“Teaching Mathematics” by Peter Sullivan

Peter Sullivan is currently Professor of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, Monash University. He has extensive experience in research and teaching in teacher education.  He is the current President of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers and was the lead writer of the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics.

He has recently authored an Australian Education Review for ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research) titled ‘Teaching Mathematics: Using research-informed strategies’.

This has formed a part of my holiday professional reading. I have some serious reservations about some of the assertions made, particularly as they relate to so-called  ‘maths wars’ in the curriculum between an applied approach and a more rigorous, theoretical one…I think this is a fallacious construction built by those involved in education faculties in the tertiary sector. I do not think that there is such a distinctive dichotomous tug of war in schools. Nor should there be. I think to expend energy and effort on exploring a false dichotomy is to focus on the wrong things in mathematics education, the things that will not lead to an improvement in neither teacher nor student learning. I also do not think there is much value in debating the precise nature of what is meant by ‘numeracy’.

The sections of this review that really caught my interest and fired my imagination were Section 5 – Six Key Principles for Effective Teaching of Mathematics, Section 6 – The Role of Mathematical Tasks and Section 7 – Dealing with differences in Readiness.

The Six Principles mentioned are:

  1. Articulating Goals
  2. Making connections
  3. Fostering Engagement
  4. Differentiating Challenges
  5. Structuring Lessons
  6. Promoting fluency and transfer
In CSE Occasional Paper No 121 July 2011, Vic Zbar has written an article titled ‘Ensuring a more personalised approach: A strategy for differentiated teaching’. In that article, a table appears explaining the key features of “A Model for Explicit Instruction” which I believe has been formulated by John Hattie. This is here, in three pages, sorry, the system wouldn’t cope with a single document!A model for explicit instruction Page 1  A model for explicit instruction Page 2  A model for explicit instruction Page 3 It is an excellent basis for teachers to plan their instruction. Differentiation is sometimes believed to involve having 25 different plans for 25 students. Not so. One good teaching plan is all that is required, one that allows for differentiation of content and approach and different levels of readiness as well as intellectual capacity for engagement. In Section 7 of Peter Sullivan’s Review, there are some excellent suggestions as to how this differentiation might look in a mathematics classroom. I plan to focus on differentiation strategies with the faculty in 2012 so this section will be of great value as a launching platform.
Some great reading here.

About Linda

I have been involved in secondary mathematics education in Victoria, Australia for over 25 years.
This entry was posted in Ideas for teaching & learning, Pedagogy, The discipline, Vision. Bookmark the permalink.

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