How has maths teaching changed since you were at school?

Toby WehrleI left secondary school in 2014. So, the changes that have occurred within the schooling system appear somewhat minimal to me. First and foremost of the apparent changes, the GCSEs are graded one to nine instead of the A* to U from back in my (very recent) day. According to Ofqual: “the numerical grades help to better differentiate between students of different abilities”. This seems feasible as less students get a grade 9 than got an A*.

Recently my placement school had 80% of the student population purchase Chromebooks. The idea being parents would pay a reduced amount each month and then the students would have a way of studying from home if they had to self-isolate. The school advertised the Chromebooks to the parents as to be used regularly in lessons. I imagine it to be quite useful in some subjects. However, there is very limited utility in maths lessons. Potentially graphing calculators can be useful for investigative lessons. Mostly in lesson-time the students use the Chromebooks to play games and watch videos, especially when the teacher is explaining the task. Outside of lessons however, the Chromebooks could be excellent for Times Table Rock Stars or revising with HegartyMaths.

Despite being of the modern era and being well-versed in using computers, I still insist that pen and paper should be ‘the norm’ in maths lessons. When I was at school any lesson on the computers was excellent for us as a class as it meant we could get away without doing any work. “Sorry sir my computer crashed” is, for some reason, accepted much more easily than pets eating homework. I hope that being a scoundrel that lied to his teachers will allow me to see through the students claims and sort the truth from the excuses. As I say, I hope so. As ever the optimist.

This leads to homework in school. In my placement school it is fashionably renamed “Independent learning”, and it is work that the students complete at home. During current COVID times independent learning is not at the forefront of the student’s minds, and so (understandably) we do not chase students up for not completing. I know back in my schooldays I rarely completed any homework, and if I did it was copied down in the lesson from the kindly chap next to me who had followed the instructions. I never liked homework as it was a waste of my precious time outside of school, when I could be eating or sleeping or playing cricket. As a teacher I await the day that I can set homework and am allowed to chase up the stragglers that I would certainly have been a member of.

By Toby Wehrle