18 March 2020

Resources in maths and stats for a pandemic

We live in interesting times. It warms my heart to see my discipline of mathematical modelling used to predict and manage the outbreak behaviour. How much easier it will be to explain Operations Research after this! In New Zealand we have yet to feel the full force of the Covid-19 pandemic, but anxiety hangs in the air. Around the world schools and colleges are closing their doors to slow the spread of the virus and students and teachers are forced to enter the world of distance learning. Nine years ago the Christchurch earthquakes meant that the University where I worked […]
12 August 2019

How to help your child with her multiplication facts

Multiplication facts matter Fluency with multiplication facts makes learning later skills easier. When simplifying fractions, it is helpful to know multiples of numbers. When learning division algorithms, fluency in the basic facts means that the brain is free to learn the new procedure. In algebra, it is extremely helpful to be able to recognise common factors of two numbers, such as 36 and 24. Being fluent with multiplication facts is invaluable for estimating in many areas of life. A recent survey of high school teachers reported that they value knowledge of tables highly. Parents helping The advantage a parent has […]
1 May 2019

The big deal about fractions

Fractions are a big deal When you ask people what topics in maths they like and dislike, fractions tend to appear in the dislike column – often vehemently. Recent polling found that maths teachers think fractions are important for students entering High School. I teach in a career course in maths for people who have missed out on maths on the way through school, and a large component of that is fractions. I love fractions. I prefer them to decimals because they are more exact. One seventh is so much neater than its decimal equivalent. I like adding fractions and […]
26 February 2019

What Maths Teachers wish Year 9 students knew

What do high school teachers want from their students when they arrive in Year 9? This is an important question. One of the biggest jumps in education in New Zealand is from primary/intermediate (years 1 to 8) to secondary (Years 9 to 13). In most cases children are taught by generalist teachers in primary/intermediate (which I will call primary from now on) and by specialist maths teachers at secondary school. Please be clear that this is NOT a criticism of Primary teachers. Primary teachers do an amazing job teaching such a wide range of subjects in a crowded curriculum to […]
25 June 2018

Introducing Cat Maths cards, activities, games and lessons

The Cat Maths cards are amazing Cat Maths cards are available now. The cards are versatile, engaging and afford multiple learning opportunities in mathematics, including statistics. There are also a whole range of games you can play with them, appealing to different people. Children learn well in games, and these rich and varied cards allow for a wide range of games that teach concepts and skills through their mechanisms. We would love you to buy through our shop or by emailing us. Or you will be able to buy The Cat Pack in retail stores in New Zealand. We are […]
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 […]
19 March 2018

Improvisation in the Mathematics Classroom

The following is a guest post by Andrea Young, requested by Dr Nic Petty. Improvisation comedy Improvisation comedy, or improv for short, is theater that is unscripted.  Performers create characters, stories, and jokes on the spot, much to the delight of audience members.  Surprisingly, the goal of improv is not to be funny!  (Or maybe this isn’t surprising–people trying hard to be funny rarely succeed.)  Rather, improv comedians are encouraged to be “in the moment,” to support their fellow players, and to take risks–the humor follows as a natural consequence. What does this have to do with mathematics and mathematics […]
5 March 2018

There are many good ways to teach mathematics

There are many good ways to teach mathematics and statistics Hiding in the bookshelves in the University of Otago Library, I wept as I read the sentence, “There are many good ways to raise children.”  As a mother of a baby with severe disabilities the burden to get it right weighed down on me. This statement told me to put down the burden. I could do things differently from other mothers, and none of us needed to be wrong. The same is true of teaching maths and stats – “There are many good ways to teach mathematics and statistics.” (Which […]
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 […]
2 December 2017

Mind the gap

Teach the students you have Our job as teachers at any level is to teach the students we have. I embrace this idea from Dr Kevin Maxwell: “Our job is to teach the students we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them.” I believe Maxwell’s focus was on the diverse learning needs we have in our classes. I would like to take another angle on this. If students do not have the needed skills to learn what we are teaching, then we need to […]