Test Reflections

Maths Pathway has a test reflection step built into the process of the learning cycle. This step can seem trivial to the home user but it is perhaps the most important step for your child to become ‘good at maths’.

Maths Pathway has determined that one of the biggest barriers to students doing maths well is not their underlying maths ability. Rather it is the approach they take to learning in general and maths in particular. Moving a student from a poor approach to learning to a good one is the paramount reason for introducing a test reflection into the learning cycle.

In a school, the test reflection usually involved sitting down briefly with the teacher and thinking about what worked well in the last cycle and what could improve. None of this discussion involves going over the mistakes in the test. It is all about what the student did during the cycle to help them learn the maths and determining something they can try to improve on in the next cycle.

A good example of this comes from a common behaviour pattern in students where the students do not correct their work or fail to redo a question that is wrong. The result is nearly always that the student does poorly on the next test. Here is how the reflection session with a teacher would go:

  • The student, with their workbook in hand, sits down with the teacher.
  • The teacher views their test result and inspects their workbook.  (At this point the teacher will have seen that student hasn’t corrected or redone incorrect answers.)
  • The student is given a chance to comment on their own learning (it is better if the student can reflect well on their own learning if they can).
  • Through this discussion it is agreed that the workbook hasn’t been done well and that there might be a link between that and the poor test result.
  • Together the teacher and student set a learning goal for the next cycle and write it down. E.g. “I will make sure that I correct after each question and redo the question if I get it wrong.”
  • After the next cycle of learning, the teacher and student review the goal from the last cycle and compare the test results to see if it has made a difference to the results. If it has made a difference, the focus can change to a new goal. If it hasn’t made a difference, the goal may need to be modified and tried again in the next cycle.

Using this approach, the student has good feedback from the test on whether the strategy has been successful. If it has been successful, the student is highly motivated to continue the practice. A couple of important things to note about reflections:

  • For a student, who has a poor attitude to maths, it is important to check regularly during the cycle to remind them to keep to their goal.
  • Remember to praise a student who has made an effort to complete the goal. Even if the goal is not successful in improving the results, the student has learnt something.
  • It is best to focus on one goal at a time. Trying to do too many things at once makes it very hard to to all the things well.
  • Goals are equally applicable to students who are doing well on their maths. The idea is that they learn what needs to happen to be a good learning. These skills are then available to them through the rest of their lives.

There is nothing in the reflection process that requires specialist teacher skills. It can be done just as well by parents. There is an article here that outlines the 3 biggest practices that will make a difference to learning. It is a good place to start.

Test Reflections

Completing the reflection

Congratulations on completing your first test. laughing Now you are ready to do your test reflection. 

Like everything in Maths Pathway, the reflection is there to help you with your learning. From research, it seems that people who are very successful at mathematics hate getting things wrong. When they do get something wrong, they go back and work out where they went wrong and change things so that they will not make the same mistake again! To help with this, Maths Pathway has created the reflection.

In the reflection, you are shown each question you got wrong. When you are shown a question you got wrong, here is what you should do:

  • Look at the answer you had and work out where you went wrong. If it was a silly mistake, you can fix it up right away and the answer will be remarked. 
  • If it was a mistake because you really had trouble with the question, then something went wrong with your learning for this module. Try to think about what that something is. Here are some common things that go wrong:
    • I did the module in a rush.
    • I did not correct until the end.
    • I skipped over some questions.
    • There was something I didn’t understand and I just skipped over it.
  • Use the reason things went wrong to set your own goal for the next cycle. For example, if you got questions wrong for a module because you rushed through it, your goal for the next cycle may be something like, “I’m going to take my time to do modules well even if that means I complete fewer modules in the next cycle.”

    When you do your next reflection, think about the goal you set last time. Did it make a difference?

 

3 hacks to ace maths

3 Hacks to ace maths

Maths Pathway is brilliant at giving you the right maths for you at the right time and it has great tools and videos to help you when you are struggling. But to do really well and become better at maths there are some things that you must do, whether you are using Maths Pathway or another program. Follow these 3 hacks and you will be amazed at how much your results improvewink.

