13 November 2018

Conceptual knowledge and procedural fluency when teaching maths and stats

Conceptual vs procedural when teaching maths and stats April 2008, Salt Lake City. It was my first NCTM conference and I was awed by the number of dedicated teachers of mathematics in one place. I had soaked in a pre-conference series about teaching statistics and my head was full of revolutionary ideas. I can’t remember the workshop I was attending but I declared that I saw no point in teaching students to calculate standard deviations by hand – and that I never did. The response was awesome! There was just about a stand-up battle between teachers who agreed with me […]
16 June 2018

Numeracy crisis in New Zealand

Numeracy levels are reaching crisis point An article in Stuff on 16 June 2018,  We are barely functioning, literally, highlighted the problem of literacy and numeracy in New Zealand. The article focusses on literacy, but numeracy levels are possibly worse. This comes as no surprise to me. The problem according to Doctor Nic The lack of numeracy skills is not new. Generations of people have struggled with maths and many suffer maths trauma, where even the thought of working with numbers can cause symptoms such as panic, the brain shutting down, tears, avoidance. Maths evokes your classic fight, flight or […]
2 May 2018

Why decimals are difficult

Why decimals are difficult Recently a couple of primary teachers admitted a little furtively to me that they “never got decimals”. It got me wondering about what was difficult about decimals. For people who “get” decimals, they are just another number, with the decimal point showing. Clearly this was not the case for all. So in true 21st century style I Googled it: “Why are decimals difficult” I got some wonderfully interesting results, one of which is a review paper by Hugues Lortie-Forgues, Jing Tian and Robert S. Siegler, entitled “Why is learning fraction and decimal arithmetic so difficult?”, which I draw […]
5 April 2018

Statistical software for worried students

Statistical software for worried students: Appearances matter Let’s be honest. Most students of statistics are taking statistics because they have to. I asked my class of 100 business students who choose to take the quantitative methods course if they did not have to. Two hands went up. Face it – statistics is necessary but not often embraced. But actually it is worse than that. For many people statistics is the most dreaded course they are required to take. It can be the barrier to achieving their career goals as a psychologist, marketer or physician. (And it should be required for many other […]
15 February 2018

The problem with videos for teaching maths and stats

The message of many popular mathematics and statistics videos is harming people’s perceptions of the nature of these disciplines. I acknowledge the potential for conflict of interest in this post –  critically examining the role of video in learning and teaching mathematics and statistics – when StatsLC has a YouTube channel, and also provides videos through teaching and learning systems. But I do wonder what message it sends when people like Sal Khan of Khan Academy and Mister Woo are applauded for their well-intentioned, and successful attempts to take a procedural view of mathematics to the masses. Video by its […]
10 January 2018

Dr Nic, Suzy and Gina talk about feelings about Maths

This hour long conversation gives insights into how three high achieving women feel about mathematics. Nicola, the host, is the author of this blog, and has always had strong affection for mathematics, though this has changed in nature lately. Gina and Suzy are both strongly negative in their feelings about maths. As the discussion progresses, listen for the shift in attitude. Listen here to the podcast. And here is a picture of the three of us. Here are some of the questions we discuss over the hour: Tell me about your relationship with maths. How do you think your feelings […]
13 July 2017

Mathematics and statistics lessons about elections

Study elections in mathematics because it is important Too often mathematics is seen as pure and apolitical.  Maths teachers may keep away from concepts that seem messy and without right and wrong answers. However, teachers of mathematics and statistics have much to offer to increase democratic power in the upcoming NZ general elections (and all future elections really). The bizarre outcomes for elections around the world recently (2016/2017 Brexit, Trump) are evidence that we need a compassionate, rational, informed populace, who is engaged in the political process, to choose who will lead our country. Knowledge is power, and when people […]
16 January 2017

The Class-size debate – it matters to teachers

Class size matters to teachers Class size is a perennial question in education. What is the ideal size for a school class? Teachers would like smaller classes, to improve learning. There is evidence of a small positive effect size due to reducing class size from meta-analysis published in John Hattie’s Visible Learning. But it makes sense, teachers argue – fewer children in the class means more opportunities for one-to-one interactions with the teacher. It makes for easier crowd control, less noise and less stress for teachers and pupils. And in these days of National Standards, it makes the assessment load more […]
11 January 2017

Why people hate statistics

This summer/Christmas break it has been my pleasure to help a young woman who is struggling with statistics, and it has prompted me to ask people who teach postgraduate statistical methods – WTF are you doing? Louise (name changed) is a bright, hard-working young woman, who has finished an undergraduate degree at a prestigious university and is now doing a Masters degree at a different prestigious university, which is a long way from where I live and will remain nameless. I have been working through her lecture slides, past and future and attempting to develop in her some confidence that she […]
12 December 2016

Has the Numeracy Project failed?

The Numeracy Development Project has influenced the teaching of mathematics in New Zealand. It has changed the language people use to talk about mathematical understanding, introducing the terms “multiplicative thinking”, “part-whole” and “proportional reasoning” to the teacher toolkit. It has empowered some teachers to think differently about the teaching of mathematics. It has brought “number” front and centre, often crowding out algebra, geometry, measurement and statistics, which are now commonly called the strands. It has baffled a large number of parents. Has the Numeracy Development Project been a success? If not, how can we fix it? I have been pondering […]