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What it takes to be a mathematician

Last week I was lucky enough to visit schools in person and see more children engaged in learning mathematics.Thank you for allowing me to share in your maths lessons. 🙂 It got me thinking about what it takes to be a mathematician.My love of Lego is no secret, it is a most versatile resource for teaching/learning, especially maths.Here’s is one of the latest Lego sets:

It’s called ‘Everyone is Awesome.’The vision and cornerstones of the MAT indicate that we all believe everyone is awesome.Each school within the MAT has their own vision for mathematics, and whilst each is different & unique to the school, they all state the belief that every child is and should recognise themselves to be ‘a mathematician‘.But if we, as teachers, are tasked with developing these mathematicians in their journeys through school, from early years to year 6 & beyond, just what does it take to be a mathematician and how do we recognise a good mathematician when we see one?Being a mathematician is not merely knowing about numbers and being able to do some arithmetic, it is a way of thinking logically, a way of understanding, ourselves, the world around us and our control over our lives and our world through the choices we make. Being a mathematician involves understanding problems and how to tackle them.One of the most important aspects of being a good mathematician, or a good scientist in general, is to always ask, ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’Thinking like a mathematician involves wondering and asking why.Understanding how and why things work is vital in order to be a good mathematician.     Young children are naturally inquisitive, they want to find out how things work, they touch, explore, ask questions, share ideas.   Visit any early years setting and you will see this.Research suggests however, that as students move from early years through Y1, 2 and into KS2, this natural curiosity, this desire to investigate, the constant wondering and asking why, decreases and many students leave Y6 having lost that impulse altogether.    Much research has looked into this, revealing Y2 is when the greatest decline begins and Y6 is when things reach a point from which it is difficult to return.So as teachers, how can we foster the skills of a good mathematician?  How can we keep alive that natural curiosity?   We need to keep the children asking why.  Ensure each child begins a maths lesson ready to ask why and expecting to learn why.      Showing children what, is not enough.    We also need to recognise that some of our children may not be encouraged to ask questions such as why, outside of school, so it is even more important they learn to continue questioning when they are in school.     As adults we should model this.    As adults, we wouldn’t do something just because another person told us to, we would want to know why, we would want to make an informed decision.    When children understand why something works and why it is important in life beyond the maths classroom, they engage with their learning and achieve higher results.So as we continue to share our love of mathematics with our students, lets help them to see themselves as mathematicians and help them to keep asking why.Below is an excerpt from an ACME report, ‘Professional learning for all teachers of mathematics’ (2016) which highlights the importance of believing all students are able to succeed in mathematics and that teaching needs to move beyond the transmission of methods.

Everyone is awesome, everyone is a mathematician.Let’s support our colleagues and students in recognising and celebrating this.   🙂 Helen

Helen Hackett

SLE, MaST, PD Lead

Mathematics & PD Executive, Excelsior MAT (P/T)

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