19 June 2019

Fluency in maths

Fluency in language I can recite Latin verbs: the present tense of love is amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant. I recited them as I swam up and down the pool forty years ago: Amabo, amabis, amabit (breathe) amabimus, amabitis, amabunt (breathe). But if I were suddenly faced with an ancient Roman and had to express my affection, it would take a bit of thinking. I lack fluency in speaking Latin. When we are fluent in a language, we can respond and converse without having to think too hard. The language comes naturally, and we do not use up space […]
5 June 2019

Achievable challenge in teaching maths

I like a good challenge I always choose the most difficult Sudoku puzzles. I like it best if I get really stumped and have to leave the puzzle and come back later. If I do manage to crack it, I feel a sense of achievement, and completion. From time to time I have tried “The most difficult sudoku” but have never managed to place more than one number. There isn’t a lot of fun in that. Fun exists in what is sometimes called “The Goldilocks zone” – not too easy, not too difficult, but just right. I have also seen […]
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 […]
8 April 2019

Videos for teaching and learning probability distributions

Videos about probability distributions Many introductory statistics courses include a considerable section on probability distributions, featuring the binomial and normal distributions. Consequently we have a suite of videos about probability distribution models, to help learners and teachers, especially those who wish to aim for conceptual more than mathematical understanding. In this post I will outline the main videos available on the Dr Nic’s Maths and Stats YouTube Channel. They already belong to thousands of playlists and lists of recommended resources in textbooks the world over. We are happy for teachers and learners to continue to link to them. Having them listed […]
12 March 2019

Multiplication facts or multiplicative thinking

We just want them to know their tables! It is a truth universally acknowledged by high school maths teachers that students need to be fluent in multiplication facts. (Apologies to Jane Austen) You can read more about this claim in my previous post: What Maths Teachers wish Year 9 students knew I have been thinking about why this is the case, what is so special about multiplication facts, and whether it is more an indicator of something else. Maths teachers like to teach algebra. Simplifying algebraic expression, and factorising quadratics are made much easier if one is at home with multiplication […]
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 […]
11 February 2019

Patterns, Mathematics and Statistics

Is mathematics really about patterns? Confession time: Just as I’ve never really thought of maths as beautiful, I’ve struggled to understand why people talk about maths being about patterns. For me maths is powerful and maths is about abstracting from reality to build models. So I thought I would explore the idea of patterns in mathematics. Number Numbers show patterns. The fact that all prime numbers over 3 occur on either side of a multiple of six, is pattern I find appealing. The digits of multiples of three sum to multiples of three. Multiples of eleven are pretty exciting with […]
16 January 2019

Learning Progression Framework – A good idea or a poor use of time?

Not all that is good needs to be done That something is a good thing to do and will improve learning outcomes for all students, is not sufficient reason for doing it. I have recently become aware of the Learning Progression Framework. As explained in a previous post, there are multiple ways of expressing the level of learning in maths for learners in New Zealand schools, including the New Zealand curriculum (broad brush), Numeracy project stages (fine uni-dimensional and embraced by Primary teachers) and National Standards (no longer current, but casting a long shadow.) To this the LPF adds steps, […]
3 December 2018

I just need to pass the course: instrumental learning and statistics

I am interested in instrumental motivation, when a learner is doing a course of study in order to get a piece of paper – a qualification, which is generally the means to an end. I suspect that many students of statistics have instrumental motivation and I am interested in what affect that has on their learning and on the teacher of the course. Personal experience of learning All my life I have been a high-achieving, engaged learner. I liked to learn and to become more knowledgeable. I still like to learn and am not interested in any more qualifications. I […]
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 […]