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Moment in maths

Iain Hand
Alberton Primary School
Alberton Cluster


Finding 2.3: Contexts
Know how mathematics links to contexts beyond the classroom so it can be taught through rich, life-like activities.

I have moments in every maths lesson where the students in my class show me how much they are learning. The talk among them amazes me, as they take my lessons to places I had not thought of and ask me questions that I am not prepared for – this is ‘Scary Good’.

I have never liked maths, and upon reflection have probably taught my lessons that way. Visual arts has always been my thing. It engages me; maths did not, and I saw no use or need for it. This year has given me cause for much reflection and the realisation of what a fool I have been. Visual arts and maths are so closely intertwined. I use my maths knowledge everyday while planning and producing works of art.

Once I began seeing the path instead of just wandering around it, I became engaged. I wanted my students to become engaged in maths and to see a purpose and need for maths. Doing maths through visual arts has given me that hook; it has given me a brand new perspective on teaching the subject.

I believe that once you are engaged you have that chance to learn, to open doors. It makes you ask questions, you want to find out more. This year, my class has shown me this.

Teaching fractions throught the perfect face
I have always taught fractions using oranges or pizzas (you know what I mean). This year it was through the perfect face. Artists use rules to draw faces. Once you know these rules you can draw any kind of face and it will look like a face, not like some sort of ‘alien’. It involves fractions. Half way down the head you place the eyes, halfway between the eyes and the chin you place the nose, a quarter ways between the nose and the chin you place the mouth.

This information was given to the class verbally and visually. There were lines drawn to show position and the symbols to indicate half and quarter. The students were engaged, they loved the fact that their portraits actually looked like faces, they were proud of their pictures. The next part of the project was for the students to draw a self-portrait. They were given pictures of themselves and the idea was for them to apply the rules they had learnt about drawing faces and apply them to their self-portraits.

The questions begin
It was at this point that the questions began and learning took off. After drawing an oval for his face and dividing the face in half both horizontally and vertically, one student asked me what the symbol for half meant on the board. I went about explaining the concept using pictures, he understood but then asked what would happen if you had more than two pieces.

Another two students joined in the discussion about halves and quarters, talking about cutting things into four bits and taking one bit and what would you have. They both showed him one quarter which he understood but then corrected them by adding that I had one quarter and he had three bits left. I asked him what that would look like, and he showed me. The other two students exclaimed “Oh Yeah”; almost like they had also just got the concept. It was an ah ha moment...

See Iain's Unit of Learning Shape and Sculpture to find out more about his approach to teaching.

Moment in maths

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