Martin Levins▸ U4: Math Connections

So, Maths

I have a big problem with Maths in school because I don't think we teach it. We teach Arithmetic rather than Maths.

We reinforce that Maths has one way to generate one solution to one type of problem.

See Dan Meyer for a better explanation at

So, I try an experiment. I give several year 4 boys and girls an intrication to Scratch: here's a little cat, you can change him here (and you can give any of these actors different looks or costumes) you can change the stage or backdrop here, you can give them sounds here and you can tell them what to do here.

Sugatra Mitra-style I left them promising to be back in 10 days. "See what you can do" I threw off as I exited the classroom.

So, 10 days later, they blew me away.

Here's one boy's discussion of his game, filmed on my iPhone whilst we were talking about what he had done and what he had learned and what he had problems with. It's a big (300+MB) movie but worth downloading:

Have a look at 1:25 where he describes his use of a "varyeable" – discovered by the class. He describes it further at 2:00

At 2:30 he describes how he found this stuff out and the importance of his collaborative learning.

Note also that he uses the word "glitch" that he describes as something that he "has to fix"

Towards then end, at 3:30 or so, he describes how he uses the broadcast facility to shut the game down (by dropping a bomb, of course)

The conversation is very rich.

I categorised his accomplishments:
solve problems involving the comparison, addition & subtraction of integers.
represent numbers using variables
connect the laws and properties for numbers to algebra
interpret simple linear representations and model authentic information
represent transformations in the Cartesian plane
assign ordered pairs to given points on the Cartesian plane

He's in year 4.
These statements are from the year 7 Maths syllabus in NSW.
He has demonstrated mastery of these in 10 days in his own time and in collaboration with his friends.



G+ Comments

no plus ones, 7 comments

  • Celia Coffa: But what will the poor Yr 7 teacher do when he opens his text book to teach ?
  • Rebecca Vivian: Thank you for sharing this Martin. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the student’s explanation, as well as your thoughts. It was also interesting to learn of the peer-to-peer sharing that was happening. The questions you asked were great prompts. Do you think you would try this approach again in the future? Or perhaps to contrast it with guided instruction? Once again, thank you!
  • Rebecca Vivian: I’m also curious if the other students shared similar experiences and if there were any difference in how the girls approached the learning activity?
  • Martin Levins: +Celia Coffa Papert once said that paper was the enemy of Maths!
  • Martin Levins: Hey Rebecca. Thanks for your comments. I’d love to try again, but not in a classroom until next year, working with some disadvantaged schools in an ACARA project. Love for some others to try though!
  • Philippa Miller: I love your comment about how we tend to teach Arithmatic and not Maths. Have you seen the work of Jo Boaler. She is a Stanford University maths professor. check her out on her youcubed website. Enjoyed the video.
  • Rebecca Vivian: + Philippa Miller Thanks for the suggestion Philippa!

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