Sundials in Manchester, cashless Monopoly sets and more. In this episode Andy, Emily and Adam chat about learning under lockdown. What is the media saying? Why is metacognition important to develop at home? Plus, lots of practical distance learning tips for parents.
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Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hello, I'm Emily Guille-Marrett.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School Podcast. Welcome to School of School Podcast.
So today we're talking about maths and lockdown. So guys, what do you think?
I was chatting to some teachers the other day? It sounds like there's some real mixed responses to what's happened due to lockdown. I think there's been some anxiety because of the fact that obviously children were away for such a long time and that's anxiety from teachers and parents, but some of the mathematics problem schools that I've spoken to, they've had like really positive responses in the sense that other subject areas that have fallen. It hasn't been the same with mathematics problem. And they're saying that, that's because of the stickiness, the nature of the fact that the children have had that knowledge underpinning them. I don't know. What do you think of that, Adam?
It's really interesting, but I think the one thing, if I take a step back that I find that gets my back up a wee bit, is the media talking about gaps all the time.
And one thing we hear really, Certainly in the public domain is what children have learned while they're in lockdown. And I think that if we take something like to take a problem solving approach and where problems are contextualized, that's far more easily transferable to home than if children are just working in the abstract. I think about how I was taught maths. If I'm just looking at two plus three equals five, where do I transfer that into my house? But if we think of the examples that we use, a lot of it is around things that they will see. They might have had more time cooking, making, baking those sorts of things. And I think that- I know that schools have been doing this, but we should also find out what is gained when we have that opportunity to apply mathematics in real world situations and not just mathematics, but problem solving.
It's funny, because as you're talking, I've got this explosion of ideas in my head, right. Which is, if this is where the metacognition is so important, right. So in the classroom, if up until now in the classroom you're constantly saying to the children, how do you know? Is that right? Are you sure? And just repeating those messages and they're reading that in the books, right. All the time, they're just that metacognitive thing is being reinforced for them. That becomes second nature. Because as adults, whatever you say to kids all the time, that becomes a record player in their head, right. So, now they go home and maybe they're, I don't know, baking cookies or something, right. And somebody says, okay, actually we're going to make half the batch because this makes too many cookies or we're going to make double the batch.
Right. So now they start thinking, okay, well what do I need to do? Or how do I know? Am I sure is that? They start asking themselves those questions, all those things are actually mathematical learning opportunities for the kids, right. And it's in a real world context. I mean, this is an argument that's out there all the time, but do we actually teach kids maths so that they know what three plus two is? Or do we actually teach the maths to improve their cognitive ability or their thinking skills, right?
There's no doubt Andy, in the lockdown. I was just thinking about listening to the two of you. I was thinking about my sons and what they were doing? So here's the story of the scales for you. So we always use digital scales when we're cooking. You just put the thing on, it's really simple, I'm in a hurry, blah, blah. But we have more time in lockdown. So outcome, some scales that we were given as a wedding present, which is like these big bowl. So it's a different type of scale. And then we remember that granny used to have some scales and hers were the ones that you had the big weights that you then put on the side and the other side of it. So I hadn't even thought about it until you said this, but all of these things were used to try to make the cooking experience, which as you highlight was becoming a very regular feature in our house of baking.
And then suddenly Alby has been doing all these things and I guess those of kids will have had that thing where we would normally have just had the digital at home and actually how nice that he was starting to really think about it and actually apply that in a practical way, which I hadn't even totally taken on until you were saying that.
I think the other thing that would be well parents up and down the country and globally would've been doing their best to support their children and the age old, the other classical is, we didn't do it like that in my day. And I think that the other thing that must come home is the fact that if we've got children who can talk about their mathematics and they're used to looking and trying to work out why it is that this still works, even if it looks totally different to what we do. I think that if we've got that attitude, not just a right and wrong, because it's like, if there's just one right way and one wrong way, that's pretty limiting. Especially if you're at home with your parents. Imagine that is the cause of great consternation for a lot of parents.
