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Nathan Barker is a secondary mathematics teacher at Jersey College for Girls and is the Lead Teacher for secondary mathematics in Jersey, The Channel Islands. He has been a part of the Underground Mathematics project and has also authored textbooks and resources for Cambridge University Press.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to be mathematical and succeed mathematically.”
Underground Mathematics has pedagogically and personally been an enjoyable project to be a part of, and to use in the classroom. The founding beliefs of the project – that everyone should come to their own understanding of the mathematics they are studying through activities that draw out the key concepts – has always spoken to me. I was thrilled that I was able to be part of the resource design team, working with an exceptional collection of people with different perspectives on mathematics and with different mathematics educations but with a common core belief that deep understanding is key to learning mathematics at A Level (or even any level).
If you have never visited the website or even if you have and just not returned in a while, here are some resources that I think are worth highlighting again.
For students – and for teachers too!
It can be really difficult for students to learn to communicate mathematically. Sometimes they are worried about getting it wrong, or they simply see mathematics as a mountain to climb and they just cannot get started on a problem. One of my favourite resources for opening students up to talking about the mathematics is “Teddy bear.”
The task is flexible and could be used in various stages of your work on circles and their equations. I think for this resource it is best seen in action to truly appreciate its power, and you can do exactly that by looking at the teacher support section, which contains video clips of students working on the problem and suggestions on how to introduce and structure the task.
I often use this resource with teachers who have never seen or used an Underground Mathematics resource before as it offers a commentary on the learning opportunities and where you could go next with ideas. Plus, being able to see the resource in action through video clips of a lesson is practically useful.
For teachers – but also for students!
Gaining mathematical professional development can sometimes be a challenge as the pressure of the classroom and day-to-day of school means we want to know any time spent on something is worthwhile. Within the “Your mathematical classroom” section of Underground Mathematics there are a variety of useful things to explore. Among these, the “Bundles” – small collections of resources with a particular focus – seem to fit the “worthwhile” description perfectly.
With “Bundles” having been created after I left the project, it was great for me to be able to interact with them as a teacher and bring helpful ideas to my own department. I particularly enjoyed the bundle “Asking questions in the classroom” as it comes with a useful webinar to use with colleagues and then resources specifically chosen to help tackle questioning in the classroom.
For going that one step further
On Underground Mathematics there are a variety of resource types that can help you to find what you’re looking for: such as those categorised as “Food for thought”, like “Slippery slopes;”
or “Go and think about it…”, like “S-prime numbers.” These might be the perfect problems to encourage students to explore and think a little bit deeper about a particular mathematical concept.
For students working independently
The large bank of review questions from the Cambridge Assessment Group Archives provides students with a huge range of questions and solutions (not answers!) with a commentary. The commentary for each question often contains further thoughts that students can consider and alternative approaches to questions. An idea that is quite powerful in mathematics is that you can have two completely different solutions to the same problem, but each gives an insight to the mathematics in a slightly different way. I find this bank of questions and commentary incredibly useful as it helps students start to become more independent in their own learning outside the classroom.
The above is just a snapshot of the excellent materials available on the site. I would strongly encourage you to visit Underground Mathematics now and start to explore on a topic you are currently teaching using the search button. I think you will not be disappointed with what you will find!
Join the conversation: You can tweet us @CambridgeMaths or comment below.