Head of Mathematics

Head of Mathematics

What makes someone a good mathematics student? What does their success look like? What do they do that leads to their achievement? These are questions that the mathematics faculty pondered at the start of this year as we considered our contribution to the formation of our graduates as compassionate warriors and the attributes that the new strategic plan states we wish them to embody.

Consider your responses to these questions. What do you think of when someone is heralded as a successful maths student? Is it a child that knows all their multiplication tables by the end of Year 4? Is it someone who can do numeric calculations in their head? Is it the boy who always gains marks above 90%? Is it the girl who ranks first in the year? Is it someone who sits through all maths lessons quietly and conscientiously copies down notes?

I would argue that while some of the above might lead to success or be evidence of success, there is a much broader definition. For me a successful maths student is one who demonstrates the following:

  • A growth mindset – too often we hear people say, “I’m just not a maths person”. Girls with a growth mindset believe that effort creates understanding, skills can be developed, and great abilities can be built over time.
  • An understanding of the power and value of mistakes – mistakes are opportunities to learn and improve. Mistakes cause our brain to spark and grow. They lead to a deeper understanding as you grapple with what went wrong. Successful students do not give up; they try a strategy and if it doesn’t work, they try a different one; they give things a go without knowing exactly which path to take.
  • Responsibility for their own learning – successful students take control of their own learning. They might do extra work on a topic they find challenging; they ask questions to clarify their thinking and they keep asking until they fully understand. They set realistic goals and are reflective about their progress.
  • An active engagement in class – when students participate in discussion about concepts and attempt to answer examples themselves, they gain a deeper understanding of ideas. When they collaborate with their peers, they look at a problem from a different perspective or see an alternate method of proving their answer.
  • An ability to apply their learning in varied situations – successful students take techniques and theories learned and use them for problems unlike those already tackled. They see links between topic areas and between disciplines. Maths provides a tool kit and a language to solve problems. Successful students consider all the things they know and choose the ones that are useful for the current circumstance.
  • A knowledge of effective study techniques – studying maths is not the same as studying for other subjects. Successful students know that to prepare in maths they need to do questions. Explaining a concept or process to someone else is a great way of deepening their understanding.

But perhaps the characteristic that exemplifies a successful maths student most for me is enjoyment. They proudly state that they love maths! They come to class with a positive attitude and a smile. They celebrate their growth as success.

I encourage you to talk to your daughters about your thoughts on success. Think about how you respond to her results in mathematics. Reflect on how you portray your own success in mathematics. What are the things that you praise and celebrate? What do you do when she makes mistakes? As the girls continue their journey in mathematics, I encourage them to believe in themselves, to reflect on their engagement in class and at home, to embrace their mistakes, to ask for help and to have fun! That is my idea of success.

Mrs Sally Brimfield

Head of Mathematics