So, I think having that attitude helps, understand and allows more learning to happen when the learning is disrupted. It just opens things up a bit to, oh, go on, tell me how to do this or show me how to do this. Or where's the maths, that's the same in this. And I think it's really important that that's recognised that it's a really important part of understanding and learning that curiosity is why does it still work? If it looks different.
Do you want to know a worry I've got because of lockdown is the lack of using increase. It was happening anyway, but it's happened faster is the lack of using money. So children just see cards coming out. My husband and I have talked about this. It's really hard for them to have a sense of money in real world with maths because it's like special card comes out, just tap it here, we tap it there, and they're not doing that thing of counting the coins and getting the cash out. And I think that's an area that's quite interesting too, that I think ass happened faster because of lockdown.
Do you think coins and paper money are going to disappear?
Yes. I think eventually. Well, I've seen the disappearance of coins. I imagine that from the time that we grew till now, all of our currencies, whether it's New Zealand, Canadian, English, wherever you've lived in the world, I can almost guarantee you they'll be coins that have disappeared.
So should I tell you something else.
They've not disappeared. They're getting smaller. And so they're close to disappearing because they're just getting smaller and smaller.
I'm going to tell you something else. That's disappeared, Adam and Andy, that's blown my mind. You probably already know this. Did you know that monopoly now has a set with no cash?
So yeah, I'm just telling you, I'm just putting it out there. Like that is for me, maybe-
This is, there's a card machine people. Oh yeah.
This yeah, I'm telling you. So you ask about that. I was like, that stresses me out more in a way than the, I'm like you can't have monopoly without notes, but yeah. So there you go. Even monopoly is changing its thinking. So
Yeah, it's all kinds of places where this sort of analog stuff is or the concrete stuff is going to disappear. Clocks is another one, digital clocks everywhere, right. And Roman numerals on an old fashioned clock with Roman numerals. It'd Be interesting to find out. I mean, I know we teach in England, we teach Roman numerals in Canada. It's not even in the curriculum. I don't even think time's in the curriculum in Canada actually. I don't think you have to learn how to read a clock in Canada, or in BC, I'm not sure about that. I have to double check that. So you know how many kids actually, if you put them in front of Big Ben, will actually be able to tell you what time it is.
Bring back the sun dials and the moon dials, I said.
Yeah, there you go.
Yeah, I don't want to get sort of harassed by people of the north, but I live in Manchester at the moment and suns dials kind of, they only come out once every now and then to any great use, but I don't want to cause a north south divide. So, I'll just rewind a wee bit on that one.
Yeah, so going back to this lockdown idea. So, what are some of the things we should be worried about kids in lockdown in mass? So, I think some people's point of view, it's interesting what you said earlier at the beginning, Emily, you said that some Maths — Problem! schools seem to think that they've been able to coast through that quite well, but a lot of other schools might really be suffering, right?
If you think about the fact that if you take a mastery approach, you've got that constant building haven't you, of learning. And so interestingly for them, they will, whereas some parents might be concerned about what new things the children aren't being taught. Actually, maybe what people should be doing, if we go through blended learning, because these things will happen again and so on, actually it's about giving them practice of the things that they can do and making sure that they're secure. And I guess a mastery approach is very that fits very neatly. So then when they're coming back in and we're going to teach something new in that layered way, they've got the foundations. They're not having to go back because they're so secure. I think that's just very interesting.
So what advice, Adam, what advice would you give to parents at home right now?
So, I think stick to the basics, I think the fundamentals that we've seen that cause problems in schools often are those really early ideas. So use that time. Sometimes when people, they've got negative views of learning things like the times tables, and whatnot, or just understanding that seven and three makes 10 and eight and two makes 10 and those sorts of things, it's actually really important that we've got a level of fluency with those. So, I think that it's sticking to, in one sense, sticking to those basics and making sure that we dedicate a bit of time to that without overdoing it, we're not going to do.
So you're saying, sit kids down, get the flashcards out. Let's do some multiplication tables?
Yeah, have a go with some of that. I mean, we can do that, but I think the other thing is that depending on the materials that come home from school, the other thing that I'd say is get your kids to teach you some maths. I think that's another really good thing that you can do is just sit down and say, tell me something, I don't know about maths today. Teach me something today, teach me how you do this. Because I went to school a hundred years ago. So can you just tell me about this? What's a fraction anyway, come on, just teach me about these. And so I think it's fostering that shared learning is really important thing.
