Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Maths Exams and Motivations

I've not blogged in a long time, for several reasons which I am about to share with you right now. I am fighting off the remnants of a cold I have had for the past week and been focused on Functional Skills exams which have taken place this week. I've been focused on helping students get through their exams and it's given me time to reflect on how the students I work with have progressed within their Maths education.

Exam time is rough as a teacher, you see the students who have made real progress within their lessons complete the final task needed in order to gain their qualification. For all of the students in further education, this may not be the easiest thing to do, they struggle with how they complete a maths test, get nervous about their maths exam overall and they may lack confidence to believe in their own ability. I have struggled within the last week because I don't like seeing my students sit their exams, it's the thought that no matter how much time and effort you put into building them up, their final summative assessment may make them fall again.

There are going to be some successes within further education, but alas there will be some failures too. You will be spending the next year or term consoling students about their own abilities, the dialogue of "what's the point" will creep up again and your statistics in your exam will never truly reflect the determination, effort and time spent by all your learners in Maths to achieve their qualification. The students will feel that it is never going to be good enough, but you know that they tried and that's all that matters to you.

- I can't face watching my students sit their exams knowing I will never be happy with the statistics (Photo courtesy of pexels.com)

So the main title of the blog post is about being too late to gain maths skills. I don't believe this is the case, nor do I believe that anyone is inherently bad at maths. One of my colleagues in another department said to me that they "can't think in a maths way" so they will always struggle with it which I believe sets a bad precedent for our students who are trying desperately to get their Maths qualifications. I don't think that Maths is an easy subject, but with determination and willingness, anything is possible.

I look over my week of student examinations and I feel proud, not only to get students coming along to sit their exam, but proud in the sense that the majority of the students tried again, they really tried so hard! It was bittersweet seeing so many students try so hard then some students struggle as they are not ready yet, and that's the main lesson of today's post, just because they don't get it today doesn't mean they never will.

I do a lot of work around motivation and motivating my students towards their maths, and how we can embrace something that seems so impossible but it is achievable. A prime example I like to use is this guy, Arthur Boorman, to illustrate to my students that anything is possible if they put their mind to it. Given the conditions that Arthur was in, he never lost something important, hope.

Please watch this video below, and become inspired:

When things look bleak and things don't go the way you want, then to pick yourself back up again and give yourself another chance is massive. Show this to your students and see what they make of it, you'll be shocked at how many people are impressed by Arthur's own personal journey, and it is so relevant to developing the skills and mindset needed by our students to achieve their own goals, not only in Maths, but in education generally.

Arthur's story rings true to a lot of us. When you feel like giving up, just think of a challenge as a barrier that you can overcome, we can all do it and so can your students.

Have an enjoyable break (to those teachers on half term, like me!)

- Matt