Can Mathematics Be Creative and Collaborative? Thomas Tallis Says Yes!
Thomas Tallis School in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, London, UK, is located in a newly-built facility designed as a school for the future, but it takes more than architecture and new technology to build a forward-thinking learning environment. A school designed for the future requires an innovative school culture and an openness to experiment with new ways of teaching and learning.
Led by Head Teacher Carolyn Roberts, the school’s staff and 1,600 students pursue excellence through community, creativity, engagement and challenge. They have also adopted Tallis Habits into their lessons to support students on the path to becoming excellent learners and citizens.
Creativity and collaboration in mathematics class
Laura Mawer is an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) who teaches years 7-13. She has taught her Year 10 mathematics students since Year 7 – a class of 30 students comprised of gifted and good mathematics learners. For this reason she feels she can experiment with different approaches to their learning more easily.
One of Laura’s explorations this school year is piloting SMART amp collaborative learning software with her students – they are among the first in the world to put it to use in real-world lessons. We couldn’t wait to hear their feedback and share it with you.
What do Laura and her students think of SMART amp software?
Laura and her students have been working within SMART amp software platform for just a few weeks now and she reports that the response from her students “is overwhelmingly positive already.” They have conducted a few formative assessments in the software but the most popular feature by far is the workspace – the perfect open tool for revision, recaps, collaborations and reflections.
She put her maths students into different groups in the workspace with some sharing the class’s 15 iPads and other students working within the platform from the SMART Board interactive whiteboard. One student also connected with a personal smartphone.
Laura is already finding SMART amp software to be a powerful tool to help learners reflect on assessments and combat the tendency for “mental truancy” during class – those moments when students rely on the few who are most eager to answer the teacher’s questions. Instead of working alone and not being able to benefit from seeing the work of others, “everyone gets to review everyone else’s work” – motivating the students to be more engaged and accountable for their own responses in front of their peers. Laura can also see all of the student activity and guide when necessary as they learn from each other during this collaborative experience.
As freeing as the open collaborative workspace is for her students, Laura also appreciated that she can limit sharing and control the platform for whole-class aspects of the lesson too.
The Time and Space Extended Learning project
Chris Hordern, Head of Mathematics, created a Time and Space Extended Learning Project for students to develop their creativity and open-ended research techniques and posted it on a Weebly site –check out the resources for yourself under the extended enquiry section to learn more about the project.
Laura used SMART amp software to introduce the project to her class. She told her students that they were free to explore a topic within space and time so long as it was related to mathematics and created some resource tangents for them to discover in the SMART amp software’s workspace. She created some links to websites and gifs around topics like clocks and time zones for them to explore in an open-ended way. “That’s the power of interactive learning,” Laura says.
More mathematics topics to explore
Laura sees a lot of potential for exploring additional mathematics topics in innovative ways using SMART amp software.
Transformations, ratio and proportion topics can range from Key Stage 3 right up to A-Level. If each student has access to the workspace, it makes a great place to collaborate as they explore transformations. Students can place a picture on a grid and students get to translate, rotate and enlarge it themselves. This basic lesson idea could explore anything from discovering how to describe a movement (Level 2) to learning how to transform a shape (Level 5) or even explore the relationship between the length and area when shapes are enlarged (Level 7/Grade C).
At Key Stage 4, a workspace would be a great place to work together and explore if two 2-D shapes are similar, if the corresponding angles are equal and if corresponding sides are in the same ratio (Grade B). Students could also explore how applying constants or multiples to trigonometric functions affect the graph of sine, cosine and tan (A* at KS4 on the Core 2 module at A-level).
A hands-on, investigative approach gives students more ownership of their learning and because it’s a fun group activity, Laura is hopeful it will enhance retention and better prepare students for their examinations.
Looking forward, Laura’s mathematics class is very excited to extend the use of SMART amp software beyond the classroom after the pilot period. “SMART amp will be amazing for home learning,” Laura confirms, “it will be so easy for students to log in and work as a group on a project outside of class.”
Does Laura’s use of SMART amp software help you better understand the potential for this software in your learning environment? Share with us here or on our social channels: Twitter, Facebook and Google+.