Champion disposition in our St Catherine’s Learners

Over 600 players with a range of experience and skills recently landed on our shores and battled it out for the ultimate prize – a Grand Slam title at the 2021 Australian Open.

We would class these professional athletes as highly skilled, passionate and tenacious in their approach to their sport. All of them can certainly hit the ball and with a high level of accuracy and precision.

Which begs the question, what sets the good apart from the best? All players, no matter their rank, will say that they all spend countless hours practising on court and are dedicated to their sport. Many will argue that the ‘best’ have something ‘special’ in their DNA. While this certainly may be true, there appears to be more than one or two factors that sets them apart.

What else separates Ash Barty and Serena Williams from the rest of the competitors in the women’s draw? Why have the ‘Big Three’ in men’s tennis had such long and successful careers? We must also consider what other dispositions the elite possess that builds them into a champion player and enables their performance to stand above the rest. What can we draw from these sportspeople and encourage and inspire in our learners?

As teachers of Mathematics, we use different pedagogical approaches to enhance understanding and instil confidence thus enabling the cognitive development of each student. Indeed, as a tennis player needs a reliable set of skills to be highly competitive on the tennis court, our students need to acquire a strong set of skills and techniques to solve a range of mathematical problems. However, this is only one of the elements that creates a functional mathematician. Students will be asked to tackle familiar mathematical problems, and other problems that will challenge, test and demand higher-order thinking. Just like no two tennis matches are rarely the same, no two questions in Mathematics are exactly the same. A tennis player relies on skill, strategy and experience to respond to the opponent’s attack across the net. The elite tend to also have an incredible ability to think logically under pressure. Therefore, it is important that a tennis player like a mathematician adapts and applies skills to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. A student’s ability to dissect, draw out key information when reading questions, and then use a thinking routine or a strategy to attack a problem is essential.

Tennis players at the highest level have excellent skills but they surround themselves with coaches, to mentor and guide them. This team, will assess and review the player’s technical and tactical performance; it seems as though their learning journey never ends. Student performance is also assessed, they are then encouraged to take advice and feedback from teachers, and their peers, to consolidate their understanding and improve their skills ready for the next challenge. This also encourages a student to contemplate, reflect and review different processes. It is this very practice that consolidates understanding. Just as a tennis player celebrates what they did well, they welcome the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. The challenge is to keep persevering even when things are not going to plan, and to try and find new ways of solving.

Therefore, the role of the student is to get the best out of themselves in order to operate at their highest level. This is achievable when they devote time to practise and perfect their craft under the guidance of their teachers. Thus, like the champion tennis player, there seems to be a direct link between effort, perseverance, resilience and results.

Mrs Angela Klancic

Head of Mathematics

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