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Reflections on weaving threads in maths

Reflections on weaving threads in maths

Thursday, 19 October 2017  | Jacqui - Director of Teaching and Learning
Towards the end of every school year, I reflect on the Year 12 students who are finishing off this stage of their learning journey.

This year, I’ll be saying goodbye to many students who I first met when they were in Year 8 back in 2013. It was my first year of teaching at MECS and I was presented with a diverse and energetic bunch of students for our mathematics class. There are the funny moments that continue to make me laugh when I think of them. Like the time, early in the year, when Josh interrupted my maths class and I made sure he knew exactly how displeased I was with the interruption. Part way through my rant I remembered that Josh was one of ‘mine’ and he was simply coming in late after a music lesson. I apologised profusely and then made sure he was given an extra special welcome every time he came to class.

This year I have had the privilege of working alongside many of these same students, plus some who have joined MECS along the way, in the Year 12 Mathematical Methods and Specialist Mathematics classes. It has been lovely watching these students continue to grow into such fine young men and women. As part of our curriculum development process at MECS, teaching staff think about ‘Threads’ they can weave into their lesson design. Threads are elements of responsive discipleship that we would like to see our students explore, ponder, and hopefully, live out. They include Loving God, Caretaking Earth, Practising Hospitality, and Imitating Humility, to name just a few of the twenty-three. This year, as I reflected on the Year 12 students in my maths classes, I thought about how they have been living out many of these Threads throughout the years I have known them...

…Overcoming Setbacks
“Students overcome setbacks through the strength of the Spirit and live in hope and faith.”

Mathematics tends to be one of those subjects that we think we either ‘get it’ or we don’t. One of the key concerns in teaching maths is to encourage students to ‘have a go’ and not be afraid of getting things wrong. After all, we learn from our mistakes. When I first read Carol Dweck’s book on Growth Mindset, I shared my learning with the Year 8s of 2013. Many of the students took this new learning to heart and have been continually challenged over the years to rethink the way they learn. They have learnt to embrace difficult challenges, seek constructive feedback, celebrate the success of others, and to enjoy the process of learning.

…Shaping Culture
“Students understand their cultural context, discern its errors and its virtues, and seek to ‘shake and shape’ it for the Kingdom.”

Often there is an event or a moment that happens at MECS that you think is quite unusual. Back when these students were in Year 8, I was late for class one morning. This is not an ideal scenario and I was worried about what shenanigans they were up to in my absence. When I arrived (and no, they couldn’t see me coming), I discovered one of the students leading the class in revision questions in exactly the same manner I would at the start of each class. All of his classmates quietly and respectfully listened to his teaching and responded appropriately when he directed questions to them. I sat at the back of the room marvelling at the choice these students had made to work together in their learning, even in the absence of their teacher. The student was doing such a wonderful job, I let him continue teaching for the first twenty-five minutes of that class!

…Relishing Play
“Students have an attitude of joy-filled play as they respond to what God has provided and Christ has restored.”

Most people would not associate maths classes with play, which is unfortunate. While there have been times I have purposely included playful activities in maths classes (such as ‘Letters and Numbers’) there have been other times when the playful times have been spontaneous. Once in the Year 8 class, one of the students put their hand up to ask what would happen to our number system if we added an extra number between two and three called ‘darb.’ Counting to five would be one, two, three, darb, four, five. In a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable lesson, we re-imagined the number world with darb. From memory, I was darby-one years old at the time. We came to a newfound appreciation for the traditional way of counting. Even now, four years later (which is three years later in the darb-system), we will reminisce about darb.

…Unwrapping gifts
“Students enrich their lives and others’ lives through developing and using their gifts.”

It is encouraging to see how many of the Year 8 mathematics students of 2013 have continued to study mathematics all the way to Year 12. We even had to timetable a Specialist Mathematics class this year with seven students keen to study at this higher level. In an era when many students choose the easier or manageable options, it is impressive to see these young men and women push themselves to achieve things they never thought were possible.

I could share many more examples of how these mathematics’ students, and all of the other Year 12s, have built community, celebrated life, challenged distortions, pondered creation, reflected creativity, sought justice, showed mercy, and embraced diversity. Next Thursday, we have the opportunity to celebrate these amazing young men and women. As a community, we pray for God’s continued protection, provision and revelation for these students, as they seek to live for Christ in all that they do.
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