Something that I’ve been interested in from the outset, due to an excellent workshop in my first SI (led by Manjit and Dana), is the challenge of developing students’ intrinsic motivation. A few reflections thus far, 30 months in (!) :
1. I really admire Dan Meyer’s (and others’) belief in reconceptualising maths teaching as presenting a problem that is naturally intriguing and interesting. Dan elucidates his beliefs well in this talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html
I’ve put a lot of effort into trying to approach and teach maths in this way. It is so difficult at first! I lie: it is STILL really difficult and time-consuming. That said, it is immensely rewarding to see pupils’ genuine desire to solve a problem or master a skill. It’s been particularly fun to develop projects or ‘hooks’ relating to my own interests/sensibilities (e.g. designing hats as an exploration of sector area and curved length; comparing the most ‘generous’ containers for soft drinks as an introduction to volume, etc). I’ve resolved to write a few dedicated posts on such hooks/projects, but it could take a while to get around to it.
That said, it makes me aware that I’ve been less attentive to this recently; I would love to hear others’ ideas about real-life* situations where trig or vectors are useful to solving a problem.
2. I’ve noticed that my weakest and strongest students seem to respond best to being motivated (whether it is intrinsic or extrinsic rewards). In the vast terrain that is ‘middle sets’, behaviour, learning, progress and enjoyment can be fine, but I find it’s all teacher-driven and that there is minimal genuine enthusiasm or curiosity. I am surprised at this ‘bunching’ at the two extremes. Is there something ‘deadening’ about being in middle sets? I am struggling even to posit a hypothesis on this. Have any of you witnessed a similar phenomenon?
3. A colleague has established an after-school A* (read: geeky maths) club, which started this half-term. It largely attracts Y10 pupils from sets 1 and 2, and they work on quite challenging or abstract problems, or shorter UKMT problems. I have been intrigued by how enthusiastic the pupils have been in this setting: it’s on a Monday, after they’ve already had double maths that day, and the problems are typically very ‘long’ (we’ve had pupils write 2-,3- and even 4-page solutions to problems that they’re submitting to nrich). It doesn’t only attract the ‘best’ pupils (in terms of results), although none of them are weak by any stretch. The last two weeks, they have only left at 5.30 (2 hours after they started!!!) because staff have told them to leave. Even by 5.30, their energy and enthusiasm is palpable.
There are no gimmicks and no rewards, and some are pupils who are (somewhat) lazy or disengaged in class. What is it about this setting that builds their energy and enthusiasm that doesn’t happen in lessons?
No doubt, I’ll be pondering the same questions in 12 months’ time; I’ll keep you posted:)
* Actual real-life, not artificial things like ships on the horizon…