For this part of the reflection, I am going to look at Maths Program as stipulated by the department and how that can be further strengthened and improved. Generally, I have no issue with the bold and forward-looking strategies of the department (e.g. with no use of workbook, making mathematics reasoning visible through journalling, use of technology for formative assessment).
In fact, at the beginning of the year, I was excited about this. But, a strategy is only as good as its execution. The devil is in the details and the implementation is even more challenging in the P6 critical year. The students are not enculturated in such way of mathematics learning and may not possess the necessary dispositions and skills.
(1) No workbook
In this year, students did not buy workbooks. Students were expected to do questions (in textbook) and referred to them whenever necessary.
But, I believe that this was the first year most of the students were experiencing this. The students might not have the habit to refer to the question in one place and their answer in another place.
This might create extra cognitive load for my students as they needed to flip to the relevant page (provided they had written the page and question number) and refer to their answers. My students were already ‘put off’ by maths and this extra step was not going to make them love Maths more.
I am all for the idea of ‘no workbook’ as this allows teachers more time to create meaningful learning experience for the kids. I do not dispute that.
But, the P6s might not be ready for this as this could be their very first year experiencing this. It would be good that if this has been implemented in earlier years (say P4). So, once they are in P6, they will have the habit with doing work in the exercise book.
(2) Making mathematics thinking visible through journalling
Students were to write a journal entry explaining their mathematics reasoning. This is a very good idea. But, our P6s might not have the necessary skills and disposition for meaningful and in-depth journalling. They were likely to provide journal entries that lacks depth.
Why? Again, this could be the first year they were doing mathematics journalling and they do not have the necessary skills and dispositions for such meaningful journalling. Meaningful journalling takes time and students should be trained over the years for that. We cannot leave it to the students to ‘journal’. They need to be trained over the years.
So, it would be good that the department can come up with some consistent scaffolds for such meaningful journalling over their 6-year. These scaffolds and structures would be used consistently over the 6 years.
I am definitely all for mathematics journalling. This why I was doing a variant: Through making their mathematics reasoning through videos.
However, my challenge was finding the common scaffolds and apply these scaffolds consistently. It would be good that the Maths Department, with their wealth of expertise, can come up with something the teacher can use.
(3) Formative Assessment using technology
I am all for this provided this is meant for assessing the simple-to-do work problems (e.g., 1-mark or 2-mark mechanical word problems). I was using the platform extensively for my class and they enjoyed it. I would even give them differentiated problems based on their results.
However, the answers in the platform might not be correct at times, which might lead to misconception in students. For example, if 3.05 is rounded off to 1 decimal place, both 3.1 and 3.10 are both accepted. It would be good that the Maths Department can set up some Google Doc for the all Mathematics teachers to input such inaccuracies. This would help further strengthen the platform in terms of mathematical accuracy.
In essence, I am all for the bold and forward-looking vision for the Maths department. The question to ask: Are our student enculturated to this type of Maths learning?
Hence, there is a need to put structures and process in places over the 6 years to ensure the vision can materialize. It might be a challenge for a P6 Maths teacher to implement the strategies in class in which students are not prepared for over their years in school.
But, I am glad that I ‘somehow’ survived the year by making meaning of the bold strategies and contextualized them appropriately in my class.