Dieting for maths teaching!

12weekchallenge-programs-title-03“The 12 Week Maths Teaching Transformation” – makeover your maths teaching. Feel great and teach better in just 1 term!

Ok so this is not the type of thing gaining 50,000 likes on Facebook or making hundreds of thousands of dollars, but if it was out there would it gain interest? Maybe. Is a 12 week makeover the answer to better teaching of maths? Probably not, especially with what we know about change in an education setting, along with Carol Dweck’s research into growth and fixed mindset. In my short experience but steep learning curve as a Numeracy Coach along with the experiences of a number of my colleagues, I have noticed some elements of improving maths teaching in relation to losing weight.

I have personally used the services of a nutrition planner and personal trainer and noticed sound results in doing so. Living with someone who is into healthy eating also has its benefits, as you are constantly around good habits. Similarly, having the support of a coach, mentor or trusted colleague to support with maths pedagogy has its positives. Being someone on both sides I have seen (in most cases) significant growth over time to suggest this is a valuable mode of operation.

Throughout the coaching process we look at making small improvements in the hope of producing significant growth over time (slow and steady wins the race). has a 10 Fast Weight Loss tips that while they don’t have a direct link to improving maths pedagogy raise the question, is it about making small changes to pedagogy one step at a time? – swap the cake for a piece of fruit ditch page 29 of the text for an open ended task…Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Professor Peter Sullivan discusses ‘6 Principles for effective teaching of mathematics’ which have provided me as a coach a structure to follow. While they don’t give 10 weight loss tips or a plan to follow for 12 weeks, they do present a set of principles that guide and provide advice for teaching practice… much like visiting the nutrition planner.

We measure results in weight loss by the numbers (kilograms lost, body fat %, cm lost) which is generally a solid indicator that efforts put into place have made a positive impact. However this is not an easy task to measure the growth of a teacher by the numbers. Yes improvement in test scores can be influenced by good pedagogy but I have worked alongside brilliant teachers whose efforts aren’t always reflected in student achievement data.

Maybe we need to look at the before and after photos… what does the learning look like in our classrooms before and after? What are students noticing about the teaching? How do we feel as teachers about our pedagogy before and after some learning? Fitter, lighter, more energetic?

It would be an interesting concept to see how a 12 week maths teaching transformation would go for teachers. Would it be a sustainable strategy? Is there something in our schooling systems that need to change? Is dieting for maths teaching the way to go? These are the questions that continue to perplex me as an educational leader.

If a 12 week transformation fad isn’t the way to go, how do we get sustainable improvement in maths teaching?

This entry was posted in June 2014 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Dieting for maths teaching!

  1. Sarah Millar says:

    Great food for thought, Matt! 🙂 Looking forward to reading more of your posts and following the progression of your blog!

  2. Maryanne Rischmueller says:

    Very interesting ideas Matt, I do like the 12 week transformation idea, very inspired! Great to have a set time and such a relatable idea. When you add in beliefs about learning Maths, commitment and goal setting, (proven strategies for creating change) people are sure to be on the road to success. Looking forward to hearing more…….

  3. cherubs3 says:

    I agree with Sarah: great stuff Matt! I think that just like the weight-loss scenario, once you’ve achieved some personal success, you are motivated to keep going beyond the 12 weeks. Therefore, perhaps there is merit in ‘marketing’ a 12-week maths teaching diet to encourage reluctant teachers to ‘give it a go’ & risk trying something different, rather than having the often-held view that they have to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’, thus are not open to new ideas. There have been some fantastic things happening at my site because teachers young & old have been willing to ‘have a go’ at a piece or a chunk of ‘new ideas’ (aka Ann Baker’s Natural Maths strategies & the Back-To-Front Maths program/ideas).

    • mattmillar82 says:

      Agree Cherubs. I think having Ann Baker type strategies as a focus has definitely helped spark a lot of teachers here in SA into reinvigorating their practice. If you have any ideas for a 12 week challenge I’m all ears 🙂

  4. mattmillar82 says:

    Thanks guys from my experiences as a coach I could see a lot of connection between the 2 concepts. I think a 12 week challenge could be a start but sustainable, in some cases yes. I do like the marketing a 12 week maths teaching as it could be a starting point for some to make the ‘lifestyle change’ necessary! I do find that it is an arguous process though and for many focussing on one thing at a time is the best, however results are slow (not seeing the 6 pack) and people can turn off.
    My next blog entry will focus on some aspects of Numeracy coaching that may support some further thinking.

  5. Shane says:

    Great idea Matt. You could be the “Commando” of maths change.

  6. Peter Sullivan says:

    What a wonderful idea, Matt.

    In fact it would be possble to identify specific indicators that could be use

    Keep developing the idea

    • mattmillar82 says:

      Thanks Peter! I am interested in progressing this idea further. Any feedback or suggestions would be greatly welcomed! I want to look further at these indicators that improving healthy lifestyle and their connection to improving pedagogy. I think the 6 principles can link well along with others.

      I will be blogging further about this topic. Watch this space!

  7. Kirralee says:

    If my goal had been improved health and fitness, instead of fitting into my dream wedding dress, I wonder if my dedicated gym attendance would have continued beyond my wedding day? I can see the link with teaching. Is the goal to prepare our students to pass the test on Friday, or is there a greater purpose that extends beyond the week, months, years…? I wonder if it is a strong belief in life-long benefits that gives us the drive to turn a fad into a habit? Thanks for making me think, Matt!

  8. John B says:

    A very interesting analogy! I like the idea of having a fixed time, eg 12 weeks, in which to make a real commitment to changing practice. One of the challenges is that if losing weight is the goal then the data to gauge our success (or not) is readily available … just jump on the scales! Perhaps we need some equally quick and simple tools to measure the level of our pedagogical shifts??

  9. Leah Draper says:

    Great food for thought! I look forward to following your ideas!

  10. jenny macdonald says:

    Working with you as a numeracy coach definitely improved the way I teach numeracy. However, another factor which helped a great deal was the intensive 5 day teach sa workshop which allowed me to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the mathematical content I was required to teach. Therefore I would suggest a balance of teacher learning and putting that learning into practice during the 12 week diet. With each 12 week diet looking at a new strand of the curriculum area!

    • mattmillar82 says:

      I like it Jenny. I definitely agree there needs to be an intensive teacher learning aspect. I think focussing on one curriculum area might be a great way of modelling particular ways of teaching. Definitely giving me “food for thought”. Hope all is well Jenny!

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