[Maths-Education] The resource for the course
Anne Watson
anne.watson@educational-studies.oxford.ac.uk
Tue, 18 Sep 2001 00:30:45 +0100
It is interesting to use some KS3 questions as starters for
whole-class discussion, posed as problems and approached as
problem-solving tasks rather than as practice for tests.
It seems to me there are only two ways to see the teaching of
mathematics in schools.
The first is that tests, levels, league-tables etc. etc. are the real
aim of education (how else can you get the market to operate?) and
hence the job is to train students to jump exactly through the right
hoops ... never mind their deeper understanding, never mind their
intellectual growth, never mind their souls. If we accept that view,
then teaching exactly to the test and testing exactly what is taught
seems OK, why not make everything so familiar that autopilot takes
over. Worrying about understanding and going beyond the syllabus is a
waste of time. But is that mathematics?
The second is that learning mathematics, becoming a mathematician,
developing understandings about mathematics are not really testable
in themselves but make passing tests a lot easier and continuing to
study maths a lot more appealing and fulfilling (and the possibility
of teaching it a lot more attractive). In my experience as a
teacher, which was not unlike what Jo Boaler describes in her book,
doing the exam was not a major trauma and it was quite surprising
what students could do in exams which they had not been specifically
taught. This was because they had an understanding of what
mathematics was, and what sort of questions to ask themselves when
tackling unfamiliar problems. You cannot get this kind of awareness
by being trained to solve familiar problems; you get there by working
imaginatively with the unfamiliar. Incidentally, you also get more
interesting students.
Anne Watson
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Dr. Anne Watson
Tutor for Higher Degrees,
University Lecturer in Educational Studies (Mathematics)
University of Oxford
Department of Educational Studies
15 Norham Gardens
Oxford
OX2 6PY
United Kingdom
Tel: 44 01865 274052
Fax: 44 01865 274027
Email: anne.watson@edstud.ox.ac.uk
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