#098 Kris Boulton – Part 3: Is cognitive science almost useless for designing effective teaching?

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This episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast is kindly sponsored by TES

To find out more about their essential resource packs for teachers, please visit here


On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast I spoke to Kris Boulton

Having been through the TeachFirst programme, and taught maths with the likes of Bruno Reddy, Kris is now the Director of Education at UpLearn – a project with the tagline: learning with certainty, powered by AI and neuroscience.

Now, Kris’ first appearance on my podcast was a real defining episode for me as Kris spoke at great length about how he planned a sequence of lessons on simultaneous equations – something he described as his best teaching ever. The level of detail, and the depth of thought that went into that sequencing blew my mind, and it was that interview, together with conversations with the likes of Greg Ashman, Dylan Wiliam, the Bjorks, and may others that was the catalyst for my mid-career crisis that led to me reading as much about cognitive science as I could, and ultimately led me to write my book, How I wish I’d taught maths.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I see a talk that Kris is giving at researchEd entitled: Cognitive science is almost useless for designing effective teaching.


So, I had to get Kris back on the podcast. And I am incredibly glad I did.

  • In a wide-ranging conversation, we discussed the following things, and plenty more besides:
  • Does Kris really believe that cognitive science is useless?
  • What is cognitive science?
  • What are its limits?
  • What is the alternative?
  • How does it work in practice?
  • And if it is so brilliant, why has it not taken over the world?

Along the way Kris pulls apart the way I teach expanding double brackets, changing it forever.
The interview references lots from Kris first appearance on the show, especially his planning of that sequence of lessons on simultaneous equations, so I would recommend a quick refresher of that before diving in (well, as quick as 3 hours can be), but this epiosde should work as a stand-alone.

On Twitter Kris is @Kris_Boulton
His excellent blog can be found at: tothereal.wordpress.com

Part 1 of my interview with Kris is here
Part 2 is here

Some links to blog posts referenced in the episode:

My best planning
Mathematical processes
Direct instruction
Naveen Risvi’s blog

My usual plugs:

Thanks so much for listening, and I really hope you enjoy the show!
Craig Barton

Twitter: @mrbartonmaths

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