How Maths Teaching has Changed

By Rahim Hirji Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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It’s funny how things have moved forward over the years. I’m showing my age slightly, but when I was growing up, I remember with some clarity (in black and white) how I was taught. There were blackboards, and dog eared text books – and pencils and pens. That’s a very different world to today’s classroom and the education of today.

At certain points in my childhood I did struggle in Maths, less so in the early years, but more so in the transition to A level. And that’s the point where I got a little bit of help from a maths tutor – a friend of a friend of my parents – who was venturing out as a teacher. I’m glad my parents arranged it for me, because it would have been a struggle to get on the maths escalator as we moved from one difficult topic to the next. In those days, with the way maths was taught, my Dad could have probably helped me – but just didn’t have the time. As my children get older, my conundrum is less about my time, although we live in an increasingly different and busier world to that of thirty years ago. While I strongly believe that the world is getting faster, and it is difficult to compartmentalise time, I’m sure I could chunk out some quality time to help with my children’s own educational goals. However, making the time to teach maths is not the main problem for today’s parents. The real issue is that the optimal way to teach maths has changed. Making the time is one thing, but I have seen, first hand, how different maths is today.

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When my eldest daughter started at primary school, I realised that the whole maths curriculum was a completely different ball game. It was being taught totally differently to how I remember with terms like mental maths, chunking, number lines, partitioning, bridging and number bonds being bandied around. These terms were alien to me – although the concepts were age old. It’s not that the end goals have changed – it’s the journey to those goals that have been optimised – to help students as they create building blocks in their learning capacity. This learning capacity is the bedrock for not only mathematics, but also for logic, for the fundamentals of learning at an early age. If, as parents, we confuse those building blocks, we potentially affect the learning of the child – and, at worst, confuse them leading to frustration and a loss of confidence.

Despite the change of terms, as parents, we do have the opportunity to help as supplementary educators. The Internet gives us a huge opportunity over previous generations – to learn, to teach and to do a whole lot more. With the resources that we have available to us in this day and age, it’s wholly possible to find out about the maths that our children should know – and the tools that we can use to get them there. We can help them with their supplementary education.

But that is the choice that parents have in the supplementary education of their children. If we all had the time to help our children, we would. But we have to invest the time in learning about the best techniques and tools, and then spend the time to coach and teach.

As working parents, we balance our lives, so that we are able to give as much time to our kids. And even though I still have some numeracy skills, to teach in the best possible way of the moment – we need to learn the right methods. Children naturally progress through the levels, from the key stages, through GCSE, A-Level and beyond. And at Maths Doctor we support children with the right pedagogy that supports the core curriculum that is taught in schools. We’re passionate with what we are doing here and are excited with how we can help your children be the best they can be. So whether it is chunking or number lines, quadratics, vectors or logs, we’re here to help bridge the gap.

Rahim Hirji is CEO of Maths Doctor, the awarding winning maths tuition company.