5 April 2015

CPD - Maths teachers lead the way

Maths is a really hard subject to teach. Not only do we have to tackle negative perceptions - maths is difficult, maths is boring, maths is pointless - but we also have to explain some really tricky concepts. We need to develop skills in students such as problem solving, visualisation and reasoning. These skills don't come easily. Teaching maths is a huge challenge, and it's really important to get it right.

Sometimes it's helpful to bounce ideas around with our fellow maths teachers. We all benefit from sharing good practice. Sometimes we need inspiration. Up until recently, there were few opportunities to get this kind of support. But there's a revolution happening in maths education. It's called #mathsTLP.

What is #mathsTLP?
TLP is Twitter Lesson Planning. This was Ed Southall's clever idea - you can read his original post about it here. It takes place every Sunday evening between 7pm and 8pm. Let me explain how it works. If you're looking for an idea or a resource, tweet your request and include the hashtag #mathsTLP. Something like this:
People who are monitoring the #mathsTLP hashtag will see your request and respond to it - like this:
At the end of the chat, Ed (@solvemymaths) collates the resources on his blog.

#mathsTLP isn't just about sharing resources and lesson ideas, it's a forum in which maths teachers talk to each other about teaching maths. What could be better than that?

Is it working?
It's bloody brilliant. We're working together for the sake of our students. I cannot think of a more effective use of social media.

#mathsTLP has been running for 4 weeks now and we've covered a huge range of topics including sequences, inequalities, circle theorems, simultaneous equations and probability. Through #mathsTLP I've connected with lots of new people and have discovered many fantastic new resources. 

For a brand new hashtag, it's getting a lot of tweets (the orange line below represents #mathsTLP, blue and green are the well-established hashtags #mathschat and #mathscpdchat respectively).

Beyond maths?
Subject-specific CPD is considerably more helpful than the sort of general 'teaching and learning' CPD that is often delivered at school Insets. At some schools - mine included - no time or money is allocated to subject-specific learning. Since my NQT year, I haven't received any training that's actually had an impact on my teaching. Twitter is my sole source of development - without it I'd be working in a bubble.

Twitter's maths teacher community is brilliant - its members have really mastered the effective use of Twitter as a platform for collaboration. I wonder whether other subjects are heading the same way. Do other subjects have an equivalent to #mathsTLP, a chat specifically for sharing lesson ideas and resources?

Outside of Twitter, there are initiatives which offer hands-on help, advice, knowledge and inspiration. A fantastic example is The Physics Factory, a 'grassroots network of teachers working to put the fizz back into physics'. Much like those who participate in #mathsTLP, the people behind The Physics Factory recognise that teachers need to work together. They share ideas and resources, they develop subject knowledge. They don't tell teachers how to teach, but they inspire teachers to love what they do.
Subject-specific initiatives are essential. To have an impact in the classroom, teachers need to be in love with their subject, and derive authority from it. Immersion in their subject is vital.

I'm feeling very positive about all this collaboration. If teachers continue to work together like this, we're heading in the right direction. I'm proud to be part of #mathsTLP and I hope other subjects are inspired to follow our lead.

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