Author Blog

Ruby the mathematician

Guy Claxton reflects on how the learning methods maths teachers choose influence the capabilities students develop.

The school curriculum consists of several different kinds of things: things that are intrinsically interesting (to all young people of a certain age); things that can be made interesting by a good teacher; things that are self-evidently useful; things that, while neither useful or interesting in their own right, are effective ‘exercise-machines’ for developing useful life-skills and habits of mind; and things that everyone agrees are such ‘cultural treasures’ that everyone ought to just know about them, even if they are directly useful or interesting.

We need a real re-think of what we teach – and Maths is no exception. Despite a lot of hot air, there is scant evidence that learning maths makes you spontaneously more rational in non-mathematical or non-educational contexts. Nor do I know of any evidence that says we have to teach all young people algebra just in case they might need it, rather than ‘just-in-time’, when they do actually need it. With out the turbo-charger of real need, and in the absence of intrinsic interest, learning is weak, formulaic and usually disagreeable...

You can read the rest of the blog on the Magical Maths website.