As we were feeling very youthful, we arranged a maths lit community meeting for Youth day. What dedicated teachers we are!! There were about 10 of us and Angie kindly organised her classroom and the computer centre at Redhill for us. She also had delicious muffins and cookies and stuff…….thanx Angie….you are the best! She also took minutes for us- what a star!
And what a lot of sharing took place. Not only did we collect a whole stack of papers and resources, but we also shared some stories of what we are doing and how we are doing it. There are some of us that are stuck with 38 monster learners in a class while others are working with 3 to five enthusiastic angels. A common theme was the “inferior” label that Maths lit seem to be carrying. Not just parents are skeptical about ML, principals are not giving teachers the necessary support When learners change from maths to ML, we talk about “dropping” to maths!!!??? Even though ML carries the same amount of credits it has to suck the ….okay, get the picture? So we talked about the fact that we need to seriously do some serious advocacy to get ML to take its “lawful” place. It is a different (and very relevant) kind of maths and NOT a second rate subject, as our schools, colleagues and parents seems to think. So it s up to us to change this. Nicola offered to make a PowerPoint available to us which she use on school information evenings. Some of the teachers discussed how their learners were growing in confidence and enjoying the subject whereas in other schools some students felt embarrassed to be ML students. We have some work to do.
We discussed Universities acceptance of maths lit for various career options. We know that all the pure sciences are out for our ML learners, THAT we can understand. But with the skills and knowledge that the ML syllabus should give our learners we do not see why they cannot go into Law, Commerce, architecture….. It also seems as if though different Universities have different criteria for acceptance and we wondered if they could do bridging courses? This is one area that we need to get clarity on as we cannot advice the learners on career choices.
Textbooks were, as always, a hot topic of discussion. The different contexts and styles of exercises where debated and it was even said that there were too many textbook offering so many different ways of doing things. That brought us to the fact that our learning programmes obviously are driven by the textbook that we are using. Most are supplementing the textbooks with other stuff. Most teachers seem to be using either Radmaste’s Classroom Mathematics, Focus or Mark North’s textbook. One teacher had an interesting take on things. She uses the teachers guide (2006) that is freely available from our public maths lit area (www.mathsliteracy.co.za, Curriculum documents) and then elaborate on the ideas given in the guide using other textbooks or resources. We discussed the idea that we need to start putting our own learning programme together. But that again brought us back to the fact that we HAVE VERY LITTLE TIME. So darling Angie offered to start working on a learning programme for grade 11 and she asked for feedback on worksheets/exercises that worked well this year thus far (e-mail name of textbook and page, topic or resource)
Which brought us to the big issue of Copyright. Everybody agree that they do not always have time to develop new stuff form tests and exams and therefore mostly draw from textbooks. Quite a few of our shared exam papers have questions from several of the textbooks. But what are we supposed to do? We felt that we are using it for non commercial use…but it was pointed out that it says in all the textbooks that it cannot be copied. It was decided that if teachers use any tables, graphs etc from a newspaper or textbook to acknowledge the source by stating under the source ‘Taken from The Star, 23 Sept 2006’ or ‘Adapted from ……) Mmmm, what would that look like in tests? I am definitely going to call a workshop with all the publishers so that we can brainstorm about our needs and their textbooks…..
Okay, I also put my case across for the ML online community of practice. It worried me that we are halfway through this year and have very little gr11 resources. This brought us to discuss the reason for this. Teachers explained that they felt uneasy sharing work that might not be right or at the right standard or have textbooks questions in them (copyright again) . I made a passionate plea for teachers to share their work even if it is anonymously. I encouraged the teachers to send it to me if they want to be anonymous. I will then remove all references to schools and teachers, before I post it to the group or put it on the FTP server. I have also created a fax number for the ML group (0866633362) where yo9u can fax your paper to if you can’t e-mail it. We are ALL new at this and the only way that we possibly can learn how to do things right (if we can even agree on what is right) is to share and DISCUSS every single resource. One of the teachers pointed out that she felt even lonelier when nobody made any comments about the resources she submitted. I know we have limited time- I know I always squiz through submitted resources but sometimes forget to comment. So please everybody, there are 120 of us in the group so far. If 3 people comment on 1 resource, we can spread out the burden and also help me to categorise the resources. We decided that we will work our way through all the past resources and classify them according to contexts, content as well as thinking levels. This is going to take co-operation from everybody. We will be circulating a spreadsheet for people to volunteer to take on at least 1 resource to analyse. We thought that maybe form a learning point of view, to go through submitted exams and tests, a question at a time and discuss the thinking levels.
Let’s get back to the learners moving (not dropping) from core maths to maths lit. Most of us agreed that the ideal time for students to change to ML is at the end of their Grade 10 year or in the beginning of Grade 11. But the fear was expressed that schools is going to force teachers to accept late “move-ins”. According to the Department they cannot change after the end of gr 10.
We also touched on cluster group meetings. It seems that the government teachers are meeting more often that the private school teachers. Information sharing is vital. So we asked that whoever is having a meeting must please share what they are doing with everybody else, as we are doing now. Also, to let everybody know where and when meetings are going to take place.
Jackie’s insightful presentation on assessment helped us all come to grips with learning outcomes and assessment standards. We also talked about all the topics that have been removed from the curriculum until 2008. If you look at the ML SAG”S (available from www.mathslitercy.co.za) you will see that trigonometry, scientific notation and different spatial views (top, plan and side views) do not have to be covered any more. Most schools will not cover these topics unless they have extra time at the end of the year. Jackie stated that any optional areas of the curriculum can be taught at schools but they won’t be examined until 2008. Her presentation can be downloaded from here: http://www.slideshare.net/maggiev/assessing-maths-literacy-july-2007 Of course the question of the tow papers came up and Jackie pointed out that the first paper must be on thinking levels 1 and 2, which covers very basic skills. The second paper is on thinking levels 3 and 4. This theoretically means that a “good” learner could get 100% for paper one with paper 2 being more challenging.
That brings me to my part of the workshop. We did not even get a chance to go to the computer room! This just shows me that we have soooo much to share and discuss. My only hope is that we will be able to take all our stories online. I showed everybody how to blog and use their disk. As this blog is now getting way to long, I will deal with that at a later stage. I did create a page “How and why of blogging” at my ICT- Champions group at http://groups.google.co.za/group/ict-4-champions/web/blogging-4-maths-lit . Please go and read that so long and leave a message.
Okay, so where are all the resources we have collected. Hopefully by tomorrow I would have loaded them…. Nag me if I haven’t…..
All the teachers who have not been to this workshop are welcome to comment and those that were there, if I left anything out, feel free to add or elaborate…