Guiding questions for creating activities
Choosing articles from the news
What opportunity does this article offer for exploring particular mathematical concepts?
Will the context be understood by the students and will it interest them? Why should they care? Is it rich enough to enable emergent possibilities?
To what extent does the article lend itself to the different aspects of critical numeracy - de-coding, meaning-making, using or analysing?
How does it link to curriculum topics and goals? Are there guiding questions which are meaningful and bridge curriculum areas?
What is the pre-requisite knowledge required of the students and how much scaffolding do you think they will need to be able to engage with it?
Planning the lessons
How will you set the scene?
How will you help students remember what they think they know, what do you think their preconceptions might be?
What thinking strategies could you highlight?
What opportunities will you give for students to talk about their ideas - in pairs, groups or whole class discussion?
How long should be devoted to this activity?
What questions are the students likely to ask and how much help do they need?
What opportunities are there for students to develop their own investigations?
What creative task can students do using the article? What might be a culminating performance of understanding?
What are your expectations for student understanding and how will you know that hey have been achieved?
Reflecting on the lessons
What adaptations were needed "on the run" and what strategies have you found to help you respond to these?
What did you learn about your students' thinking?
What helped students move into more critical thinking?
How motivated were the students by the context to explore and use their critical numeracy skills?
How well did you achieve your aims?
What difficulties were encountered?
What was enjoyable or surprising about this experience? What was inspiring or intriguing?
What have you learnt?
How might you use this activity in the future?
What would you like to explore now?
"I chose this article on fly fishing because it had a clear mistake. It quoted a 33% increase in catching fish when fishermen increased the number of flies from 2 to 3 on their fishing line. It should have been 50%.
"I asked the students to look critically at the article and comment as part of a whole class discussion. I thought it would take them some time and generate a discussion about percentage - the relationship of the part to the whole, and how it relates to fractions and decimals.
"But one boy got the mistake straight away and then the rest of the class saw it and 'got it' We didn't need to tease out the issue with percentage. I was thinking "What am I going to do now? That's my plan gone out of the window!"
"But I underestimated the interest the group had in fishing. The students brought up lots of questions including the ethical dilemma of creating a technique to catch more fish, when we should be sustainable. We spent some time considering whether moving from 2 to 3 flies would give a proportional increase in being able to catch fish. What assumptions were being made? We ended up exploring ideas of chance and probability.
"I was very pleasantly surprised at where our discussion went, but at the same time panicking because I didn't seem to be doing the maths I intended.
"The students were amazed that the newspaper would have wrong information in it - it is seen as an authoritative text.
"I now realise how I need to be better prepared for deviations and actually look for opportunities for good discussions. But at the same time I need to be able to bring the students back to the lesson focus."
High School Maths Teacher
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Developing Guiding Questions