  1. Always use the following method when doing your maths work:
    • Do just one question.
    • Check the answer.
    • If you got the answer wrong, work out what went wrong, and do the question again. Do not go on until you have completed this step.

      Note: This works because it prevents you from making the same mistake over and over (which is what happens when you correct your work at the end). When we do the same thing over and over it starts to stick in the brain and it is hard to undo. People are also very unlikely to go back and redo questions if they wait until the end before checking their work.
  2. Do your work neatly in your workbook.
    Students who do their work in a messy way also tend to make a lot more mistakes when the maths gets a bit harder. This is because numbers, columns, and marks become confused. It also makes it very hard for you to work out where you went wrong and, if you can’t work out where you have gone wrong, then you can’t learn from it.
  3. Do every question.
    Maths Pathway modules are crafted by maths experts. The questions are designed to give you the right amount of work for you to master and remember the concept being taught. Each question you skip weakens this learning.

 

 

Completing Tests

The main way we confirm that a student has truly mastered their understanding of the maths that they learn is through the test that they complete every fortnight. This test will be managed by your coordinator, so really all you need to do is sit tight and wait for instructions.

Tests are generated on every second Monday. When it’s time for the test, you will see a “start test” link on you timeline. Follow the instructions to complete the written and online portion of your test.

Once the student completes the online test, it will be automatically marked. Once they complete the printed questions, just scan or take a photo of the test and email it back to your coordinator. They will mark it and let you know when it’s done – that will allow the student to complete their reflection online.

Don’t worry if that sounds complicated – each step will be very obvious as you go through it.

Why don’t you just do all the tests online?

To get a true sense of a student’s abilities and understanding, some things are much better assessed through description or drawing. This allows us to ensure that students have a real understanding of their maths, rather than just learning formulas off by heart.

Completing a module

Completing a Module

Completing work is easy. The most important thing is to answer all questions in your notebook, use the solutions at the bottom of the activity to check your answer, and click the “Help” button if you get stuck.

 When you’ve completed all the questions in your workbook, just click the Finish button:

This tells the system that you have completed all the questions.

When you do your next checkpoint test, there will be a few questions from this module on that test.

 That’s it! Just keep working a bit each day until you get up to your first test.

Accessing your work

Accessing your work

Once you’ve completed the diagnostic, it’s time to get some work done.

You’ll complete a certain amount of work every fortnight. At the end of the fortnight, there will be a checkpoint that tests whether you understood what you did. To get started, click the big blue “Start new activity” button:

 

  • You’ll be taken to your Learning Map, where you will see various colours of gems – we call each bit of the gem “modules”:
  • Choose an available (blue) module, and click “Start Module”.Once you’ve completed the diagnostic, it’s time to get some work done.

    You’ll complete a certain amount of work every fortnight. At the end of the fortnight, there will be a checkpoint that tests whether you understood what you did. To get started, click the big blue “Start new activity” button:

    • You’ll be taken to your Learning Map, where you will see various colours of gems – we call each bit of the gem “modules”:
    • Choose an available (blue) module, and click “Start Module”.

Getting Started

Getting Started

Now that you’ve got access to the program, your child can get started right away. The first thing they’re going to do is a “diagnostic” – This tells the system what types of maths they can do already, and what they can’t do yet. This is a really important step because it forms the basis for the work we give them next. So, follow these simple rules when you do it:

  • Don’t guess. If you don’t know an answer, just skip the question. If you guess, you’re more likely to end up with work you can’t do later.
  • No calculators. The point of the diagnostic is not to check if you can push buttons, but how well you know different types of maths. You’ll get to use calculators later.
  • Use a pen and paper for working out. You can work out problems or try things on pen and paper while you’re doing the questions – in fact, you’ll be doing that a lot in the future anyway, so you might as well start now smile
  • Don’t panic. Nothing bad will happen if you get questions wrong. This is all just to get information about what you know. There’s no score or grade at the end.

Note: It will sometimes happen that you will need to do the second diagnostic test before you can access your work. This means you have answered just about everything correctly on the first test and now we need to test on some harder maths. To get a code to do the second diagnostic, send an email request to support@learningaboutlearning.com.au.

