Quotes from English maths teachers talking about their exchange experiences.
Southfields Academy, London South West Maths Hub
Working so closely with my Shanghai teacher in the UK was exhausting and fascinating and a very different experience to seeing them teach in their own schools. When we were in China, everything about the system was so very different and so very new. We furiously noted down everything we saw and heard. Post observation conversations moved quickly from topic to topic because we were curious about everything.
When we worked together over here we were able to see a sequence of lessons with students we knew and in a setting that was familiar. That gave us a different perspective. It gave us time to reflect and notice what was working, what was useful and what was attemptable in our setting.
The initial experience made me question a lot of my teaching. How purposeful are my examples? And my questions? How do I develop a topic? What is the value of providing the freedom of an open ended enquiry without the foundations of good mathematical thought? What is the relationship between speed of feedback and attainment? Can I give daily homework? Can I mark daily homework? Those questions remain unanswered – so far.
The more subtle differences were easier to adapt to. My language is now more careful and accurate. In my year 7 lessons we say integer, we use inequality signs as much as possible, and we define new concepts mathematically (a mixed number is the sum of an integer and a proper fraction, Miss). Our mathematical steps are slower, more carefully defined and properly recorded. In a mixed ability classroom I have seen this help to close the gap. Mild, medium and spicy worksheets are out and minute, concept-driven steps are in. But I have to admit, I still have a couple of students staring at me blankly.
Kings Norton Girls School, Birmingham Central Maths Hub
I cannot describe the impact that the Shanghai exchange has had upon my practice. It has given me so much food for thought, so many new ideas and made me completely re-evaluate my teaching practice.I really don’t think that it was until I’d seen a sequence of lessons that I truly understood what made this teaching special. The lessons are incredibly thoughtfully sequenced and each lesson covers one point. Just one point. For example, when covering equations, the first lesson was what is an equation, then the students looked at checking equations and it was only then that the class moved on to solving the equations. All of these were things that in England, I’ve seen crammed into one lesson and I often think we take these small points for granted. The language and the maths were precise at all times and I was so impressed with the way that our students were able to articulate themselves when describing the maths they were doing and the mathematical concepts they were covering.
Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School, North West Three Maths Hub
Too much focus in recent months has been on the non-transferable elements of Shanghai education. Wasting time on arguments about culture, parenting and teaching loads isn’t going to lead to anything productive. The key, transferable, thing for us is the questions selected for each lesson. Xiaomin and Shan's questions were so well considered that it couldn’t go wrong; each one was a genuine step forward, tested student understanding in a different way and bought in elements of previous topics. This is what we are focusing on embedding at our school over the coming weeks.
Nobel School, Stevenage, Matrix Essex and Herts Maths Hub
In England teachers often work alone to plan what children will do in lessons; in Shanghai they plan collaboratively what children will think. We’re now going to try to build our own opportunities for collaboration to enhance first-line teaching and move away from a culture of last-minute intervention. In this context, involving our school leaders observing Shanghai lessons has been essential, so they’ve seen the mathematics that students are engaging with, rather than just the activities they are doing.
Lord Derby Academy, Liverpool, North West Two Maths Hub
As a school we feel that we have hugely benefited from the exchange. It has put pedagogy back in every member of staff’s conversation. We have already adopted for the whole school the “stand up to answer questions” strategy. And so far, this has had a great effect on our students’ confidence and oracy. It has also helped staff focus on the use of precise subject specific language. We will use our filmed lessons, Shanghai text books and Shanghai teachers’ PowerPoints to devise a unit of work for the spring term, then summer term. We will then observe each other across local partner school.We have also linked with the two teachers from Holmes Chapel who went to Shanghai, to devise units of work; we intend to use these for next year’s Knowsley ITT maths programme.
St Mark’s Catholic School, Hounslow, London Central and West Maths Hub
Seeing the emphasis of the Shanghai teachers on slowing down the pace and delving deeper into how concepts link together and making sure everyone understands how things work before they practice the algorithms has changed my approach to teaching. One result of what we’ve seen is our decision to reduce the content in Year 7 by about 50 per cent and focus much more time on making the fundamentals solid and making sure children understand how those concepts work so that in Y8 they’ll be able to use them moving forward rather than to have to re-learn them. For example, where last year we had one lesson on a fractions topic, this year we’ll have two.