Don’t blame the maths teacher

Ok Shanghai, you’re great. We’re in awe. Your methods are indeed successful and I wish to God that all our maths teachers had subject knowledge like you guys do. But I seem to be having a memory lapse. I can’t for the life of me think about how maths teaching got to where it is today. Will anyone take responsibility for why teachers in the UK teach maths in the way that they do?

Does anyone remember being told that lessons needed to be more engaging and “fun”?

“Is your lesson worth behaving for?” … ring any bells?

Anyone recall empowering students to the extent that they would often walk into a class telling us what we can and can’t do? Making us feel like we’re at the mercy of the class, rather than the leader of the classroom?

Anyone remember being told the lesson was OK, but we didn’t quite tick the ‘good use of ICT’ box, so go away and use some more ICT?

Anyone recall being told to cater for the kinaesthetic learner? Pushing for more practical activities, more cutting out, more folding, more colouring in because it’s a more tactile experience?

Anyone told in a lesson observation that they really needed to think about the teacher-led  / student-led time ratio, and maybe try to push the balance to about 20% teacher-led ?

Anyone told that behaviour was bad in your lesson because you really need to give them an independent learning activity within 10 minutes or so of the lesson beginning?

Anyone ever informed that letting students find everything out was the best approach, and that independent activities with a secret goal that only you knew about was a really great idea?

Anyone find that method to be terrible?

Anyone told that really the lesson needed more group work?

Anyone rang home to complain that a student didn’t do their homework for the fifth time, only to be told “what do you expect?”

Anyone overheard a parent or teacher or teaching assistant declare their hatred of maths, or their inability to do it openly in front of young children?

Anyone recall having their lesson pulled apart by a manager because the objectives weren’t in the format “all, most some”, or “smart kids try to reach this goal, medicore kids settle for this goal, and dumbos just try and get through ok?”

Anyone remember being told that their pace was too slow, and that students really needed to push onto harder topics?

Anyone remember preparing to be observed by creating 8 different worksheets on 8 different colours and sizes, and planning for an additional 4 hours for one lesson to make sure the observer saw a fun and exciting practical based lesson?

Anyone? …

… anyone?



5 thoughts on “Don’t blame the maths teacher

  1. Brilliant – the following song ending came to mind: …Ground control to Major Tom your circuits dead is there something wrong can you hear me Major Tom can you hear me Major Tom can you…….. (fade). Btw you forgot to mention the National Strategy or the QCA nonsense where primary school teachers were expected to jump around from one idea to the next in quick succession without time for development or deepening opportunities and as for “catch up” as though learning was some kind of race – Then we had the “must, should, could” rubbish. However one thing amidst all the ‘wise’ words from on high has never changed which is that valuable problem solving type ideas are as good to use in tomorrow’s classrooms as they were 10, 20, 30, 40… years ago

    • This might be because ATM does not produce textbooks or seeks to prescribe but instead puts out ideas, problems which need to be adapted by individual teachers to best fit their classroom cultures and contexts. BTW if anyone want to receive ‘my’ list of recommended ATM texts, you can email me on:

  2. I should add I’m absolutely *not* anti-shanghai. There is definitely lots to take on board from there, and from elsewhere for that matter. More a reflection on why we’re in the state we’re in.

    • And neither am I and believe this new initiative needs to be thoroughly evaluated. At present most of what I hear are unresearched statements from the DfE via the mouthpiece of the NCETM and the Hubs without critical analyses. I saw a couple of Shanghai lessons this week and now I need to reflect and write to share my petspective

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