WLAM at Pymble Ladies' College

Glenn Dudley
Pymble Ladies' College, Pymble, NSW

In 2014, Glenn Dudley, Head of Mathematics at Pymble, presented a workshop at the British Congress of Mathematics Education describing the redirection of mathematics teaching recently undertaken by the staff.

The workshop was very well received and Glenn agreed to share the school's experiences through Mathematics Centre News. This article is compilation of the subsequent May and August contributions.

Green Line

The change in mathematics pedagogy at Pymble over the last three years has been to shift from teaching students mathematics to emphasising students working like a mathematician (WLAM). Integral to the success of this change has been the integration of the Maths Task Centre resources and Maths300 into all of our programs with the professional assistance of Doug Williams and Charles Lovitt.

Three years ago, the Mathematics teachers from Pymble Ladies' College P-12 embarked on a very successful professional learning program that equipped teachers with strategies to present students with engaging, authentic tasks that encouraged an investigative, problem-solving approach. This approach was informed by the work of consultants Doug and Charles and has built on the findings of the ACER report by Professor Peter Sullivan, 'Teaching Mathematics: Using research-informed strategies'.

The work done at Pymble builds on important algorithmic skills and methods, but also encourages students to develop reasoning, understanding, problem solving, fluency and communication skills beyond the textbook. Classroom strategies have encouraged students to work in groups, think creatively and apply a number of different strategies to solve a problem. There has also been an increased focus on authentic contexts and opportunities for kinaesthetic learning and creativity that have not been a part of the traditional Mathematics classroom.

Deb Monro's Year 7 working on Task 147, Garden Beds

Pam Stott's Year 7 working on Task 201, Rectangle Fractions

Year 7 Mathematizing Days 2014

An important issue which quickly emerged over the years was that many of the new Year 7 students had not developed reasoning, understanding, problem solving, fluency and communication skills beyond the textbook. In order to begin to overcome this problem, two Mathematizing Days were built into the Year 7 induction program. These days allowed the girls to become familiar with various problem solving strategies and how to apply them to mathematical and real life situations.

Year 8 student leaders were trained by the Mathematics staff and they organised and ran each of the problem solving workshops with the Year 7 students. The Year 8 students were selected by the following criteria:

  • possess the ability to engage in problem solving and mathematical modelling
  • have the ability to work in teams
  • self-motivated and resourceful
  • have an enthusiastic approach to the learning of mathematics.
Year 7 students were rotated through a variety of sessions which included Working backwards, Building a model, Working strategically, Using a table, Looking for patterns, Acting it out and Drawing a diagram. The majority of activities were from the Mathematics Task Centre and the feedback from staff and students was extremely positive.

The problem solving strategies learnt on the 2 days have encouraged students to work in groups, think creatively and apply different strategies to solve a problem which has now been reinforced in teaching students to become mathematicians in the classroom.

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