Now, NRICH is a website that I am sure pretty much all of my maths teaching listeners will be aware of, and maybe a few of my non maths listeners as well. The stated aim of the NRICH Project on the website homepage is “to enrich the mathematical experiences of all learners”, and it seeks to achieve this by providing a wealth of free rich teaching activities and resources, supported by workshops, roadshows and professional development events around the UK and beyond. It is a site that I have used frequently since I started my teaching career some 14 years ago. And yet, when I have found myself questioning everything that I used to think was true about maths teaching, naturally NRICH has fallen under my gaze as well. Is it really compatible with my increased emphasis on my own brand of explicit instruction that I have found myself believing in so passionately over the last couple of years?
Well, there was only one way to find out.
So, in a wide-ranging conversation we discussed the following things, and much, much more besides:
- Alison describes her early experiences of mathematics, and why it led her to believe in the importance of experiencing struggle
- We talk about favourite failures, what can go wrong with NRICH activities, and what we can learn from the experience
- We talk about how NRICH has evolved, to move it away from a site of puzzles for high-attaining students, towards something that is teacher-friendly and accessible and beneficial for all students
- We then take on some NRICH myths, addressing in particular a concern I have that students do not get chance to develop fluency in key skills whilst doing these activities
- I ask how often teachers should be using these activities?
- In one of my favourite bits of the interview, we then talk about the role memorisation and facts have to play in the understanding of mathematics
- And then finally we reflect on why it is important that teachers see themselves as mathematicians and not just maths teachers
I loved this interview. I have been very fortunate to interview some top-class double-acts, including Robert and Elizabeth Bjork, Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson, and Anne Watson and John Mason, and I can now add another to this illustrious list. Alison and Charlie were happy to offer their thoughts and opinions on every area I ventured into, and it left me plenty to reflect upon which I will tackle in my Takeaway at the end of the episode.
If you enjoyed our discussion on Purposeful Practice and want to know more, then I discuss it at length with Colin Foster on one of my favourite podcast interviews, and I also feature it in Chapter 10 of my book, How I wish I’d taught maths, available from all good (and evil) book stores.
Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoy the show!
I am a maths teacher, currently teaching at Thornleigh Salesian College, Bolton, UK. Here are links to some of my work:
Mr Barton Maths Blog
Mr Barton Maths Podcast
My book: How I wish I’d taught maths