To rank or not to rank….

All students studying the HSC know that it is not the assessment mark (in school) that is most important, it is your rank within the cohort of students. Now there is a lot of misunderstanding about how this actually works – for details see So I totally understand students in Years 11 & 12 being preoccupied with this! But when is it to early to start giving students their ranking – thus encouraging competition?

It doesn’t feel like an environment that is conducive to learning is being created when students are only concerned about the formal assessment tasks (as listed in the schedule) and their rank based on these tasks. All other learning and assessment activities “don’t really count”. And this is the opinion from Year 7 onwards.  The parents and teachers expect it.

Is this a hill to die on? Should it be changed? Or the status quo (in which students achieve outstanding results in the HSC) maintained?

What do you do at your school  – is a ranking important? and from what age?

An old favourite reinvigorates a textbook focused Year 9 class

I have recently made a big move from Coffs Harbour High School to Killara High School on the north shore in Sydney. I made this move for a variety of reasons one of which was the opportunity to teach in a bigger and very high achieving (Mathematically)  school. I have been at my new school for almost 5 weeks now and am loving the new challenge. But…..

One thing is annoying me!

How much Killara students LOVE their textbooks!!!!!

I don’t like rocking the boat to much to start off with  – you know when in Rome do as the Romans do… and all that – but only for a little while!

I have great classes – a lower mixed ability Year 8 class, a top Year 9 (5.3 class) a newly created Year 10 Advanced (5.3) class and a Year 11 General class. The kids are fantastic – they say please & thank you and listen when asked! 🙂

But….they buck a bit when given something out of the norm (i.e not in the textbook). The first topic I did with Year 9 was probability – so lots of fun, less structured activities there – they loved engaging with the birthday paradox and the Monty Hall problem – a great video explanation of the Monty Hall  is here

We then moved onto Polygons. A bit more reluctance to engage with an activity investigating interior and exterior angle size using Geogebra and a great deal of reluctance to do what I thought was  a fun investigation Year 9 Tesselations and Shapes project 2013 looking a tessellation’s using Google SketchUp.

I was then quizzed by a parent at Parent Teacher interviews as to when I was likely to start teaching real maths again – I asked what she meant, to be told – “you know lots of textbook exercises”. Hmmmm……at least the parent was genuinely interested in what their child was doing in Maths!

Next topic Consumer Maths – lots of opportunities to do real life applications. But the kids still reluctant…..I lightened the mood by showing the duck song as a model of how a stall keeper learns to work with his customers.

But then I tried an old favourite (while half the class was away on an excursion)

the kids loved it!  So much so that those who were away yesterday came in demanding to see it.  For some reason they then willing engaged in today’s lesson – investigating deferred payment schemes – they had to find their own on line and look for the hidden costs working out how much it actually costs! So I rewarded them with another of Vi hart’s video’s as a treat just before the bell

on the condition that doodling was to take place more in all other subjects – not so much in Maths! 🙂

SOLE – Self Organised Learning Environment

I was really inspired by Sugat Mitra’s prize winning TED talk – Build a school in the Cloud

so I started thinking about some big questions to try. My bottom Year 10 class are doing permitter, area and volume (again!) so will try these questions this week”

How many people can we fit in our classroom?

If the classroom was sealed – how long will they survive?

I’ll take some footage and report back on the success or otherwise.

I am also experimenting with SOLE and my own children (Sam 7 and Matthew 9) (after all one’s own kids are a perfect experimental environment!). They have recently discovered “Cool Maths Games” and are really enjoying it.  So I downloaded Scratch and told them to create! They have already found tutorials on YouTube and the user forum on the website as tools to assist them in their discovery. Oh and when I searched on my old laptop to find the program it came up with an introductory guide (pdf) that I have used with students before – Sam quickly said that he wanted me to leave that open and Matthew wanted me to transfer it to his computer as well.

What a great way to start a Sunday – watching inspirational TED talks!