## Monday 9 December 2013

### What does PISA say about teachers salaries?

In light of this and the recent release of PISA results, I thought it would be intesting to see what PISA says about teachers wages.

For high performing countries (that don't have significant other financial constraints on performance). It shows a positive correlation between performance and teacher salaries. Australia's average teacher pay is 120% of per capita GDP, significantly less than the almost 200% per capita GDP in Hong Kong. (See Slide 72 for the graph)

[slideshare id=28800269&doc=pisa2012schleicher10minuspolls-131202042053-phpapp01&startSlide=72]

Does this provide justification for higher teacher salaries? Possibly. However, with higher pay there must be higher productivity. What comes first - the salary or the productivity?

## Saturday 30 November 2013

### Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom [Kindle Edition] FREE TODAY AND MONDAY

To get your free copy, just visit Amazon's kindle store. You can download to an ipad or view online.

## Monday 25 November 2013

### Challenge Based Learning - what is it?

I have recently been asked what Challenge Based Learning is, so here is a quick summary. If you would like more information or connect with other educators who are keen to implement CBL then visit https://www.challengebasedlearning.org/

Put simply, CBL is about taking a real world problem and working towards a solution to that problem. One example currently on he above website is the problem of falling interest in science and mathematics, when these disciplines are essential for our future. To get students stared, it suggests researching how science has been used in history, who is currently making science interesting with the ultimate aim of making recommendations.

Here is the main structure:

- The big idea and the Essential question
- Guiding questions, research, etc
- Solutions and implementation
- Evaluation, reflection and publication

For a great white paper on challenge based learning, see this article from Apple: http://ali.apple.com/cbl/global/files/CBL_Paper.pdf

## Monday 18 November 2013

### Why are we letting people train to be teachers who will not get jobs?

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published this article: **Teaching: 40,000 looking for permanent jobs**, which explored the problem with so many teachers out of work. It gave one possible explanation as the move to casualisation of the workforce. This necessarily only involves a small proportion of the workforce. I think that an overlooked issue is that we are currently training teachers in our universities that we would not want teaching in our schools.

As Hattie points out, the biggest external influence on student performance is the teacher. How can we justify training someone who got 59 (ACU) as their ATAR to be a teacher? In fact almost all degrees require a low entry ATAR simply to fill places with people that we will not employ. Macquarie University had a cut-off 2012 of 75, Charles Sturt University: 70, University of New South Wales: 78, University of Technology, Sydney: 75 and the only respectable cut-off from Sydney University of 90.

If as a student, someone has failed to achieve outcomes and be in the top 10% of the state (ATAR over 90) then how can they use that experience to teach the next generation of students in the top 10% of the state?

For sure, I've taught students who have been smarter than I have and I hope that this will always be, but there has to be an adequate minimum for the teaching profession. I argue that 90.00 be that minimum.

Short term consequences and considerations:

- Smaller numbers in teaching degrees, which may decrease the number of teachers currently seeking full time employment (40,000)
- There is already a shortage of Mathematics and Science teachers. Rather than flooding schools with teachers who cannot teach calculus-mathematics, we need to address this with high school students as a viable and worthy career path. Certainly salaries can be looked at. If you can pay less because there are so many teachers of a particular subject, but have to pay more for other subjects then it may have to revolutionise the remuneration of teachers. Maybe there are in fact too many visual arts teachers (picking up on the SMH article). If the salary was to go down, the supply would also fall.
- Raising the standard of the profession and it's view within society.

Let's look to a brighter future for our children and our students who have teacher that not only care about them, but can help them succeed to the highest of heights.

There is also a need to review those that are currently in the profession that possibly should not be. With the mandatory accreditation with the NSW Institute of Teachers in 2015, I believe that many teachers nearing retirement will bring their retirement forward. This move also has the potential to improve teaching standards, but it will be up to individual schools to hold teachers to the Proficient Teacher standards and will need incredible support to help or dismiss teachers that do not meet those basic standards.

