TMA: The Challenge

As a teacher, I am always looking for new ways to challenge and excite the pupils in my class. I want the children to use their imagination, manage extended tasks and engage in activities that are significant to them. What is more, I wanted them to have this experience in maths, a subject that can so often be reduced to abstract, closed-procedure operations. 

Don't misunderstand me - many abstract maths tasks, such as those found at nrich.maths.org, can be excellent for engaging children and developing their understanding of number. The Mathematics Apprenticeship, however, was written to provide a different type of mathematical challenge: one that is open-ended, based in real world contexts and which shows the modern-day relevance of maths.

Among the tasks on TMA, the children will have to write security codes for the MI5, review the TV schedule at the BBC, design an adventure park and set up an ordering system for a market stall. The children will need about 3 hours working on each task until they are ready for the 'hard sell' - presenting their ideas to the customer.

I have just so many memories that I could share from watching the children work on TMA. Like conversations with the school chef about the long-term drawbacks of cost-cutting when making chicken sandwiches; a debate about public liability insurance; how hectares relate to the metric system when drawing diagrams; and which parts of your date of birth you should use when designing a security code for the MI5!

When children are taking part in The Mathematics Apprenticeship, I'm never quite sure what will happen. I do know, though, that they will develop a real emotional attachment to their work, and that they will see how mathematics can be used in the real world, beyond the confines of their school experiences. And what is more, they (and I) will enjoy it!


Potential heavy users of mathematics should experience a rich, rigorous and challenging mathematics education, rather than being accelerated through the school curriculum.' - Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, 2012 
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