 Now, let’s get going.

  1. Use the URL and account information that was emailed to you in the ‘Welcome email’.
  2. Click on your student name and type in your password.
  3. Answer the questions. Remember to use the tips from earlier! When you’re done, come back and check out Accessing your work.

 The diagnostic tests do not have a time limit. It is okay to take a break and come back to it if it is taking too long. They take around 45 minutes to complete but the time can vary widely depending on what your child already knows.

Are you paying for poor tutoring?

Are you paying for poor tutoring?

 

Maths tutoring is expensive and you may be paying for something that looks good but only provides surface help.

I was speaking to a parent during the week. They had been told that their child was having problems with maths. Being concerned, they contacted a local provider of tutoring who ran some tests and informed them that their child had problems with multiplication and division. It all sounds reasonable, right? When they told me this, alarm bells started to ring. Here’s why.

 Mathematics is an involved subject that builds on foundations of deep understanding of mathematical concepts. You can find out more about what is involved for multiplication here. When a child struggles with mathematics, it is because that deep understanding is poor and it is this understanding that should be addressed by the tutor. Being reported as having problems with multiplication and division likely means that little more has been assessed than following multiplication and division processes.

 A process is a set of steps that one learns to get to an answer (like following a recipe). You do not need a deep understanding of maths concepts to follow a process, you just memorise the steps. This type of maths learning is shallow. Students who learn in this way rarely manage to reach any higher levels of mathematics.

 For the tutoring service, there is a huge win here. Drilling the process will mean that the student results will go up. This will give the appearance of the tutoring service being very effective in getting results. It also means they can get away with having tutors who are poorly experienced in the teaching of mathematics (undergraduates commonly work in such places), after all, they only have to teach a set of steps.

To be fair, this particular organization may have better plans in place, but my experience is that most tutoring companies rely on the more shallow, cheaper approach and the report given to that parents points towards such an approach.

 If you are worried that you are paying good money for poor tutoring, I suggest you sign in to do an online assessment with us. It is currently free and you will get an in-depth report as to where your child is succeeding and missing out on core mathematical concepts. You can use the report to compare what is needed and what is provided by your tutoring organization. You can apply through an email request on our website here.

 

My Child is Being Bullied and the School is Doing Nothing to Help!

My Child is Being Bullied and the School is Doing Nothing to Help!

This is a cyclical story put out by popular press. The student is different each time but the damage is similar (see an example here). The victim is hugely anxious and depressed or has attempted suicide. The parents have tried to get the school to do something about it and, apparently, the school has failed to take action. It makes a great story for the media and the gives the social media judges the chance to roundly condemn the teachers, school and principal and so spread the collateral damage to include the school. In this story no one wins but the media (they get to sell advertising).

The reality of what is
happening in the schools is usually vastly different from the story put to air.
I have never come across a school that didn’t take bullying seriously. The
problem for schools is that it is one of the most difficult problems to deal
with that they are rarely successful at getting things resolved. Here is why:

  • Bullying is fun:

    Think of the bully for a moment and their motivation for bullying. For them,
    bullying gives them power over another and impresses their peers. This is the
    reality for most bullies and it gives them a good feeling.

  • Bullying is easy to hide:

    It is easy for someone to be a bully and not get caught. A poke in the back; a
    whispered threat; finding someone a distance from supervision; exclusion;
    setting up a person as a friend and then turning on them, etc. The list of
    things a bully can do and not even come close to being caught is endless.

  • Teachers have to be like the police:

In years
past a teacher who suspected bullying going on was able to react against the
bully. The teacher didn’t have to have any hard evidence and parents would
generally support the action taken by the teacher. Not any more!

Just like the police, the teacher needs to have clear and defendable proof that
the bully had been doing the bullying. Given that the bullying is so easy to
hide, it is nearly impossible for the teacher to have enough evidence to react.

