Reflection on Shanghai Maths

Posted by Rhys on Dec 6, 2015

The trip we took to Chailey School last week to observe some Shanghai maths first hand, was a real eye opener. It showed me a completely different way of teaching and gave me plenty of ideas that I hope to take into the classroom myself.

The first thing that impacted on me personally was the pace of the first lesson that we observed. It was incredibly fast paced not allowing students to get distracted or get off topic. This is due to the teacher asking questions and the students having to answer quickly. As well as the pace the topic of the lesson remained solely focused on one key area. This allowed the students to look more in depth at one topic, allowing their understanding to grow much more in depth. In comparison to how lessons are taught here in the UK where teachers jump around a few topics.

However, I feel that what I witnessed at Chailey was an incredible teaching style but is it really suitable for classrooms in the UK. This is because in Shanghai the students are motivated to learn and improve their mathematics. Whereas over here the majority students are not as driven to learn maths as they feel it’s not an essential subject or a productive use of time. Therefore, trying to get British students to learn in exactly the same way as they do in Shanghai is preposterous as it simply will not happen.

On the other hand, teaching in the UK would of great benefit by taking on board a few different teaching methods that the shanghai teachers demonstrated. For example getting a few students to come up to the board to show their solutions to the rest of class is a great way to get students to show other students different methods of solving the same problem. This allows the students to look at the different methods and see which one they find the easiest for them and then they should learn that method. As well as getting students to come up to the board to show their solutions, the teacher will also get them to ask their fellow students for help when they get stuck before asking the teacher.

For me the main method I will be taking into the classroom with me is the way that students do lots of questions. They are all slightly different as they test misconceptions as well as really testing their knowledge with probing questions. This is a better way of getting students to do questions by getting them to do one then feedback to the class. Compared to getting students to sit and work through section after section out of a textbook and getting them to look in the back for the answer to mark their work.

Overall I thought the Shanghai teaching methods were very good and extremely effective. Which explains why they are top of the PISA rankings for maths. However, I don’t believe you can simply pick up that style of teaching and install it in the UK. This is because there is a big culture difference so it will not work. But it is not completely hopeless as there is still lots to be learnt from it. I feel it just needs adjusting for the British education system.

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