Struggling Mathematicians

11 February, 2015


All of us at some time have been struggling mathematicians. Not only is this not always a bad thing, but in many cases it is actually beneficial. Nobody goes to the gym to lift feathers; it is often in the struggle that really deep learning and growth takes place.

Mathematicians actively seek out things they do not yet understand; it is this journey of discovery that has led mathematics through the centuries, and without which we would know little if anything about our planet and its place in the universe.

I spent quite some time recently trying to prove that every quadrilateral in the universe would tesselate; it was a problem that I had wondered about when designing my kitchen floor, so for me there was relevance. Before that, I was trying to prove why the midpoints of any quadrilateral form a parallelogram!

However, in order to do this, there are some key basic skills which must be mastered first, and it is on these that the Struggling Mathematicians course focuses. Too often children are pushed ahead before they have mastered crucial things such as place value, multiplicative reasoning, concept images, equivalence and algebraic thinking, preventing them from deepening their understanding or persisting when stuck.

WHY on earth is 34 ten times bigger than 3.4? WHY is x equal to 12? And WHY is dividing by 1/2 give us twice the original number? And just as importantly, why should we care? What are the contexts in which we introduce maths to children? Do they make any sense to them? How any children really care deeply about the colours of cars passing their school, for example? In Struggling Mathematicians, we address what goes wrong, when, why, and how to put things right.


Andrew Jeffrey has been described as a ‘maths evangelist’ and likes nothing better than spending time with teachers working on their teaching of mathematics (unless it’s spending a day in their classrooms!) He is a highly experienced trainer who mixes practical ideas with pedagogy in a humorous but thought-provoking way; you will come away tired but inspired. He is currently presenting Struggling Mathematicians.


To find out more about Struggling Mathematicians, click here.

One thought on “Struggling Mathematicians

  • I have found that the only plan to deal with this attitude in a laintsg way involves setting the student up to succeed an a substantive way. You need to find a question that is simultaneously inherently interesting to the student at that time (whether for grade reasons, as an application, or for its aesthetics), at a level so that the student is likely to succeed, and is hard enough for the student to be proud of themselves for succeeding. Fortunately, in the classroom, you have this power.

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