Saturday, 23 July 2016

We're Inviting You to be a Guest Blogger

You Must Have Something You'd Like to Say!

We have (finally) added a Blog to the navigation bar at the top of the home-page of MathsRepublic. I will be busy each week writing about whatever comes to mind ... mainly about teaching & learning.

I would like to invite you (teachers as well as students) to send me your Guest Blog to

Of course I will have to review it before posting ... but I won't be some kind of censor in that your views on education have to align with mine. No way.

Let's get some healthy discussions going.

I look forward to reading your guest blogs.

Alan Power, MathsRepublic

How Do Students Learn Best?

When I reflect on schools, teaching & learning in my maturing years, I am always amazed by the conservative attitudes of the majority of teachers to that vital dynamic of learning.

I lay the blame on the reactionary Education systems. Australia is a good example. The system nutures and mirrors the same attitudes within teachers. And they, in turn, reflect these in their reluctance to explore the many advances in learning available in our digital age.

Who's strung out to dry ... well, the students of course. Did we forget that teaching is only about the students?

Let me give you a personal example ... when I started teaching I also taught science. Now I thought that the standard methodology then was a nonsense ie use of a graph book (lined on the LH side and graph page on the RH side).

The rigid process of an experiment was to follow a write-up template of Aim, Apparatus, Method and Conclusion. Diagrams were drawn on the graph page. Any of you remember this?

So I changed this process to ruling the pages vertically into halves and documenting each step with a short description on the LH box and a relevant diagram in the RH box. So the science experiment report became a series of small steps each with a brief description and a visual.

Because that was the way I thought students would learn better.

It all worked beautifully as the students observed, thought and recorded everything in small steps using both words and graphics.

It's not unlike the teaching of maths is it?

The point of this little story is to never give up searching for the Holy Grail of learning ... there is a better way and it's probably not the way you are teaching today. Or told to teach!

Think about your personal schooling, your teachers, your teacher training, your head teacher, your colleagues etc ... then relate all this to your kids. Don't you think there's a huge gap between the way your brain developed compared with those of your kids and their mates in today's world?

Now go into your classroom and keep exploring for the Holy Grail of learning. You'll find it.

Love your comments and views on this ...

Monday, 11 January 2016

Make a Difference from within Your Own Classroom

Go into your staffroom and yell Transform Now! Then go into your classroom and start Disruptive Collaboration. Read on …

Teaching & learning in the maths classrooms needs reform. Evolution. Transformation. YOU can make it happen this year.
Yes, just one teacher in one classroom is all it needs … let’s start with YOU.
Some background first: Australia’s maths results in 2015 indicate that the serious decline in performance is continuing. Sure there’s some hotspots but they should not obscure the fact that the transformation must happen.
Couple of facts you may not know … Australian maths students are three years behind those in Shanghai? Or that Australian 15-year olds have similar problem-solving abilities to 12-year old Korean students.
But read all the alarming facts and figures yourself in the Australian education research study published last year by three academics:
While I too was shocked with the data and performance comparisons in the Study (as an ex-maths teacher), my view as to the steps we can take now differ from the report’s authors.
First, it’s curious that in seeking this transformation, we turn to the product of the system rather than the systems themselves. We criticise the egg instead of understanding the chicken. Of course, the bits and pieces of that chicken are complex to the point of obscurity (just like our education bureaucracies and the working of governments). 
This makes self-correction through iteration–the current model for education reform–a challenge.
The education departments in each state, with all their associated experts and consultants, plus the Pollies at both Federal and State levels, get behind the existing machine and PUSH.
We seek approval from the same power holders and institutions that nod their heads Yes or shake their heads No, forgetting it is their way of thinking that got us into this mess. We want transformational change not just from within, but from above.
Teaching is about the three Ps … Preparation, Presentation and Personality. The most important of these is Personality (yes, this is definitely lacking in many maths teachers but you can get around that). I wrote a Blog about this recently. And the quality and teacher-education is already there too.
So we have to stop battling the bureaucracy and start the transformation in your own classroom … right now. If you don’t then we slip further down the world’s comparative maths achievement ladder. If you don’t care about this then maybe you shouldn’t be teaching.
You need to be disruptive even if it’s simply for the sake of disrupting. Make noise. Draw attention. Walk into your staffroom and yell Transform Today because this whole thing isn’t getting anywhere very quickly.
Disruption in general is about unsettling, and is often thought of in terms of chaos. Disruptive collaboration is working together to force change. It’s the artful unsettling of that which has become inartistic. Reconfiguring systems that can no longer see themselves, or replacing them altogether. It’s about shifting the locus of control.
We could talk right now about helping our students collaborate disruptively – and we should – because they are being let-down big time. But most immediately, this is about teaching and learning. 
Now here’s the pitch … You should seek collaboration with your students that torpedoes those industrial-age ideas. Reject the ideas of the education bureaucracies that have shut off their innovation trying to please the Pollies above them.
You should want the product of your collaboration with colleagues and students to be disruptive, too. Existing systems have their own momentum and can’t be changed. They don’t need our hashtags or likes or affection. They’ve yielded the context that necessitates our collaboration to begin with.
If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. So let’s build something that offers viable alternatives for everyone–especially those marginalized by the system that exists.
Let’s stop demanding rigor and accountability, and instead create something ourselves that is scalable beyond the walls of your school, or the reach of the concept of “academia” that continues to haunt learning everywhere. 
Something that thinks not in a pattern of school->curriculum–>content–>proficiency, but instead person–>learning–>knowledge–>lots of people–>lots of learning–>social capacity–>wisdom.
Let’s connect and build something that doesn’t serve you or the past or what’s already here but others plus the here and now and the future. Let’s build something we’ve never had –and do so by empowering everyone that’s a part of this.
Something that isn’t built to make your school or classroom spin faster. But rather is built for the real work of understanding something as beautiful as mathematics.