## Monday 19 August 2013

### What i've learnt about pre-tests in maths class

After my recent presentation on promoting thinking, one of my points was moving from a focus on the final result for achievement to looking at progress (acknowledge James Nottingham for the prompt for this idea). Everyone agreed in principle that this was a wonderful idea! After a question, however, I thought that I should explain what I've learnt about pre-testing.

**When to pre-test? **

- There must be time for feedback - you cannot adequately pre-test in a particular lesson or at the start of a topic and hope to gain reliable information that you can use to differentiate learning. Rather, I suggest pre-testing a week in advance, which will give time to review students work and then plan for differentiated learning.
- The test should not be a full period and should not include challenging working mathematically questions. If should contain basic knowledge and skills only.

**What to pre-test? **

- Fundamental concepts that you wouldn't plan on teaching - this would provide valuable information as to whether students have the prior knowledge expected. If students don't, then doing this a week in advance will provide opportunity to differentiate learning at home to help get students a good foundation for the new topic.
- Basic concepts in the usual teaching program - most teachers would include these in a pre-test.
- All content in the teaching program - this would allow the most diverse range of information and provide information on those students who may already know most of the topic. It should be a short pre-test however.

**Feedback to give students **

- Giving students a mark of 0/20 on a pre-test is demoralising, even if you explain that students may not know any of the content and that we are trying to find where to start.
- Deciding not to return pre-test papers to students is not an option as students won't value it and may expect that the teacher will just throw them in the bin.
- Returning the pre-test papers with post-test is a good option, although the mark alone could be misleading due to the level of difficulty of questions. If you use exactly the same questions students will have seen them before. If you just change numbers, students know what to expect and may limit learning.
- Give feedback on skills. Rather than giving any marks (or even ticks!) give students a feedback sheet (or use a sticker to quickly tick and stick). Example of feedback can be on a scale Elementary, Developing, Fluent. The objectives can be linked to dot points, e.g. (A) can add or subtract fractions (B) can multiply fractions (C) can divide fractions.

**How to pre-test**

- Let students know that you will be starting a new topic in a week or so and you want to find out if they have learnt any of it already - they may not have and that's okay!
- Give them a 20 minute test testing a few foundational concepts, mostly basic concepts, ultimately all broad parts of the knowledge and skills in the topic.
- Give students feedback on whether they are developing or fluent at each of the broad areas being tested.
- Give students feedback after a post-test about how they have progressed.
- There are obvious implications for individualising learning, but I'll leave that for another time.

Have you tried pre-testing? What have you learnt?

## Friday 16 August 2013

### Promoting Thinking Mathematically

‘We need more challenge and less instruction, since it is from challenge that one grows in body, mind and spirit.' (Matthew Lipman, 1991)

Click here to download the full presentation:

## Sunday 11 August 2013

### Relationships is what teaching is all about! Give students a reason to learn.

[ted id=1728]

## Friday 2 August 2013

### Are your students Maths Anxious? What to do about it...

In the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 July, Sarah Buckley writes "Relax, there’s nothing to fear in mathematics but fear itself"

Students suffer maths anxiety because they highly value mathematics as a disciple, but have little control over. The problem with maths anxiety is that it is a cause of declining mathematical performance.

paradoxically, it is socially acceptable, even desirable , to show a lack of interest or ability in maths

The solution for students suffering from Maths anxiety is to give them a sense of control over their understanding.

- Student achievement will reduce anxiety and lead to further achievement - students need to directly see that they have achieved a level of understanding and that it is not basic understanding. We should focus on progress rather than simply the final score on a summarise test.
- Students having a safe environment where other students will not judge them for mistakes will also be beneficial.
- Giving students worked examples that they can follow or hints along the way (either to all students or without other students knowing) could be helpful.
- Students preparation before a lesson through KhanAcademy for example or pre-reading will help to give them confidence when starting a lesson. Possibly even prepping a student tact you will ask them a specific question can help them to develop confidence.

Do you have any other ideas of how to minimise maths anxiety?

