You can learn how to teach Real Maths from Foundation Phase teachers
Take today's Maths conference run by Foundation phase teachers for eighty two of their peers at neighbouring schools. The presenters were energetic young teachers from Capricorn Primary, a school tucked in an informal settlement and a more experienced, live wire teacher, Cheryl Thomas and Ashley from Kleinberg Primary school in Ocean View, another depressed working class area.
I joined Melissa and her Capricorn Primary school team to hear what they are doing in their Maths classes. The topic was on teaching the South African currency. The next minute we were all first graders, counting real money,playing with money dice and a Maths version of the game snap. We could buy paper cut outs and stationary from our real shop. There was no mention made of imaginary situations. This was Maths in the real world on a miniature scale. There was no need to become all starchy and boring. Maths learning is fun!
While we were engrossed in all these activities, our young presenters who could have teaching experience of about five years maximum, I would say, were balls of energy themselves,excited that we were having so much fun. When the session ended, one of the presenters mentioned I missed the opening dance, the kind of activity they would also incorporate into their Maths lessons. Urggg... I missed the hip shaking.
The next session I attended was presented by Cheryl Thomas and Ashley from Kleinberg Primary school. Cheryl is one of highly skilled teachers who should be treasured by our education system. Watching Cheryl being as motivated and passionate as her younger counterparts from Capricorn Primary school, immediately strikes one.
You are lifted by her energy and her knowledge. Soon we were counting our fingers and then we moved on to cards,adding in units of five, ten and hundreds. Every activity was turned into a game, getting a colleague or two shouting out an answer spontaneously. I wish their own learners could see them!
My goodness, this session ended way too soon as well. It was already almost five in the evening and here teachers were still busy as if the day had just started.
This Maths conference that was spearheaded by my colleague, Colleen, the Foundation phase subject advisor, was a huge success. There is no doubt that teachers learn best from their colleagues who have the coal face experience. In fact, both sets of presenters emphasized that they are merely sharing what works for them in their classrooms. Their humility and their own expertise gained from attending courses and applying their own lessons in their classes, underscore the authenticity of such cooperative learning.
Also, the role that Colleen as subject advisor plays, has to be spotlit as well. Fortunately, Colleen understands her role as mentor and coach where she has to create platforms for those with the classroom teaching practical wisdom, allowing them to take centre stage when required. This is what what makes the learning loop an exciting space to be in.
If every participant at the Maths conference commits to putting one of the tired and tested strategies in their class from tomorrow, then the Capricorn and Kleinberg Primary Maths presenters have achieved the butterfly effect.