Here’s how its done. Now its your turn.

Posted by Rhys on Nov 30, 2015

Having watched the video by Michael Pershan and read the article by Andrew Blair I have mixed opinions on the Khan Academy and teaching styles is the US and UK. Having previously been in favour of the Khan academy the video this week has made me think otherwise.

In the USA students spend more time practicing similar problems after being told how to solve them. This is a similar system that is used frequently in the UK. However, in Japan the teacher will propose a problem to the class and get them to work it out in their own way. They work in small groups to help one another and only when they are truly stuck will the teacher provide help to those students. Then at the end of the lesson students will come up to the bored to show their methods to the rest of the class. I feel this is a very good way of teaching as it allows students to explore maths from their own point of view and allows students to see multiple representations and approaches to the same problem. This will aid learning as the students may see a method that they find easier for them to process and use which the teacher may not show.

The Khan academy does not show multiple representations of how to solve a mathematical problem. It expects students to be able to understand the method that they are being shown in the videos. This may not be the case for all students, meaning that they may fall behind in their subject knowledge in comparison to the rest of their class. The video by Pershan highlights this problem and explains how the Khan academy would benefit from looking at how mathematics is taught in countries like Japan that are higher up the PISA tables of results in mathematics compared to the USA and UK.

A quote I liked from the article by Blair was “teaching is not a predictable path”. I feel this is related to how all students develop at different rates. But the curriculum doesn’t allow for this, due to teachers having to cover a vast number of topics in a short space of time. Should the curriculum be reduced like it is in Shanghai and cut out overlap? Would this cause students to fall behind because the teachers are not spending lessons going back over what they have already covered to help a few students?

I feel the article has a strong opinion that the use of visual representations for solving mathematical problems is key for student development. This is because it allows for all of the students, at any ability, to understand what is being calculated in a question if they can visually see it in front of them. In my opinion I think that visual representations are very important due to the way they get the whole class involved in the problem. It is definitely a technique I will attempt to implement in my own teaching.


  1. Stephen
    3 December 2015

    I was wondering what you thought about the use of the Japanese method demonstrated in the video and how that could be used to introduce a topic. Ironically if you could solely use this method would it erase the need for teachers as we know them and just require people with sufficient subject knowledge? The Japanese lesson videod is illustrative of “coaching” rather than teaching. However you can’t coach someone who doesn’t know how to do any maths, I think it would perhaps be more interesting to have seen an example of a lesson where there was a completely unseen topic with new ideas in it and how that would have been taught.

  2. marcus
    5 December 2015

    I really enjoyed reading this think piece, Rhys. Firstly, I like the amount of emphasis you have put on the idea of multiple representations for the learning of maths, its good to consider that that we shouldn’t be exposing students to just one method per topic.

    Secondly, I really like your analysis of the quote from Andrew Blair. I too wonder if the curriculum should be reduced, however I have also been thinking about whether students in Shanghai would be just as successful if they implemented our educational system there? If it worked, then perhaps the issue we need to be solving is the difference in culture?

  3. pepsmccrea
    7 December 2015

    Great to see you approach this module with a mind open to change. Some interesting analysis around visual representations. In future, I’d like to see you make more links with ideas from previous tasks – I think it would strengthen your thinking and arguments.

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