Questions about teachMathematics.net
This is a project that has been a number of years in the making to this point and one that we have been thinking deeply about for all of that time. For those that are interested or need persuading, here are some questions that you might ask about the rationale behind this website answered honestly by the authors!
What is on the site?
“This is one of the best websites around for teaching ideas in mathematics – it is challenging, mathematically robust, extends mathematical ideas rather than dumbing them down, is full of pedagogical sense and innovation, and ought to be available intravenously – Anne Watson, Emeritus Professor Mathematics Education, Oxford University”
The holy grail of resources for us as teachers are those great, well resourced ideas that completely engage all kinds of students in rich activity that promotes mathematical thinking. The kind of activity that gets students reasoning with each other, making and testing conjectures and driven to achieve. Yes, of course that is ambitious and so it should be.
We all know when a lesson has gone well, we know when students have had fun, we know when they have been engaged, but when we know that they have seen mathematics as it really is and really connected with it – these are the lessons we look forward to!
That is what we are trying to do! We already have 150 + activities on the site covering large parts of typical secondary/high school Mathematics curricula and the site is growing all the time. Sometimes simple, sometimes complex, sometimes short, sometimes long, sometimes on computers and often not - always worth it!
Aren’t there lots of free resources already online for mathematics teachers?
Yes, there is a lot of stuff out there for teachers, and yes, lots of it is really brilliant. We know and appreciate that a lot of tecahers are working very hard to produce amazing resources. From our experience, a lot of those resources can be filed under the headings of ‘Worksheets’, PowerPoint lessons’, ‘games’ and ‘puzzles’ all of which have their rightful place in a varied classroom and we are delighted that they are out there.
What we want more than anything though are the resources described above. These are rarer! Finding, creating and employing these type of activities are the highlights for us!
When you consider the enormous sums of money that schools and departments willingly spend on textbooks and subscriptions, it seems odd to quibble over the small fee we are asking. Then consider the return on the investment! Textbooks are quickly out of date, static and they are a model of mathematics teaching that we know is limited (note - limited, not useless).
A classroom full of engaged students thinking about, talking about and doing mathematics? We think that is priceless.
Models for the future
Many sources on the Internet would have you believe that mathematics teaching is going through a revolution. Many mathematics educators have been arguing for and employing this revolution for decades already. Mathematical thinking is by no means a new idea!
The debate about mathematical pedagogy rages on, but there is little doubt that while governments drive the agenda with high stakes testing, classroom resources will be geared towards those tests. We feel that the larger parts of school budgets are spent on these kind of resources produced by major publishers.
Despite all of this, classroom teachers have been managing their classroom reality with inventiveness and innovation themselves for years. Our feeling is that this is where the emphasis should go. Our resources have been developed over a long period of time (40+ years of classroom experience between us) We use them ourselves, refine, elaborate and update them. We are always driven to create new resources and know that there is no shortage of inspiration. The emphasis is driven by educational understanding and practice about how people engage with mathematics.
Real teachers, working with rich ideas inspired by educational research, informed by actual classroom practice, making resources that are polished and published on the Internet for a very small annual subscription.
Subscription models are obviously in vogue. Even within that though, we feel that there is danger people can ask prices that force schools in to either/or decisions. At this price schools can afford to subscribe to multiple sources that they feel are useful.
What if everybody did it?
Well that is just the beauty of it isn’t it? In the Internet age, everybody is completely free to do so and many people are. That said, the leap from a filing cabinet full of ideas to a polished website that provides everything teachers and students need, multimedia and reflective commentary etc. has been enormous and deeply time consuming. It continues to demand a good deal of time and effort on top of a full time job too!
It is a reasonable view for the future that teachers will be providing each other with all the resources they need and that there will be plenty to choose from.
Rather than expect of each other that we will do this for free, why not imagine that we take back some of the enormous sums of money schools spend on other resources and spend it on resources that teachers have made.
Working on this site gives us an enormous amount of pleasure. We have always felt that our own students are the primary beneficiaries. Knowing that teachers and students out there are using the resources too just multiplies the pleasure. We feel that the work we do is worth a small piece of your schools budget! We hope you do to - if you are convinced, then click the red subscribe button at the top - if not, we understand, please enjoy the free pages!
Thanks for reading!
Jim Noble and the teachMathematics team