Thursday, 16 August 2012

Maths is...

Listening to the voice of the child

Something I want to do more in my class is to listen to how the kids are feeling about what they are doing. I make too many assumptions about what they think and feel and I make important judgments based on my own skewed views.

So what would the kids say when I asked them to complete the sentence....

Maths is...

I got my class, and the one next door belonging to CapitanoAmazing (find him on Twitter or at, to finish the sentence. I sorted through their responses and found lots of interesting and thoughtful comments.

Here is a selection that I have grouped into sets.

Awesomely Positive Responses!

There was always going to be a few of these. Some kids are so positive about everything they do. Being so effusive doesn't make these comments any less important - they need to be acknowledged and celebrated along with the rest of the team.

This is hard but I think I can do it

An interesting group of responses from kids who found that Maths is easy but who were prepared to take the challenge and have a go.

I really encourage kids to try a variety of strategies to reach a solution. This really helps them, and me, to reflect on the problem solving strategies being used and which might be most effective.

Maths is meant to be a challenge. We need to take kids from what they know to what they don't know - this is the essence of learning. I'm really glad that these guys identified the challenging nature of learning. 


Help! I think I'm drowning!

There is almost a sense of desperation in some of these comments, where the child can see that things aren't going in the right direction but they don't know how to turn it around.

How many kids are sitting in my room thinking that they are failing? Not just in Maths but in writing? spelling? reading?

Well, now I know about a few of them and guess what? Now you're on the radar I can do something about it.

This is formative assessment, isn't it?

Something to think about

And some of these responses made me sit back and think.

Maths is a sum that has one answer? Really? 

Or Maths is the basic number operations? Isn't there anything else - just figuring out?

I do encourage the "fun" idea and the problem solving side of maths so I'm glad a few kids identified that as part of the process.

And "Power and Knowledge"! A very interesting concept to explore.

Maths is Life!

And then there were those who saw the real-life meaning and application of Maths.

Maths is everyday life.

And if that message is all that my kids hear this year, I won't be disappointed.

(Well, maybe a bit - but it's a really important lesson to learn.)


  1. The children's insights into maths are interesting, amusing and revealing. My favourite would be "Maths is a sum with one answer". Now there's a mind wanting to look at life in more than one way. 2+2=4... surely there must be more to it than that. :)

  2. Yep - that comment - "Maths is a sum with one answer" made me sit up too. I thought it was someone who had a problem with conceptual understanding. Instead, it turned out to be a really exceptional student who is working well above her peers in Maths. I think she was trying to articulate the definitive nature of maths - that there are absolute values and unchanging principles at work.

  3. Hi Bruce! These student responses are great, and I think they are in a way formative assessment. My favorite is "math is power and knowledge" -- exactly. I'm delighted you joined the Initiation, and I've featured your blog on mine at

    Thank you, Bruce!


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