Well, ok, ACARA didn’t start it. But still, it’s funny.

Last week, on 25 November, the Centre for Independent Studies posted an “analysis paper”, *Failing to teach the teacher: An analysis of mathematics Initial Teacher Education*. By “CIS Research Fellow” Glenn Fahey and two guys from something called Shaping Minds, the paper hammers education faculties’ emphasis on constructivist methods at the expense of explicit teaching. The paper, which Greg Ashman discusses a little here, is spot on and underwhelming.

That same day, Minister Tudge’s office provided a media release, promoting CIS’s paper and firing a shot across the education faculties’ bow. The attack was clearly coordinated and was no surprise. Tudge had already flagged such concerns prior to launching his review into ITE, and Fahey was the compliant host for Tudge’s cosy CIS chat last month. And, Tudge has pushed back strongly against the mountain of exploration/inquiry/discovery nonsense in ACARA’s draft curriculum.

Anyway, that same same day, something called the Australian Education Research Organisation tweeted about a survey they had performed, which ACARA promptly retweeted:

So, a very busy November 25. Maybe all a coincidence? Maybe, but nope. AERO’s silly survey was already published and announced on November 16. And, ACARA hadn’t considered it worthwhile retweeting AERO’s original announcement, only the bit obviously re-promoted to counter CIS’s and Tudge’s message.

As we said, pretty funny. Whether Tudge would find it funny is an open question.

“855 classroom teachers and school leaders with teaching roles across every Australian state and territory.”

There are 296,516 registered teachers in Australia. (855/296,516)*100 = 0.3%

And now we get to the good part: “While our survey relies on self-reports …”

A – sample that’s roughly 0.3% of the teaching population … Say no more. This survey has got less credibility than a sighting of Elvis.

Only a complete idiot would think it countered CIS’s and Tudge’s message. What’s that …? ACARA are using it to counter CIS’s and Tudge’s message …? Well, as I said …

And … ACARA’s re-tweet is pure dishonesty – it’s clearly trying to suggest that 91% of ALL teachers … etc.

Maybe an analysis of AERO’s survey should be an ACARA Daft Curricsputum elaboration. And an analysis of how it’s used by ACARA.

PS: ACARA *did* start it. The minute it published that piece of cagle and called it a curriculum.

Apparently I have to write text when posting a picture. So here is some text.

As far as I could tell, the report from CIS does not define “constructivism” in a precise manner – which is a common failing in this debate.

I also note that the report deals undergraduate course (e.g. BEd) which focus on preparing teachers for primary school. During my MTeach (Deakin) (Secondary) I recall the word “constructivism” being used only once in an online discussion and that was by a student in the course.

By contrast, in my course at ACER, I came across the attached paper.

rowe-2006b

You’re asking for a poisonous atmosphere to be defined is a precise manner.

The CIS report appears to be dismissive of games as tools for learning about mathematics. Some games are useful as hooks for engaging students in a mathematics lesson. For example, games on graphs, such as Sprouts, are more interesting introductions to graph theory than the exercises found in standard textbooks. Sudoku or KenKen may be useful in enhancing skills in arithmetic.

Jesus, Terry. I don’t like the CIS report either. But you’re being obtuse.

Terry, I partly agree with you and when I was first teaching would have agreed a fair bit more.

Games can be good, but the learning can also be completely lost.

What has made me change my opinion on these things? A few bits I’ve learned through experience teaching in a variety of schools:

1. Games for learning are successful if they are chosen because they meet a learning need, not just because they are vaguely relevant to the topic being studied.

2. Even good games need repetition for students to have time and space to consider the strategies involved.

3. If you are not debriefing in the next lesson and formally teaching the mathematics contained within a game, the game violates point (1).

4. I don’t see how Sudoku or KenKen really help with arithmetic that much, the numbers are too small and in the case of Sudoku, you could use any 9 symbols instead of the digits 1 to 9, there is no “arithmetic” being done here at all.

5. There is a big difference between “puzzles” and “games” that is not always appreciated and understood. Both can be fun and both can be learning experiences, but the focus must ALWAYS be on the IDEA that you are trying to impart. I’m not afraid to demonstrate a few gambling games when teaching probability, but there is ALWAYS a debrief afterwards and it often involves words like “expectation” which I feel are missing a lot in 7-10 probability games lessons.

But each to their own. Whatever works, perhaps.

Thanks Red Five. I agree with your sentiments. The mathematics should not be lost. Even in the world of chess, there is a distinction between a chess puzzle and a chess problem.

Anyway, must go – am about to introduce my Year 9 students to Sprouts. The idea is to show them that even simple games can involve strategic (i.e. mathematical) thinking.

PS Try KenKen puzzles.

I am well aware of KenKen puzzles, and similar puzzles of different names from various sources. Nice for something to do but I really see them as more of a logic puzzle than a Mathematics puzzle (which is not a bad thing in itself as the two are very closely related).

The good Mathematics puzzles are often quite ingenious in their design – think Monkey and the Coconuts but do they offer teachable moments? Perhaps. Not totally convinced though.

Perhaps logic is part of mathematics.

BTW, my class on Sprouts was not particularly successful. I could have done a better job. Next time.

Today, by coincidence, I had the opportunity to teach a group of Year 8 students about Sprouts. I was particularly careful in making sure that the mathematics was not lost. By the end of the lesson, the students were posing conjectures; we proved one and we disproved others. I felt much better than I did after the last lesson.

I suppose we must be careful not to see invisible hands pulling strings: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-02/alan-tudge-stands-aside-amid-abuse-allegations/100669592

Coincidences happen all the time.

Of course it is a coincidence.