So that's interesting, so there's some cool ideas there, Adam, but I think, okay here, I'm going to throw some my own world experience, real world experience with my kids.
Okay. Hey, Artemis, how did it go at school today?... Okay, fine. Tell me something I don't know about maths. Dad... Right. So, what advice you give to that situation?
Well, first of all, we can't, lead a horse to water, right? We cannot with the best will in the world. And if people know how to do this, I'll give you my phone number off here, because I'd really like to know I've got two kids of my own and homework and maths homework. I was pretty well qualified to help them with it. But the difficulty is trying to find a way that it works for both and allowing room to be wrong and not thinking.
Again I think that there's the potential, depending on when we went to school, I know, when I went to school, maths was all about right and wrong and that was it. There was no middle ground. There was nothing interesting, particularly it was just straight right and wrong and you are wrong, Let me do it for you.
So I think we just need to be really mindful that, as parents, we want that relationship to be something that's constructive, first and foremost we want to be interested and want to give space for when things go awry because children also want to impress their parents at times. And I know because like I said, I've got a couple, they may not present that way, particularly when you're doing your homework. But I think they do want to do well and they don't want you to know that at times they don't know how to do something. And so I think that relationship that's constructive because it's strange times if you are not going to school and you are not with your friends and your parents are trying to do a job or try to support learning.
And that might be a really difficult task for a lot of parents, a lot of really busy people or for a hundred reasons. But I I think that trying to set something up, that's constructive trying to allow room for mistakes and to try to, I don't know, even if it's just two minutes, be happy with the two minutes, it's not like right. We are sitting there for half an hour and we'll flog it to bits for half an hour, no matter what, I'm not always convinced that's the best approach. But I just think being curious about what your child does. I think that's one of the key things.
No, and this lockdown, I mean, I don't know about your kids, but mine, okay. So, my oldest is already in secondary school. I mean my youngest already in secondary school and my oldest are out of school, but I remember trying to work with them that parent-child relationship and trying to support your kids at home can be really tricky at the best of times because kids don't always want to do more schooling when they get home and they don't. And of course there's all the emotional baggage between the two of you so they can let you know, if they know that's something that you're interested in as a parent, they can use that as leverage in some kind of negotiating tactic, right. And also they'll put- they're more likely to push back to their parents and they are to their teachers in a lot of respects, because it's hopefully a safer environ-, a very safe environment for them at home, right. All right so three quick tips for parents at home. Don't shout at your kids when you're doing work. Number one.
Maths is everywhere. Ask them questions, encourage curiosity. What time is it, we're going to be late. Can you help me? You just make it.
We need to be there at six. What time should we leave? Right.
That requires a lot of maths, right?
Well it's 20 minutes to get there and takes dad 10 minutes to get ready and mom takes 15, once dad is ready and whatever it is, right?
Yeah. So, I think that you are right Andy and that's actually, I think more powerful because it gets away from that relationship difficulty that you talked about where you are there saying we have to do our homework now, but you take that as a problem for a child who's starting to get their head around time. I tell you they'll get really into that. They'll do more maths than you could have got them to do in the homework.
That's right. It's just questioning, right. So questioning number two. And I actually think the best math lessons are the ones where the kids don't even know they're doing maths, right?
I think the other one for me is try to have as many conversations as you can, not even math space, because I think that we need language for mathematics and we need to be able to explain ideas. And we don't just build that in a single subject. Everything that we talk about and I'll save this for another time. But I remember having these two parents who are very successful in their field, one's a brain surgeon, one's a cardiologist and we were talking about it, and he was just saying about how much he learned walking with his grandfather and talking.
Now this man's very eloquent. And I'm sure that there's a whole host of reasons for it. But I think that we know that when children are able to explain ideas and concepts and the understanding is better. So I just think continually building that dialogue and the language and the ability to share ideas. Well, it's key to all subjects, but it's certainly key to maths. It's not a silent subject.
Well, on that note, thanks for joining.
Thank you for joining us on the School of School Podcast.