Magazine article Mathematics Teaching

5 Correlation Street

Magazine article Mathematics Teaching

5 Correlation Street

Article excerpt

The mathematical soap opera that is my classroom

You can't make me!

I see a girl looking really, really fed up. Her name is Sarah and she is gazing out of the window resentfully. 'Application of number, level 2' is clearly not her current place of choice. I decide to take a breezy approach:

"Sarah, you look awful: has your dog just died?" I ask lightly.

"Yes," she says. The thought seems to cross her mind, 'At least this is a game to be playing along with.'

"What was he called?" I enquire.

"Er ... Rover."

"How long have you had him?" I persist.

Suddenly the game stops being fun. "I hate maths. I really don't want to be here."

"Have you tried the question?" I ask.

"I don't understand any of it."

"Look, I'll help. You've drawn a rectangle, this one: what's its area?"

"I don't know and I don't care."

"So why are you here?"

"I was told that the government insists that I am here."

"And you resent that?"

"I resent that totally."

"What else are you studying?"

"A-levels in English, Art and Media ... and IT Key Skills. I've got lots else to work on. I don't need maths."

"But if you carpet your home won't you need to know about area?"

"I will ask someone - a friend - who does know about area."

At this point I say a number of things to myself. The first is, 'Jonny, you are a charlatan, a total fraud. If you were halfway decent in the classroom you would surely be able to provide Sarah with a reasonably enjoyable maths experience. Hand in your resignation and start selling insurance, today!' This is swiftly followed by, 'Sarah, you ungrateful hussy, I have thought hard about this lesson, and the least you can do is give it a go! …

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