Marsha Pryce has been a maths teacher for 14 years. Getting her teacher training at The Mico University in Kingston, Jamaica and her Bachelors in Education and Training from The Canterbury Christ Church University, she has worked at Strood Academy since 2016 where she currently leads on Mathematics Mastery among other things.
Hear what she has to say about her teaching journey over the past year of lockdowns and what she took back in the classroom.
By Marsha Pryce
Students, like adults, have dealt with lockdown in varied ways. It would be very unfair of me to generalise and say lockdown had a negative impact, or positive impact, because for each individual it was a different experience. My experience was one where trying to overcome the challenges of teaching remotely has improved the way I teach in the classroom.
One of the biggest challenges of teaching remotely was being able to see what the students were doing so I could respond, support, stretch and address misconceptions in the moment, as I would in my classroom. I was introduced to a programme called whiteboard.fi which was brilliant because it allowed me to see each student’s thinking process in real time. I could see the misconceptions and the different ways that students approached a problem. It was my favourite part of every lesson. Using this programme to support a Maths Mastery lesson was a revelation. The Maths Mastery programme allows students the flexibility, creativity, and confidence to solve problems in numerous ways. For example, students can model a problem pictorially with different representations, they can spot patterns, or generalise using algebra. With whiteboard.fi I could see what every child was doing and formatively assess their understanding. Maths Mastery’s multiple choice ‘Quick Checks’ also gave me a snap-shot of students’ understanding. Formative assessment has always been central to my teaching, but teaching remotely made me so much more aware of wanting to see what every child understands at each assessment point.
I wanted to take this level of formative assessment back into the classroom after lockdown, so when we came back there was a huge push in our department for mini-whiteboards, giving teachers snapshots of students’ thinking processes moment by moment. In my lessons right now, mini-whiteboards are like breathing. Seriously! The mini-whiteboards are always ready to go. In class, if I ever doubt something, instead of asking the class general questions and trying to ‘pull’ what I need out of them, I just get out the whiteboards, ask a few questions and observe the process!
A gap in understanding that I have observed this year is in multiplying and dividing by powers of 10. In addressing these gaps, I, of course, got out the whiteboards! The first unit in Year 7 in Maths Mastery is place value so this fitted perfectly. We used the whiteboards to draw a place value chart and shifted the numbers up and down the chart. We watched the training videos for the unit and then focused our Departmental Workshop on using manipulatives. The new teachers really liked it when we got into decimals because they hadn’t thought about the values of the base ten manipulatives changing, with the large block first representing 1000 and then 1. We absolutely loved the activity where we were asking ‘what are one hundred tenths’ or ‘one thousand hundredths’ and the place value chart really helped.
The questions I found difficult when I was in year 10, 11 or 12, will not be as challenging to students who use the Maths Mastery approach. Maths Mastery introduces concepts in such a beautifully scaffolded manner that the problems don’t seem difficult to students. That’s the brilliance of Maths Mastery; it takes a complex concept and teaches it in a very simple way. During our Departmental Workshops, the conversations around some of the tasks are like ‘if they can grasp this at year 7, 8 or 9, they will be unstoppable’!
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