Why Does Working Mathematically Work?

At the conclusion of the second round of INISSS, which had been running for 4 years, a group of around 40 secondary teachers (Years 7 - 12) came together to discuss the features that had led to so much success for their students. They were challenged to explain how it is that using tasks in the context of learning to work like a mathematician can make such a difference to learning. Their responses are below.

Read about in INISSS in:

The Question

Green Line

Tasks promote learning because:

  • they allow/value/promote playing with maths.
  • working together (student/student and student/teacher) is valued.
  • learning is in a concrete, tactile, 3D, manipulative context.
  • access is offered to all students and the problem can be taken as far as is appropriate for each student.
  • time is allowed to explore them.
  • Working Mathematically provides a framework and reason for having both the skills and the conversational language of mathematics; increasingly students see the value of the precision of symbolic mathematical language.
  • links are made to symbolic, pencil & paper maths through Toolbox Lessons.
  • learning symbolic representation has concrete interpretation.
  • kids talk in kid language to help each other interpret, understand and record.
  • they invoke curiosity/make you ask why; the What happens if... question is more natural in these situations.
  • patience is rewarded and/or lack of success can be tolerated; we just try again another way.
  • their open-ended nature is freeing; we are not necessarily working towards a particular answer or formula.
  • they simultaneously develop literacy skills.
  • there is potential for unintended discovery.
  • they are seen as relevant in a way that a text is not.
  • they offer interconnectedness across all maths curriculum areas, including processes.
  • they can be revisited and pondered anew as if 'old friends'.
  • the very act of a teacher using tasks changes the expected/ traditional /implied relationship between teacher and student.

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