Task 4 – Spoon feeding is not the answer

Posted by Martha on Apr 22, 2016

Reinforcing what I said last week about the Khan Academy, I do think it is a great tool and should be utilised. Obviously it’s not perfect and perhaps lacks diversity. The videos fail to make links throughout maths and skips the nitty gritty of the students actually doing the maths, jumping straight to the answer. And that’s why it shouldn’t take over classroom learning.

I think it is important to look at and compare education systems around the world and see if we can get any tips! But it’s also important to take into consideration the cultural differences. From what I understand, in countries like Japan & Singapore, education is perceived differently to how it is here in the UK or the US. So if we were to present our students with a problem and say “solve this, if you’re struggling ask your mates” we would probably have a classroom of blank faces staring back at us. The idea is great and introducing it with a Meyer approach by which we begin problem solving together and encouraging students to ask questions seems like a step in the right direction. As Boaler suggests, group work & discussion are going to create classroom environment that is most valuable for the leaners, a classroom environment that I hope I’ll be able to create.

Spoon feeding students information is definitely not the answer in maths lessons. I think this is going to be a difficult aspect of maths teaching because students don’t like to struggle or get things wrong, they like to get to the right answer in the quickest way possible. Coming back to the skiing analogy, no one likes falling over, but it’s part of the learning process. The more you practice the better you get. A bit like when babies start learning to walk, they don’t just hop up one day and start walking around perfectly, they have to learn to walk. As for instrumental/relational skiing; you can get down some slopes with a rubbish technique & without turning properly but if you get to the top of a steep black run, you might be a little bit stuck. In a level 1 classroom where students are following a step by step method from the teacher, without fully understanding what they are doing, as soon as the context of the question changes they might not be able to adapt their procedural knowledge in order to answer the question correctly. 

A level 3 open inquiry is what we’re about to do in our mathematical inquires module and I think the thought of that scares most of us. Can we expect our students to do the same? I think a level 3/4 classroom is something that can be worked up too and built upon over time. Reaching this level in the classroom may also be difficult due to time constraints, the curriculum, set topics and examinations.

Thinking about how I’m going to teach next year – lots of different way I hope! Finding different techniques that help students learn both instrumentally and relationally, as like Willingham, I think they come hand in hand. How should teaching styles differ between age groups? Or abilities? Will different teaching styles have to be adopted for first thing on a Monday and last thing on a Friday?


  1. jat32
    23 April 2016

    Liked your analysis, I do wonder if one of the issues about the US/British teaching experience is that teachers are reluctant to try other ways of teaching as they too are worried about failure. It strikes me that more permissions for experimentation are needed, whether that is a brave school or group of schools all deciding to try something differently. Jane

  2. Ray
    23 April 2016

    I enjoyed reading your article and think that next year will give us all an opportunity to share ideas/experiences as we identify how we ourselves work in a classroom. We have a wealth of experience and ideas to share and so hopefully will be supporting each other in becoming successful teachers.

  3. fbontemps
    25 April 2016

    True that Martha, having a global view on teaching would help a lot and I really like that, it helps both the students and teachers to benefit from different methods.

  4. pball1
    26 April 2016

    Good article Marttha and I particularly picked up on the point that children need to get the answer quickly and right. I personally think that too much emphasis is placed on getting things right or even more pertinent to little emphasis is placed on mistakes and more importantly the lessons learned from such. Life is filled with some form of failure but the ability to cope and learn with such is what makes an individual.

  5. pepsmccrea
    28 April 2016

    Lots here. You’ve clearly thought hard about the ideas presented, and looked at how they might connect with previous thinkpieces. Great to see the Skiing analogy making another appearance!

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