## Monday 22 July 2013

### Digital Technologies in the Classroom - Have we got it wrong?

The Sydney Morning Herald today has published an article noting the end of the Digital Education Revolution - money that has supplied laptops to students in Australia and the consequential NSW Department of Education and Communities policy change to encourage schools to support BYOD (bring your own device).

The DEC has noted equitable access to technology as a major concern and jokingly suggests cake stalls as a viable solution to gain funds for students who cannot afford to bring their own device. Non-Government schools have the advantage of being able to register as a charitable organisation, to encourage people to give tax deductible donations, but government schools cannot do this. Unfortunately, no real alternative has been suggested at this point to help those students who are from a lower socio-economic background.

The SMH also suggests that teachers need training, so that they can be "confident users across a range of platforms". I think that this misses the point of BYOD. Teachers do not need to train students in the use of technology, but rather need to recognise that most apps are platform independent and it doesn't actually matter which platform students are using. If students are using google docs, they can be on any platform. If students are creating a video, they can use a variety of platforms (with a camera).

As a teaching profession, we need to become platform independent and lead our students in learning regardless of their device.

The original writer for SMH was Dan Haesler who blogs at http://www.danhaesler.com/

## Saturday 6 July 2013

### Textbooks for the NSW Australian Curriculum

- MathsQuest - http://www.jaconline.com.au/mathsquestnswpp (if you booklist, you get assesson free for the first year, then $19.95 per student as part of a book pack)
- Pearson Maths - http://www.pearson.com.au/educator/secondary/page-proofs/#Maths%20NSW
- Australian Signpost Maths - Link
- New Century Maths (Cengage) - Blackline masters available, teacher accounts for 'exam view' which is a test generator (300 MC questions built in, you can add more yourself) These can be delivered online or printed out. No charge.http://www.nelsonsecondary.com.au/3/529/12/ncm_for_the_ac.pm
- Cambridge Maths - https://cambridge.edu.au/education/page_proofs/
- Insight Maths (Oxford) - http://www.oup.com.au/secondary/sample_pages/mathematics

## Sunday 26 May 2013

### Do we encourage students to work or to learn?

What do we want our students to be learning?

Dispositions (residuals of learning)

- Curious
- Skeptical
- Open minded
- Imaginative
- Strategic
- Meta cognitive
- Reflective
- Reflective
- Truth seekers
- Inquisitive
- Responsible
- Independent
- Listeners
- Adventurous
- Inventive
- Original
- Creative
- Flexible
- Questioning
- Risk takers
- Mindful
- Considerate
- Full of wonder

Do we promote a culture of work in our classes: "does this count towards my grade?"

Should we promote learning - what do our students learn about learning? If students don't see the point of learning, they should feel empowered to ask for the point of it.

Do we tell students what we want them to learn, or just the work we want them to do?

Do students have to complete the exercise of work if they have already learnt what we wanted them to learn?

*Reflections from The AIS Conference. Speaker: Ron Ritchhart (Senior Research Associate, Project Zero, Harvard Graduate a school of Education)*

## Monday 15 April 2013

### How to get your students to study effectively for a Maths Test

To assist students preparing for in-class test-style assessment tasks we have a focus in class and at home.

**In class**

- We complete quizzes either online or on paper (one page maximum), usually about 5 questions. These are then either peer marked or if I have the time, I mark them. The key is that students should get feedback from this process.
- We typically complete a "Chapter Review" or "Diagnostic Test" at the end of a topic so that students can be aware of the content they are not confident in.

