Inspiring independent Mathematics learners to explore problem solving

There is much conversation and debate about the best way to teach Mathematics in the classroom. We know that a supportive learning environment encourages exploration, and this assists in creating an engaged student who is open to challenge and adopting new ideas. We, as educators, try to inspire through modelling, in the hope that this helps build a resilient, agile and independent learner who embraces risk-taking in their quest for learning and one who most importantly, enjoys Mathematics.

Providing St Catherine’s students with a rich curriculum full of opportunity and focus points for discussion is of paramount importance. This produces moments for discovery, for logical thought, reflection and justification. It is with this, that we engage students in activities that demand them to think, to ‘read between the lines’ just as Charles Dickens intends for us when studying his famous text Great Expectations. At St. Catherine’s our students readily engage in problem solving.

This problem solving allows students to ‘read between the lines’ so to speak, giving them mathematical situations where they may be faced with struggle, faced with opened-ended questions and faced with challenge. Procedural fluency, that is, following and applying the fundamental rules of Maths is important but not the only measure when assessing competency and mathematical proficiency in our students.

Leading US Mathematician, Dr Dan Finkel believes that great teaching invites mathematical thinking at every opportunity, even outside the classroom. This provides a fertile ground for developing confidence, flexibility in skills and conceptual understanding but above all else, this also allows students to have fun with Maths.

Finkel encourages us to consider the following points both at home and in the classroom.

Play with Maths

This allows students to explore and develop perspective, enabling them to look at problems through a mathematical lens.

Ask lots of questions rather than only expecting answers in Maths

This values the mathematical process, more than the solution.

Encourage exploration by creating space for conversation and debate

This accepts and values ideas. It also allows students to formulate concepts for themselves.

Encourage mathematical risk-taking

A student begins to accept that they may experience some set-backs in the learning process but ultimately through perseverance success awaits and innovation is the welcome product. 

Most importantly, Finkel encourages us to use every single opportunity to celebrate Mathematics in all its glory, as it allows us to explore and explain our world both physically and numerically. Sometimes, we do this by looking for patterns, at other times, by looking for relationships between structures and quantities. From the beginning of time, we humans have an innate need to quantify what we see and experience. Asking our students to apply logical and mathematical reasoning to a number of different problems brings them one step closer to learning more about our world.

We hope that our students walk away from their school experience yearning for more mathematical challenge.

Mrs Angela Klancic

Head of Mathematics

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