Sharing Good Practice
HOW DO WE INSTILL AN IDEA OF RISK
TAKING AND STRUGGLE WITH MATHS?
BY MAARIT ROSSI
N
owadays
I
often
hear
that students can hardly
concentrate
more
than
15 minutes! There are so
many interesting things happening
outside the school, is it that students
are unable to concentrate or is it that
they are choosing to concentrate on
things outside of the formal learning
environment? We talk about informal
learning and how it has a big role in
student’s life. We need to harness the
power of informal learning so that it
compliments formal learning. In PISA (2016), students were asked
about the frequency with which their
teachers use studentoriented or
teacherdirected strategies in their
lessons. Findings indicate that today,
teacherdirected practices are used
widely.
Formal and Informal learning How do we do a better job of
encouraging students’ failures rather
than using their mistakes against
them? The math lesson at school
needs to be a very safe place to make
mistakes. At best, mistakes can lead
to very meaningful discussions about
different ways of thinking and the
students learn to listen to each other.
It’s a good experience to see that
by making mistakes, you sometimes
learn even more than just using the
traditional ways of working. If the
mistakes are dealt with in constructive
ways, they can strengthen and
encourage the students to try new
approaches. PISA (2016) showed that
the students’ positive attitude towards
mathematics and the trust in their
own capability, is connected with their
ability to solve problems.
Formal learning is the learning
happening in the school. In many
instances the way this learning takes
place has not changed in decades.
The students still sit in rows, paying
attention to the one teacher at the front
of the room, who is trying to deliver the
content, one lesson at a time.
Yes, the structure of a math lesson seems
to be very fixed and similar all over the
world. In a mathematics classroom, too
many concepts are taught by telling and
writing the rules and formulas.
Who talks in the classroom?
How many questions do students ask in
a lesson? Some research says that zero
pointtwo. Further to this, most of the
questions seem to be answered in less
than one second. Most being yesno
answers. Teachers may talk for 90% of
the lesson!
16 
Jan  Feb 2018


It seems that we still have a lot to do,
so that students learn to notice that
success can be achieved by everyone.
Classroom needs to be a safe
place to make mistakes
Class Time
Embracing uncertainty in the
mathematics classroom
We need to change a lot of the
methods used in the teaching of
mathematics. With any change comes
uncertainty, and so the teacher and
the students need to be comfortable
in taking risks. The regular scenarios
of the teacher being in front of the
classroom, showing how to work
with the new concept and students
repeating similar ones in similar ways,
is outdated and should be changed.
What if students are active and are
given the opportunity to test their
ideas and make mistakes, as part of
the learning process. Think of the
possibilities.
From one answer to many
answers
It is important to go through different
solutions to the problems. Students
see that there can be more than one
way to solve a problem. It is also
important to show problems which
have more than one solution. Just like
in real life!
*OECD (2016), Ten Questions for
Mathematics Teachers ... and how
PISA can help answer them, PISA,
OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.
org/10.1787/9789264265387en
Mrs. Rossi is a Math teacher, principal and CEO of Paths to Math Ltd. She was
one of the top 10 finalists in Global Teacher Prize 2016. She is one of the Top
Teacher Bloggers in The Global Search for Education by C M Rubin. Twitter: @
pathstomath & www.pathstomath.com