**At Home**

- Summary sheet - my students already have thorough notes, by completing theory booklets that I give them in class. I get my students to summarise these so that there is at most 1 page per topic. (I find the human brain can focus more readily on what it can see and not have to turn a page) When preparing for an actual task, they are to further summarise so that there is one page for a test. I tell my students to act as if they were creating a cheat sheet - they need to choose very carefully what to put on the page (This is a key learning process). Students then use this as a cover and check type study or cross things off as they learn them. I tell them to take a photo with eir phone so that they can print out a fresh copy when they need it.
- Past Papers - we make around 3 past papers available to student that I recommend they do under test conditions at home. They then mark this and hopefully work through and find the content that they do not know. I say hopefully as I do not check this and am fearful that a few students stop at having competed the test and may not even mark it themselves.
- Extra Revision - I point students to YouTube videos and KhanAcademy videos to review any small concepts that they are not sure about. It is a good idea for students to have someone different explaining concepts if they did not understand they way I taught it in the first place.
- Online quizzes - there are usually online quizzes that accompany the textbook, otherwise I direct students to KhanAcademy or sites such as Mathletics or MathsOnline if they have a subscription or create my own quiz on various sites
- I also make myself available to students if they want extra help, but I have a
__36hour lockout rule__here I won't give them assistance the day of the test or the day before. They should be studying in advance and not leaving it until the day before.

**For the future**

- I want to encourage my students to prepare notes of their own on a ongoing basis more than they have been so am thinking of establishing an A5 book for each of them to write notest for the week and review notes of the week before.

## Saturday 30 March 2013

### Screen capture and recording tool - great for flipping the classroom oCam

I have often used the Microsoft Snipping Tool when creating tests and have previously written in using Screenr.com to record videos to flip the classroom. These two tools have been combined in a nice program that allows both full screen and partial screen picture as image or video:

http://ohsoft.net/product_ocam.php

## Wednesday 20 February 2013

### When are we going to use this? Summary of the Series

**1. Why is this question asked of Maths more than other subjects?**

I have to ask why this question is asked of Mathematics more than any other subject. Students do not regularly ask in English, History or Science when we are going to use. It is taken that this information is beneficial in and of itself. A History teacher argues that if you don't know the past then you can't learn from it as a society, but on an individual level this argument has little weight.

**2. This maths is needed for Further Mathematics**

There is a difference between subjects studied in High School as at University. Some University/TAFE courses are vocationally based and are practical in their approach (Mechanics, Plumbing, even Law to an extent) but many others (Arts, Science, etc) are broad and do not link to a particular career.

With some of the work being more abstract, Maths does lend itself to this question being asked more than in other subjects.

This is a cop-out answer, although very true in many circumstances. Students like to know the use of Algebra, and with much of the beginnings of Algebra the truthful answer is that it is useful for further Mathematics.

We do ask word questions, "I bought two pencils and have $5 remaining. If I had $25 to start with how much does each pencil cost?" (2x + 5 = 25). Despite the absurdity of some of these questions (not being realistic at all - each pencil costing $10) they are not how anyone would realistically complete this question! Everyone would just think 'take off 5' and then 'halve'.

Students are left unsatisfied with this response, but teachers can give this answer if they have developed a level of trust with the students.

**3. Answer using a Career**

Many parts of Mathematics are useful for particular careers. Often though, they are useful for quite a narrow career field or the maths required is not much past Year 7 or 8 Mathematics. There are some good examples on many careers websites.

However, telling a class that a Zoo Keeper uses ratios probably won't satisft many students as they will not necessarily want to be a Zoo Keeper.

http://www.mathscareers.org.au/ (by AMSI) is an excellent website that details how mathematics is used in a number of careers, including:

- Traffic Engineer
- Sports Statistician
- Guitar Marker
- Store Manager
- Travel Agent
- Motor Mechanic
- Personal Trainer
- Chef
- Zoo Keeper
- Builder
- Nurse
- Electrician
- Hairdresser
- Financial Analyst

**4. A Satisfactory Answer - It teaches you to think!**

I started this series by posing the question "Why is this question asked more of Mathematics?"

I believe that every subject in High School is beneficial because they teach students how to learn, think, understand in different ways. The research techniques learnt in history, the report writing of Business Studies and the problem solving logical approach of Mathematics are all important to develop a well rounded student.

This being said, we must ensure that our teaching approach does promote problem solving, mathematical thinking and logical clear reasoning. The Working Mathematically strand of the current NSW Syllabus and the Australian Curriculum Syllabus in New South Wales strongly support this emphasis in our teaching.

In other words:

Maths teaches you to think!

