifica students are failing Maths."
But she also gave us hope that if we radically rethink the teacher's role, and tap into the richness that each child brings to school, these children can raise their achievement levels and be successful at maths.
"Every child is good at maths - it is how they are taught that makes a difference." (Dr Hunter)
To develop this "culturally tailored approach" of getting to know the children's cultures and how culture impacts on their learning will be a first step. The need to see the children's culture as a strength and a part of maths which can allow children to connect with each other and see inside each others worlds is an important beginning. Providing a problem that centres on a particular culture allows a quiet student to open up, show the other children how the problem would be looked at in his culture and be the centre of an explanation.
The children work through culturally based "group worthy" problems. If the problem can be solved by an individual it is not "group worthy". These groups are carefully selected and are not based on ability - something we often overlook as we test and group children according to ability in the belief that they learn and work better with similar peers.
After launching and making sure the children understand the problem, they talk, ("friendly argue") discuss, question and reason their way through the culturally based real world problem to come up with a logical answer. Children are given the tools they need to help solve the problem. If the problem requires multiplication and they do not know their times tables a sheet may be given. The teacher does not give a solution but gives the tools needed for the children to discover a solution.
They are all "drivers" not "passengers" with all students expected to participate, contribute and learn. Inclusion is a key factor. Getting all children to actively participate and be able to offer explanations, even to think back to how they solved a previous problem and use this knowledge makes maths sound exciting.
This raising of maths achievement takes time - it is a journey that has its ups and downs but if it can engage our children and help the children see that they can reach and achieve higher levels I am excited to be able to take part in such a journey.