Even a case that seems black and white is difficult. Imagine you have seen the
known bully punching the known victim in a playground fight. It seems black and
white and quite defendable. But what do you do when the bully claims that the
victim started the fight by trying to trip the bully as he walked by or that
the victim had been mercilessly teasing and insulting the bully until the bully
just reacted?

Suddenly the waters are muddy and, even though you are pretty sure the bully’s
claims are false, the bully will cling to the claims and you could end up
accused of victimizing the bully.

  • If the victim complains, the situation will get
    worse but go further underground.

    See this from the bully’s point of view. When the bully is pulled up, they feel
    they have lost face in front of their peers and they want to regain this. The
    easiest way is to resume the bullying. They just make it more subtle.

    The bully can also see this as a challenge by the victim and a bully will rise
    to such a challenge.

  • Bullying can happen anywhere:

    Bullying today goes far beyond the school gate. Students engage in various
    online platforms and they are able to use those platforms to create bullying
    that goes on into the evenings and weekends.

  • Bullying is often group behaviour:

In our quick
to judge world, kids are probably the quickest to judge. It takes little
evidence of a slight or a difference before the person becomes vilified by a
group. Such group behaviour is hard to isolate and change.

  • Bullies are following behaviour patterns from
    home:

    While not true in every case, a bully often learns their behaviour from
    modelling at home. Parents of bullies do often exhibit behavior that gives the
    child the impression that bullying is okay. A child may, for example, see the
    behaviour of their father to their mother or overhear a mother talk
    vindictively about another.

  • The parents of bullies are a problem for the
    school:

    When a bully is pulled up by the school, they have to deal with the parents of
    that child and that is really difficult. No parent wants to hear that their
    child is behaving in such a way so they may start a loud and often aggressive
    defense of their child. This is highly stressful for schools to deal with and a
    source of physical assault on teachers and principals.

  • School programs on bullying have limited effect:

    Schools do try to change behaviours by running programs related to bullying.
    The programs usually have a couple of foci. One is to build resilience and
    provide strategies for the victims and the other is to help the bully feel
    empathy for the victim.

    There are some really terrific programs that schools put into place, but the
    overwhelming tide going the other way makes it hard for programs to be
    effective.

  • Victims crave acceptance:

    When a person is bullied, a common reaction from adults is to advise the victim
    to not hang around near the bullies. This is usually not an option for the
    victim because such action can leave them isolated at a time of their lives
    when acceptance by peers is perhaps their number one priority.

As you can see, schools have
a nearly impossible job in coping with bullying. This is not to say that a
school should do nothing or that a school could not be doing things better but it
is important to understand that the above is the current reality for schools.

Comment

I want to revisit this topic
again in the near future and look at how we as parents should be reacting to
and dealing with one of our children if they are the victims of bullying. If
you have tried to cope with a child being bullied at school, how did you go
about it? How did the school (no names please) react?

Bring Back Snakes and Ladders

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay

As children grow towards formal education, parents are concerned to give them a head start and this includes maths. The common routine for this is to present the child with counting rhymes and songs and have them play apps that count balloons and record answers etc.

While this approach to numbers has some benefit for children, it is limited in developing a deep sense of number that would give them a sound foundation for what’s to follow at school. Games like Snakes and Ladders are different.  They provide learning in a fun journey over the games board and it is surprising how deep maths thinking evolves. Here are some of the benefits:

The game is played with a 6 sided dice. One of the early targets for learning maths is for the child to recognize small quantities without having to count them and playing with a dice is a great way to start this process.

The children are constantly counting. At first they will use a finger to count their token forward, but as they recognize patterns, they will just jump the token ahead to the desired location.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Snakes and Ladders game is the amount of maths that child does along the way. Even though it makes no difference to the moves in a game, each child is constantly working out their chance to win. They calculate things like how far away is the next ladder, how far away is the end, how far in front or behind am I. And of course each move of the opponent is closely supervised to prevent cheating.

Traditional games like snakes and ladders are brilliant at
developing maths in young children. If you want it to be of benefit though,
make sure you are using a real dice and a real board because using an app loses
nearly all the benefits. If your child is over the challenge of playing Snakes
and Ladders, try playing backwards and another world of learning will open up.