## Monday 18 February 2013

### "When are we going to use this?" Part 4 - A satisfactory Answer 100% of the time

I believe that every subject in High School is beneficial because they teach students how to learn, think, understand in different ways. The research techniques learnt in history, the report writing of Business Studies and the problem solving logical approach of Mathematics are all important to develop a well rounded student.

This being said, we must ensure that our teaching approach does promote problem solving, mathematical thinking and logical clear reasoning. The Working Mathematically strand of the current NSW Syllabus and the Australian Curriculum Syllabus in New South Wales strongly support this emphasis in our teaching.

In other words:

Maths teaches you to think!

## Saturday 16 February 2013

### "When are we going to use this?" Part 3 - For a particular career

However, telling a class that a Zoo Keeper uses ratios probably won't satisft many students as they will not necessarily want to be a Zoo Keeper.

http://www.mathscareers.org.au/ (by AMSI) is an excellent website that details how mathematics is used in a number of careers, including:

- Traffic Engineer
- Sports Statistician
- Guitar Marker
- Store Manager
- Travel Agent
- Motor Mechanic
- Personal Trainer
- Chef
- Zoo Keeper
- Builder
- Nurse
- Electrician
- Hairdresser
- Financial Analyst

In the next and final post in this series, I will give what I believe is a satisfactory answer 100% of the time.

## Thursday 14 February 2013

### "When are we going to use this?" Part 2 - You need it for more sophisticated Mathematics

We do ask word questions, "I bought two pencils and have $5 remaining. If I had $25 to start with how much does each pencil cost?" (2x + 5 = 25). Despite the absurdity of some of these questions (not being realistic at all - each pencil costing $10) they are not how anyone would realistically complete this question! Everyone would just think 'take off 5' and then 'halve'.

Students are left unsatisfied with this response, but teachers can give this answer if they have developed a level of trust with the students.

## Tuesday 12 February 2013

### Handwrite your maths equations on your laptop - the options - Wacom bamboo

I have previously suggested the PTPen, although on testing the accuracy was not quite good enough to make it a perfect solution. I used to have a tablet PC that I loved but now need a new solution. I have used an Epson Brightlink projector, but the resolution of the pen was not good enough for writing in OneNote or Word using the inking pens available.

I have recently acquired a Wacom Bamboo CTH-470. I have also purchased a wireless module, so have the flexibility to be connected via USB cable or work within about 5-6m from my laptop. As long as you are looking at the projector screen, it becomes quite easy to write on the bamboo and see it come up on the projector. I was a little disappointed when I first got it out of the box that only part of the black area is actually active and usable - but I am now used to this. I rarely use the touch option and therefore the model without touch CTL-470 could be preferable for the cheaper price.

I bought it at Officeworks, but have also seen it at Harris Technology. (About $180 including the wireless module)c

Overall a great solution in the classroom and also writing up solutions.

Note: the CTH-670 is larger and has a larger writing area. I think this could be better, but have not used it myself walking around the classroom.

I have not investigated the professional intuous5 as they are more expensive and these consumer products suit my needs. If you've got any more questions, just ask in the comments.

Troubleshooting: occasionally the wireless drops out. If I unplug the wireless unit and plug it back in then I am back up and running in about 20 seconds.

### When are we going to use this? Part 1 - Why does Maths get this question more than any other?

**Why is this question asked of Maths more than other subjects?**

I have to ask why this question is asked of Mathematics more than any other subject. Students do not regularly ask in English, History or Science when we are going to use. It is taken that this information is beneficial in and of itself. A History teacher argues that if you don't know the past then you can't learn from it as a society, but on an individual level this argument has little weight.

There is a difference between subjects studied in High School as at University. Some University/TAFE courses are vocationally based and are practical in their approach (Mechanics, Plumbing, even Law to an extent) but many others (Arts, Science, etc) are broad and do not link to a particular career.

With some of the work being more abstract, Maths does lend itself to this question being asked more than in other subjects.

Over the next few posts I will give some possible responses and approaches to give in answering this question.