#032 Lucy Rycroft-Smith: Cambridge Mathematics, Setting, Times Tables and Anxiety

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On this episode of the Mr Barton Maths Podcast, I spoke to Lucy Rycroft-Smith.

Lucy is a former maths teacher and head of maths, who is now the Research and Communications Officer at Cambridge Mathematics.

The reason I wanted to have Lucy on the show is that I am a little bit addicted to her espressos. Now, anyone who knows me will know my chosen brand of coffee is a very milky and pathetically weak cup of Mellow Birds, but these are mathematical espressos – bite-sized chunks of mathematical research into key areas. I originally planned to ask Lucy about five of these areas, and have everything wrapped up in under an hour – just in time for my evening Mellow Birds, in fact. But once we started talking, we could not stop, as Lucy dropped nugget after nugget.

So, in a wide-ranging interview we covered the following, and more:

  • How did Lucy deal with poor behaviour during her time as head of maths?
  • Would Lucy have advocated centrally planned lessons in her department?
  • Why did many of Lucy’s maths lessons go wrong, and what did she learn from them?
  • Why is the quest for engagement in mathematics a problematic one?
  • Then we hit the espressos – and we cover five key questions:
  • What are the effects of attainment grouping on mathematics learning?
  • What are the issues in learning and assessing times tables?
  • How does maths anxiety affect mathematics learning?
  • How does assessing confidence affect learning and testing in mathematics?
  • How can mathematics teaching be measured?
  • Finally Lucy reflects on the most important research she has read, books she would recommend, and what she wishes she knew when she first started teaching that she knows now

I promise you, this episode is gold – and it is absolutely nothing to do with me. Lucy is incredibly well-read, but has the impressive ability to relate all of the research to experiences she has had during her many years in the classroom. This leads to a series of fascinating and practical takeaways that you can build directly into your teaching.

Lucy mentions lots of papers, and there are links to everything on the podcast page, along with a link to my own research page in case this has left you wanting more. Also, Lucy forgot to mention Black Mathematicians Month, which is happening in October. Again, there are links to this on the podcast page.

And just before we crack on, my podcast hit a significant milestone just before I recorded this episode – 100,000 downloads. Thank you so much to all my guests who have helped transform the way I teach and continually make me strive to be better. And thank you to all of you who listen and who have helped spread the word about this podcast. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to know people find these interviews as useful as I do. Long may they continue.

On Twitter, Lucy is @honeypisquared 
Cambridge Maths can be found at cambridgemaths.org
On Twitter, they are: @CambridgeMaths
The books Lucy recommends, along with recommendations from all previous guests, can be found here

Other links from the episode:
Expectancy effects
TRU framework 
Black Mathematician month here and here 

Lucy Rycroft-Smith’s Big 3
1. Cambridge Mathematics salad and espressos
2. Chalk Dust Magazine
3. Aperiodical 

My usual plugs:

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

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