Earlier in the year, I invited teachers to respond to a short survey about their teaching of mathematics. The number of followers of Classroom Professor is growing steadily, and the results of the survey will help us to better prepare more relevant, useful resources.
I promised those that responded that I would post the results here, so here they are, with brief comments from me and a column graph showing the pattern of responses to each question:
1. How long have you been teaching?
Thank you to all the experienced teachers who responded to the survey! I really didn’t expect so many (can I call you ‘mature’?) teachers to take the time to respond. This inspires me with a level of confidence that responses to later questions are well thought through, and based on significant levels of experience! And to the six who don’t yet have your ‘teaching ticket’, keep going – soon you will finish your studies and begin the grand adventure of seeking a teaching position and going on to your own classroom.
2. Grade or level you teach:
I deliberately left this question open-ended, to allow for respondents to put whatever classes they taught in their own terms. Again, I was pleased to see that lots of respondents teach in the middle years, which is the segment of the teacher population which I am aiming for. For some reason, lots of Grade/Year 6 teachers responded; I have no idea if that is significant. Do Grade 6 teachers feel more like telling other people what they think than other teachers?
3. Which topics do you have difficulty teaching?
I admit to being a little nervous asking teachers if they had difficulty teaching a topic; thanks for the responses. These responses, by and large, confirmed what I suspected all along; and I should hasten to add here that I think the question could have been phrased “What topics do your students have difficulty understanding”. In other words, I feel that the responses show what our students have most trouble with. It’s no great surprise that ‘Fractions’ tops the list – anecdotally, this seems to be the most difficult of all math topics for many students. I think that geometry is tricky for several reasons, including the need for specialized resources and its very different focus on shape first and number second.
4. Which resources would you use to help your math teaching?
There is a clear winner here – games. A couple of comments added here referred to the difficulty for all teachers of competing with high-end video games, indicating an interest in engaging students’ interest, energy and commitment. I believe that this is done through the right sort of questions and activities, not by trying to compete with video games on their level. Video games today are built using teams of artists, programmers, voice talent, and so on, with budgets that rival those of blockbuster movies. Thankfully, teachers don’t have to try to recreate the video game experience, or the movie theater experience, in the classroom.
The other three resources that topped the list here are worksheets, software and videos. With the exception of worksheets, which are typically quite static, games, software and videos all have the element of interaction, engagement and fun which I believe are at the heart of truly impactful teaching and learning.
5. Any other suggestions for what you would like to see on the site?
Finally, teachers who responded to the survey added further information about their teaching and what they look for in a math website. These comments included:
- An index of resource-rich websites, links to bargains on education software. And the like. Thanks, Dr. P.
- Hands on ideas to engage students also ideas on how to help the struggling student
- Worksheets that are appealing rather than just lists of questions that the kids find onerous.
- Ways of assessing on the students work, ways to extend students and practical problem solving ideas and strategies.
- Great stuff so far – thank you! Keep up the good work
- Division ten minute program
- WORKBOOK – I would make it ‘kid friendly’ in appearances with a ‘character’ or two that becomes a motivator for kids to visually engage with, who animates different ideas, he could become a whiteboard character, reward sticker etc. There could be a theme (as in Jungle Gym, Star Galactic- my girls love this when I use this in the house for rewards) and for kids who complete the time sheet in 1 min or have the most correct, or equal and better their personal best – they become a ‘tamarind’, then ‘hawk’, then ‘King of the Jungle’ level. Or they land on ‘Zerba planet’ becoming a ‘Zerba’, an ‘asteroid’ or top level, ‘an earthling’. The world’s your oyster if you have a theme.
WEBSITE – I would be encouraged with maths lesson ideas for the teacher to relate maths studies with the kids life experiences. Also a list of potential places around the city for an excursion that illustrates certain maths ideas. eg The Modern Art Gallery has hands on projects that can illustrate maths ideas of space, tessellating patterns, lines of symmetry, etc Materials (such as worksheets, games, ideas to use at the students desks) that I could potentially use within the classroom. Ideas and resources from other websites linked to yours (you don’t need to reinvent the wheel), but to maybe use your site a ‘resource tool’ that has the best resources from the net, that a teacher can depend on your website for the better resources ‘out there’ that caters for most maths concepts. Explanation or glossary of maths terminologies.
- Teacher stories about how they teach and the decisions they make.
- Ideas for real life contexts for math. Sharing of ideas by grade and strand.
- Some interactive sites would be amazing! Differentiated material would be great too (then all students can have success at using the material).
- Games that are very interactive – who wants to play Maths games when you have Call of Duty etc.
- Videos would definitely be wonderful. Both teacher training and for use during lessons.
Thank you again to all those who responded to the survey. I appreciate your time and the encouragement and support you have provided us as we plan the next stage in the development of Classroom Professor.
Please leave a comment below if you would like to add anything at all to the discussion!