It’s about educating the whole learner!

Just because Maths is timetabled for periods 3 and 4 on a Tuesday, it doesn’t mean that it has to be taught as a subject in isolation. As educators we often reflect on our lessons and ask ourselves; how could I have approached that differently? Were all the learners engaged? Did they gain deep understandings? Did good questions and or conjectures arise? But the other day I found myself questioning if I was spending too much “maths timetabled time” not doing maths!

At the start of the session with my Year 4 class, I showed the students the first photo in my power point:

1000 steps

I asked them to independently “See, Think and Wonder” about the picture. They then shared either what they saw, or what they thought or what they were wondering about. I was blown away! Some of their responses were:

  • I wonder if they shot the photo from an angle to make the steps not look steep
  • I think the light at the top of the stairs represents creativity
  • I wonder what’s at the top
  • I wonder why you are showing us stairs in a Maths lesson
  • I think it’s the 1000 steps in the Dandenongs
  • I think the stairs lead to creativity
  • I wonder why there is a forest right next to the steps
  • I see a gum tree
  • I wonder where this is
  • I think the staircase is much much longer than what I can see in the photo
  • I wonder which country they’re in
  • I wonder who built the stairs and why
  • I think it’s a staircase to learning
  • I think the stairs are like a number line – going up and going down

I then showed them the next photo of houses in Cambodia. I asked them to chat to the person next to them about what they “See, Think or Wonder”. Before I knew it many learners were researching where Cambodia is in relation to Australia. Some were discussing the phrase “third world country”. Others were exchanging personal experiences about countries they had visited with similar houses. One learner was asking how this picture was connected to the previous one and then formed a conjecture “I think the steps must be in Cambodia!”

I then showed them the third and final slide.  I passed around some oId Australian 1 cent coins and explained that my 15 year old son Zac had just been to the Thousand steps in the Dandenongs. As he is visiting Cambodia with the school in June, with the purpose of building houses, his group decided to hold a  fundraiser where people sponsored them 1000 cents for 1000 steps. I  told the class that I was wondering how much that would be in dollars. Many of the learners automatically knew the answer and I explained that mathematicians need to be able to reason with evidence, hence their task was to make a claim and then find evidence to support their claim. I encouraged them to think of finding evidence in relation to our central idea which was “In our Base Ten number system the value of numbers change depending on their place”.

Their supporting evidence astounded me! Some learners used place value columns to justify how numbers move down when they are divided by 100. Other students acted out the numbers moving by using place value crowns and a decimal point that never moved! Some learners used an equation (1000 cents ÷ 100 cents = 10 dollars). Others worked backwards and showed that 10 (their claim in dollars) multiplied by 100 (the number of cents in a dollar) is equal to 1000 (cents). And these examples are just a few samples of the justifications that were formed in a fairly short period of time

With this lesson in mind I have come to the following conclusions:

1. Periods 3 and 4 on a Tuesday are about developing the whole learner: mathematician, inquirer, communicator, reflector, caring global citizen, appreciator of beauty, creative thinker, risk taker, sense maker …

2. When time is taken to place learning in an authentic context, learners cultivate deep, rich, meaningful understandings.

3. Sharing a piece of your life with learners helps build positive relationships. As educators, not only do we need to know our curriculum and our students, but so too do we need to provide opportunities for our learners to get to know us as real people.

4. Periods 3 and 4 on a Tuesday are about helping learners make connections

  • connections between maths domains (place value, money, location, angles),
  • connections between disciplines (maths, geography, language, history),
  • connections to prior knowledge and experience,
  • and connections between learning at school and the real world.

5. Teachers are story tellers. Our role is to engage learners not manage them!

Don’t allow a fixed timetable to dictate how you teach. Stay true to what you believe about learning. As educators, it’s our responsibility to develop the whole learner even when it’s maths in periods 3 and 4 on a Tuesday!

About lanafleiszig

Lana Fleiszig is the Numeracy Co-ordinator and a Year 6 Mathematics teacher at an IB Primary Years Program school in Melbourne, Australia. Learning with understanding is at her core.
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