The Cult of ‘Hard’

Picture the scene: a parent and child, at the end of an hour’s tuition. Looking for confirmation as to how her son or daughter is progressing, she asks how the lesson went, and is told in a small, emphatic voice that “it was really hard!” Very possibly she’s pleased, and feels that this kind of challenge, these high expectations, are exactly what her child needs.

I’m going to say something mildly controversial here: if she does, she’s almost certainly wrong.

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‘How Does The Author’?

If I had 30 minutes, a gun to my head, and a mandate to improve a ten-year-old’s comprehension mark by as much as possible, this is the question with which I’d start.
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Three Good Questions about Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

I’ve talked before about the importance of the next question, the principle that every question one asks of a pupil should be intelligently tailored to that pupil’s individual needs at that exact moment. Not all questions, however, are created equal. Here are three that I’ve found particularly good over my time helping my students to understand fractions, decimals and percentages, along with the principles that I believe that they demonstrate.

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Rote Learning and Mathematics

Most people who care about what they do, in any profession, can suggest a couple of ways in which they feel that their field of expertise is being ill-served by its conventional wisdom. Sometimes, these will be cries to tear up the rulebook, new and progressive ideas about how everything could be moved forwards.  Just as common, however, are rather more reactionary ideas – a conception that their peers and colleagues have gone ‘too far’ in some particular direction. In my own case, this contradiction comes to the fore in the matter of mathematical rote learning. Read More…