Digital teaching tips & tricks, ideas, examples, and general thoughts and reflections. Could be useful to anyone teaching in a digital learning environment.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Practice makes perfect

Usually I teach maths through problem solving and discussion in small groups. You can see an example of this via my Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir site here. Naturally I use problem solving questions as part of the learners follow-up activities.

My learners are expected to unpack the problem, and figure out the equation. Solve the problem in their maths books, and then take a photo of their working using their webcam. They are then expected to rewrite their working in sentence form.

Here is an example

Previously I had believed that textbook style 'questions and answers' was old school, and dated.
However I have recently come to realise that good old fashioned practice questions serve a very important purpose in maths learning.... PRACTICE.
Without the opportunity to practice strategy, my learners have been getting confused sometimes when faced with problems. They have figured out the equation and know what they want to do, but are getting confused about how to do it, and therefore feel safer falling back on a previous strategy (usually lower stage).

Therefore I have started including "Book work" into their regularly weekly follow up activities which consists of a list of 10 problems they need to solve in their book. At the moment I have not required them to show proof that they had done it, i.e. I'm not marking it. I do provide the answers to the problems at the end of the week, and they can mark themselves. If I decide that I need to check them, I will ask them to capture it via their webcam.

I am very interested to see how this effects them during group time, and then testing. My theory is that if they are more confident using a strategy from practice then they will be more successful when solving problems during problem solving. I am hoping the pattern will work across all ability groupings.


  1. I was challenged by my kids piano teacher who refuted the old phrase you have used as your title for this post. He said instead, "perfect practice makes perfect ". I could see what he was saying. Spending lots of time repeating a piece incorrectly was detrimental to the learner. I wonder if this applies in your case? If the work is not marked till the end of the week and the teacher doesn't see it, what are they reinforcing?

    1. Oops- trigger happy on the 'publish' button. It is great to see this focus emerging in your class and I look forward to seeing the impact on the learners - it makes sense that it should make a difference. I was wondering if technology could help you out with the workload eg using Flubaroo for marking and instant feedback? Maybe the GAFE Summit in a couple of weeks with deliver the latest ways teachers are using extensions/apps to support feedback.