Don't teach more, teach better.
Don't teach more, teach better.
"It's so hard to get the students' attention!"
Maths for Humans lesson starts with an open prompt (like the one above) that does not look like a common maths task. The prompts are designed according to the principles of the interest development model by Hidi & Renninger. The teacher's job is to allow students to take a moment of bafflement and then encourage discussion. You can start by sharing your own thoughts. Do not expect something specific from your students. This way you leave the floor open to a myriad of discussions to evolve. Free prompts are shared in @laurathemathsbuster's social media, in our blog, and in Math Hunger webpage.
"How do I keep them on the assignment?"
Maintaining students' interest – as described in the interest development model – requires changing the nature of the activity. Maths for Humans prompts either surprise, establish a cognitive conflict, or address familiar scenarios and this way guarantee that the students start talking. At first, it's only a few students; the others join little by little as they realise there will be no rushing through their ponderings. Allow pair talk, listening, arguing, different strategies, researching more about the topic and surprising, even irrelevant turns in the discussion. This is your students' quality time with maths.
"Where's the rigorous mathematics then?"
As a qualified teacher, you will be able to establish connections to the previous and future topics (such as grouping, multiplication, arrays, patterns, sequences, doubles, sizes, densities, number values, comparisons, measurement, probabilities, accuracy...). Listen to your students, they also see connections. Document your students' ideas for your coming lessons, you become a very convincing teacher when you tell stories about what students commonly or rarely see. This also helps you to figure out what's in your students' heads. The idea is not to teach, but to let the teaching that has already happened to sink in.
"No time for such monkey business, the exam's comin"
Would you become a marathon runner by running every day with no breaks, with no stretching, no muscle recovery or mental work? One lesson per month for expectation free activities give space for our students' creativity, allow them to make mathematics more connected and promote a positive attitude towards mathematics. Most importantly, by experiencing the relevance of maths, students become motivated, which in turn changes the dynamics of every lesson. 97% of the growing population of teachers that give regular Maths for Humans lessons recommend doing it. It doesn't take your time, it gives more quality time to spend with students that are eager to learn.
"So... My teaching becomes easier and more purposeful if I do less?"
Remember when they invented the wheel? Focusing on a smooth flow instead of pushing even harder really makes sense. Our team is used to face scepticism: 'This has always been a problem, why would there now be a solution?" We say: "Never before have we made actual changes in maths classrooms. Of course, the issue has persisted." The data speaks for us. You change one lesson per month utterly, and you get the same benefits as all the other teachers worldwide. Sometimes humankind just invents the light bulb.
"Can anyone do this? What if I fail?"
The more you believe in your students' willingness to be engaged, the more they will be. You might need to be very clear of the purpose though, your students might be as scared as you to start doing things in a less controlled way. "Is this how I'm supposed to think creatively, Mrs. X...?" The prompts have been tested with thousands of students, however, if you actually fail to make the first attempt immensely engaging, you can proudly translate that into showing your students an example of being a learner. You are on a path to become a professional who is on the front line to apply the most modern way to finally get rid of the problem of maths aversion for good.
"Wait what is this actually free and super convenient PD?!"
By following our blog posts and social media, you'll get research updates that are curated to you by experts and chopped into daily serves. You'll get brief info of things like: "Did you know teachers' most common type of listening is evaluative listening. This aims to find out whether or not to correct your students. Such an approach makes students focus on what the teacher wants to hear, not to understand their own thinking process. By changing evaluative listening into generative listening, you create much more space for your students' thinking." Alongside the theoretical info, we share loads of activities that you can use in your classroom.
"I teach Year Z students, how do I find prompts to that stage?"
Maths for Humans prompts are rich activities, accessible to small kids and deep enough for secondary students. Even adults! The idea is not to teach but to inspire. What follows will naturally match the target group, as it is the students who will lead the discussion. Students at every level deserve experiences of expectation free, profound maths discussions. To make it clear: any prompt can be used at any level. If there seems to be a lot of writing, give time, read it out loud, let your students chew it in small bites. If the activity speaks best to older students, we have provided an alternative that suits even small kids (see an example here). Keep a couple of different prompts in your pocket in case the discussion start to idle. Explicit teaching might naturally occur as a response to students' inquiries, just keep in mind that it has to be initiated by the students. More prompts can be bought here, we'll keep on creating more and share them for free, plus make affordable packages.
"Got it. One lesson per month!"
Congratulations, you are one of the early adopters! Teachers in Europe, the US, Australia and Asia have noticed the power of doing less with the help of Maths for Humans. While the idea has been developing for over 10 years, sharing the activities and recruiting teachers to apply them has started only recently. We thank you for giving your students the chance to enjoy the results of the hard work that our team is doing. We are maths education researchers that are sick and tired of seeing dysfunctional motivating attempts, people carrying negative memories of maths, and the teaching efforts being wasted as people opt out as soon as the school finishes. We have the power to change maths into something that just speaks: "Laura Im liking maths again."
The initial idea of Maths for Humans lesson is based on an awarded longitudinal, cross-cultural PhD study. Our team is growing, and we are currently testing the program in an Australian setting as part of the Love Maths research project by UNSW. All aspects of the prompts, their display, the teacher instructions etc are designed according to the most updated knowledge of mathematics learning by a team of mathematics education experts.
Research shows that by allowing one lesson per month for open problem solving and discussions we can get more students developing a positive attitude towards maths. Such a Maths for Humans lesson should be dedicated to authentic questions, interest development and a degree of confusion. Teacher's role is to listen, facilitate, guide the discussions, help students to come up with new questions, and just have fun with their students.
The blog posts either deliver updates of recent research findings related to the topic, explain the idea of Maths for Humans, or function as the actual Maths for Humans activities. Subscribe to get them directly to your mail box.