The Plastic Brain

Teachers’ Day with Martin Westwell – Follow up

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This links to the post below, in which I reflected on some lesson from Teachers’ Day with Prof Westwell.

At the end of the day, he said that only 5% of us would put something we learned today into practice, and challenged us to commit to something in order to up that percentage.

Well, I took up that challenge in my next Maths class, teaching, of things, percentages. I chose to use principle 10 of Dan Meyer’s Ten Design Principles For Engaging Math Tasks

Highlight the limits of a student’s existing skills and knowledge. New mathematical tools are often developed to account for the limitations of the old ones. You can’t model the path of a basketball with linear equations — we need quadratics. You can’t model the growth of bacteria with a quadratic equations — we need exponentials. Offer students a challenge for which their old skills look useful but turn out to be ineffective. That moment of cognitive conflict can engage students in a discussion of new tools and counter the perception that math is a disjointed set of rules and procedures, each bearing no relationship to the one preceding it.

I used as my leading question: How can we order fractions with different denominators?

We came the position that it would be much easier if they had the same denominator. Hey presto, this is where I stepped in with the idea of percentages – A way of comparing fractional amounts, where the denominator is always 100.

I didn’t work perfectly, as these thing rarely do, but I got through to some of them, and it’s something I can build on.

At least I’m part of the 5%.

Author: Rogan Tinsley

Biology, science and maths teacher with a PhD in Neuroscience and passion for education.

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