Recently, we revisited the schools who had participated in the Champions of Maths program in 2019, to see how the teachers were keeping up their new practice and what had developed since. We were delighted to learn that all the teachers were continuing to implement the approaches, more than half of them had moved into numeracy leader positions, and two had gone on to further studies in maths leadership. I would like to relate a couple of stories from the Eaton Primary School teachers, Arnalise and Hilary.
Arnalise de Robillard
Eaton Primary School
As a recently graduated teacher, Arnalise was aware of the various theories of best practice in education, but found it challenging to actively apply these in her classroom.
“There are a lot of theories and theorists that I was kind of familiar with, or I’d heard of. But I hadn’t been taught – or rather there hadn’t been a lot of focus on – how these theories work in an everyday classroom,” she said.
After participating in the Alcoa Champions of Maths program, Arnalise has become confident in her knowledge and application of best practice when it comes to teaching maths.
“I use a wider range of the talk moves more confidently than I did before. Previously I probably focused on ‘revoicing’ just one or two at a time. But I think it’s coming more naturally now where I can use more talk moves more often, and I can use them at better times during my lessons,” she said.
“Probably the best thing that I learnt was how to prepare the context of our classrooms to be able to allow rich discussion to happen – that really stood out to me.”
Arnalise’s newfound confidence inspired her to take on the role of ‘numeracy leader’ at her school, where she’s encouraging the adoption of best practice methods among her peers.
“What does it mean to me to be a leader? I think it’s to make maths accessible to as many of my fellow teaching staff as I can, in a way that doesn’t increase workload but still demonstrates and shows best practice. I’m there to support best practice in my school,” she said.
Eaton Primary School
Prior to participating in the Alcoa Champions of Maths program, Hilary did not have a positive outlook on her ability to teach maths. And she could see this attitude impacting her students.
“In my early teaching, I felt that I wasn’t very good at teaching maths. And part of that was because I didn’t like it! So, I made a promise to myself that I would do everything mathematical I could get my hands on, to upskill myself and be a better teacher for my kids,” says Hilary.
Through the program, Hilary experienced a strong sense of support which increased her confidence. This has translated into her classroom teaching methods.
“Talking to Shyam about it really made me feel more confident. I use my vertical boards and random small groupings for nearly everything,” she says.
“So, my students went from ‘Oh it’s time for maths? *groan*’ to, ‘Miss Campbell are we doing problem solving today?!’ And I say ‘yes’, and they go, ‘Yes!’ It became part of our routine that the kids were looking forward to, just like it’s sports day or art day.”
“I think the thing that’s had the greatest impact for me is learning how to question students, how to converse and speak with students, to allow them to take their own thinking and ideas to a higher or a next level.
“One of my girls who’s a real battler in maths, she had the key idea that solved a big problem – and you should have seen her face! Hearing the other kids saying she was right was so important; you could see her own self-belief go up.”
These results were made possible by the skills Hilary learned through the program. So, what is she doing differently in her maths classrooms now?
“Well, definitely the way I go about maths is different. I try, certainly, to set clear expectations of what we’re going to be doing, what we hope to achieve, what success might look like. So now the kids have a clear vision.”
The resources used in the Champions of Maths program have proven useful in the real world. Hilary’s school now has mobile whiteboards in most of the school blocks, available for staff to use for problem solving in other areas of the class. Staff have been introduced to the reSolve website, which was one of the key resources used in Champions of Maths. And Hilary’s looking forward to sharing more.
“I’m just so keen for some of the other teachers to want to know what I’m doing, because I’ve been doing some really good teaching, and I think there’s some good learning happening here.”
Find out more about the Alcoa Maths Enrichment Program.
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