I love the holidays. I am starting to change my gypsy ways of running from the country I live in to travel and see the world as soon as vacation time hits and instead, I am enjoying some stay-cation time. I enjoy this because it gives me the peace and relaxing space to think about the upcoming school year. I´ve recently read two articles which have inspired me to think about the way I teach and maybe reconsider my methods.

When I was in University, the big push was for cross-curricular connections, project based work, independent inquiry, etc. I felt inspired to revamp Maths lessons, to make them so fun that Maths wouldn´t be a subject students found boring or dreaded. However, I soon realised that perhaps my modern approach was clouding the actual learning of the objectives. And whilst my students enjoyed attending my lessons, got along with me fine, I now feel that I failed those first classes in truly solidifying their learning of Maths. In his blog post,

http://www.greatmathsteachingideas.com/2013/12/23/king-solomon-academy-visit-mastery-based-learning-in-action/, William Emeny discusses in more detail the concept of working memory and considers how other methods may cloud students memory with too much information. At the end of my first year, I met Nick Hinchcliffe. Nick was in his 60´s, had taught in a variety of schools both in the UK and internationally. He had a totally different approach to my softy-softy one and needless to say, we locked horns in the first couple of months. That was until I started to see the benefit of the old fashion methods.

We worked at a tough school and our students made you prove yourself to them. You earned their respect, not the other way around. At first, our students could not cope with Mr. Hinchcliffe. He was military, old fashion, was often heard bellowing "young man, do up your top button" and our whole department worked hard to try and soften the blow of the Hinch. Nick never wavered in his approach with the students. He never chose favourites and he was consistent. He also insisted on the basics. Over the three years I worked with Nick, I saw him earn the respect of his students because although they preferred my use of humour and connecting with them, they were really learning with Nick. He helped them achieve in their GCSE´s and they remembered what he taught them because he reinforced time and again the basics that they needed in order tackle problems. And so it was in those first years that I began to blend my approach.

Whilst it is important for us to try all of the methods I post about here and are inspired by in other blogs, its equally important that we focus on what students are retaining and how we are getting them to remember our objectives, curriculum, whatever it is we want them to learn.

I have also realised the importance of clarity as I´m learning Spanish. This is the first time I am trying to learn a second language and I am not finding it easy. Blame it on a brain out of its prime or maybe that I´m not as good at learning language as I thought I would be, but this process has been difficult and I am having to reinforce and reinforce in order to learn even the basics. And what has worked for me is short, sharp, repetition and using a limited amount of new verbs or nouns in a variety of ways. But not when I try to learn too much all at once.

How am I starting my new year? Well I will continue to challenge my students to think about why we need the maths we learn, how the maths applies to the real world, creative interactive lessons. But also, I am going to start the first week with an assessment of the basics and ensure that before I move on to new topics, my students have the skills needed to begin to take on new topics. We will revise times tables, long multiplication and revision, the four operations of integers and BIDMAS. Also, I sometimes forget the Math fiend I was and that it doesn´t always have to be bells and whistles. There is no better feeling then those first days of school when you have your books neat and clean, and you can sit back and enjoy a couple of pages of good, old fashion calculations. Let´s see if my students feel the same!