Often as a leader of a department, you’ll have non-specialists as part of your team. This is particulary the case in lower performing schools.
By the way – when I say lower performing, I do not mean this as a correlation to inadequate. Some of the best teaching goes on in these schools.
Since schools are lower performing, they aren’t always the most attractive, so there’s always a constant struggle to recruit quality Maths teachers – even more so consider the dearth of actual Mathematics teachers out there!
What tends to happen in this case, then, is that non-specialists tend to be prevalent in such departments. Therefore, as a leader of such departments, it’s vital that subject knowledge is at the centre of any departmental developments.
There are lots of sources to support the development of subject knowledge out there, but one of my favourites is the The Improving Mathematics Education in Schools (TIMES) project website. Now, the site is by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, so it doesn’t marry up to the National Curriculum objectives, but the content is great. For each objective there is:
- A section on the assumed knowledge that students will need to access the objectives;
- A ‘motivation’ – in other words, the point of the objective;
- Content covering the main details of the objective;
- Details of how the objective links to others in the curriculum;
- Some historical background;
- References to published material.
Wow. Seriously, wow. What a wonderful thing. If anyone in your department or beyond needs to gen-up on a particular part of the curriculum – send them to have a read of the TIMES modules. They’re absolutely brilliant.
Although I’ve railed against the idea of the use of technology for it’s own sake, when technology is done well, the impact is profound.
It’s also the case that – shock – the best, most effective resources are free, open source and simple to use. For example, you can pay hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds for software that is used once after a CPD session and then lost at the back of a cupboard not long after.
However, there are programmes and apps that are relatively simple to get started with, can take learning to complex stages and yet are completely free.
The ‘Clicky Goodness’ series is my attempt to highlight work by people that I think will make the greatest positive impact on the teaching and learning of Mathematics. Not necessarily the freshest, and most up-to-date, but certainly the most well thought out and researched work out there on the web.
I start off this series with one of the most thought-provoking pieces I’ve seen in recent years.
William Emeny, like me, is a great believer in evangelising the gospel of Mathematics education. However, unlike me, he’s a creator too.
In his blog post, ‘You’ve Never Seen The GCSE Curriculum Like This Before’ – Emeny showed the results of an extensive analysis of the interconnections between the various elements of the GCSE Mathematics curriculum.
Why does it matter?
Because it emphasises the fact that well all know and keep trying to get others to acknowledge. Concrete knowledge of basic arithmetic underpins everything else that students study at GCSE. Weakness in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division negatively impacts the rest of the ‘web’. You might think, ‘well, duh’ – but it’s funny how a number of teachers try to carry on regardless.
Many teachers are using Emeny’s framework to rightly justify the need for a mastery curriculum in KS3 and beyond. Even if you choose not to follow this plan – Emeny’s web should be the starting point of curriculum design for any department in my eyes.