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Teaching Mathematics in a Functional Way Fiona Allan
In 2010, Suffolk LA and Orwell High School, Felixstowe, with the help of National Centre regional project funding, worked together to improve their functional mathematics teaching and learning.
Key challenges: • understanding words in questions: students were puzzled by the phrases such as ‘per annum’, ‘greatest return’, ‘compound interest’ and ‘simple interest’ • use of calculators: the phrase “mindless number cruncher”, coined by the NRDC in their excellent publication Bestimation, described many students • understanding questions: short questions with more space for answers caused more problems for learners than longer questions which included more information • presenting data: the presentation of data was often a problem – students omit elements such as a full title and axis labels. They are also unable to describe graphs and to articulate their findings and what they mean.
Suggested Classroom activities: • SAM Material: A range of sample assessment material was given out for the new star style question. Students were asked for their initial thoughts and asked how much time should be spent on each question given the marks allocated. They attempted a variety of questions and then marked each other’s work identifying method, calculation, QWC and answer marks. • Wordle: (www.wordle.net) was used to challenge understanding of the vocabulary. Students were asked to consider the words used within a question – compare, contrast, justify, consider, assumptions, represent – and to define and explain the meaning of these words.
Suggested Classroom activities (cont.): • Puzzles created using Formulator Tarsia: Students were challenged to solve a range of Tarsia puzzles. The teachers observed their work and intervened if the learners were having problems using the calculators. • Problem solving activities: a variety of activities such as the Durham Maths Mysteries, the Money Maze, Air Miles, and activities from Improving learning in mathematics and Thinking Through Mathematics were used to help students deal with red herrings, identify a route through a problem and work out strategies for dealing with problems that they didn’t know how to solve initially.
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