Review by Paul Glaister

Professor of mathematics and mathematics education

23 Jun 2019, 5:00


Making Every Maths Lesson Count

By Emma McCrea


Crown House

Are you

  • considering mathematics teaching as a career;
  • training to teach mathematics;
  • a newly qualified teacher of mathematics;
  • a teacher of mathematics with either one or many years’ experience;
  • training/supporting teachers of mathematics?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then this fabulous book is for you and should be an essential purchase.

It is the latest addition to the “Making every lesson count” series with the author applying the framework developed by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby to the teaching of mathematics. The result is an outstanding contribution to the literature and a rich resource for anyone who teaches the subject at any level.

It is a well-written, authoritative text, and is thoroughly grounded in the realities, expertly drawing out clear principles from the latest research on memory, learning, and motivation. Each chapter contains many references to a wealth of research and literature on teaching and learning mathematics, and more generally.

You can use it to develop an informed and critical stance towards approaches and materials. It is packed full of practical ideas and examples, with many well-thought-through activities and associated tasks. Importantly it encourages readers to reflect on their practice and think about how they can try new approaches in the classroom. You will find yourself returning to it again and again.

The framework advocated is comprised of six pedagogical principles that underpin great teaching and learning. Each is explored in a dedicated chapter alongside a range of evidence-informed, high-impact strategies (52 in total) that are easy to implement.

Alongside these strategies, the author explores some of the big ideas in education:

  • why getting students to attend to what it is that we want them to learn is so important;
  • the role that cognitive load plays in learning and how we can use cognitive load theory to streamline our explanations;
  • how we can use the features of deliberate practice and embed retrieval practice strategies to supercharge the impact of the practice that students do;
  • how effective questioning can help teachers overcome the “curse of knowledge” and the Dunning–Kruger effect [a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is];
  • the implications of the idea that when we measure learning in a lesson we are not actually measuring learning, we are measuring performance.

The author acknowledges and discusses the difficulties faced when trying to measure the impact of changes and how to make changes sustainable. Potential solutions include the idea that if teachers try to change more than one feature of their teaching at a time they are likely to fail using the metaphor “if you try to catch five rabbits, you catch none”.

This is an excellent handbook offering concise advice on contemporary maths teaching. If you want to make your mathematics teaching count, then look no further then this very welcome addition to the literature. It’s indispensable reading.

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