Friday, 9 June 2017

Inside out math problems - would you go gay with your maths?

I have just emerged from two days of very good learning at the WRPPA conference. I think that it is proper to thank the conference organisers, and the MC, who provided two days of a fabulous and balanced programme.

One of the features of the programme was 4 'Inspiration' talks from our young people. There was a talk from a fabulous boy from Wellington high school who talked about his primary school experience living with Dyslexia, there was a brilliant girl from Marsden Whitby who spoke about the way she set up her initiative 'Hygiene for the Homeless'. I have never seen a 17 year old girl talk about tampons with such ease! There were the awesome kids from my school talking about their Museum, and a very cool young woman who spoke about the organisation she set up as a high school student 5 years ago - Inside Out.

Inside out is an organisation that spreads awareness about homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, gender identity and sexual orientation issues within the school. She gave us some very compelling statistics as to why this was a primary school issue. A third of youth who identify as having sex, gender or sexual diversity know this before the age of 11. Further, many more of our students will be living in LGBTQ families.

She went through the usual suggestions that made me feel somewhat superior. Gender neutral uniforms (we don't have a uniform but if we did it would most definitely be gender neutral ) - CHECK! - Gender neutral bathrooms (we are about to embark on our toilet refurb and gender neutral bathrooms is in the plan) - CHECK! But then she went on to say that those were easy things to solve and that them alone were not enough - Hmmm.

She pointed out the high prevalence of homophobic language used in schools such as: That is so gay. 

She then discussed ways of bringing diversity into the Curriculum. She used the example of Maths problem solving questions. If we were to provide a truly inclusive curriculum we would have a decent sprinkling of maths questions that were LGBTQ friendly. I had a quick look at the NZ Maths problem solving section and noticed that NONE of the 300 plus problems had any gender diversity.

I decided to have a look at these questions with such a lens and came up with this:

A farmer can see nine sheep if she looks out of any of her four windows.
Her wife gives her a new sheep.
Which paddocks can she put the new sheep in so that she can still see nine sheep from each of the four windows?

Or how about this one?

Paul is talking to his boyfriend James on the phone.
He is trying to describe a pattern to James but he can’t find the words.
If Paul’s pattern is: 3, 7, 11, 15, …how can he describe to James how to get any member of the number pattern?
How can Paul tell James how to get the 50th number in as simple a way as possible?

Then I got very honest with myself. Have I ever used such a maths problem in my maths programme? Nope. Would I be willing to go into school on Monday and do this without over-thinking it? Probably not... Would I send the above questions home for homework without fear of getting 'feedback' from whanau?

But don't I live in Aotearoa where "The protection of LGBT rights is the most advanced in Oceania and one of the most liberal in the world, with the country being the first in the region and thirteenth in the world to enact same-sex marriage?   

Maybe we are not as rainbow friendly as I thought we were. Yes, we are planning on building some gender neutral toilets ... but is that enough?

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Term 2 Week 2

Parent information evenings - cooking up a storm.

We have had two parent information evenings this week. The first one was about was about our school camps that are coming up in term 4 and the second was was around our play-based learning programme that we run in our year 0-2 learning hub.

Whilst the camp info evening was largely about the details the conversation drifted into the classroom pedagogy that we have in our two year 6-8 team taught classrooms. The conversation started because the camps that we are attending are catered so the children don't get to prepare food like they would have when their parents went to camp.

This was the perfect opportunity for our teachers to talk about the wonderful learning that they are doing in their classrooms with their Pop-Up Kitchen. Thanks to School Kit.

The passion that the teachers had when they spoke about this learning was incredible and equally awesome was the stories that the parents started sharing about how their children were asking to cook dinner and that they were now eating vegetables. Matt and Emma showed the parents via GoogleSlides the work that had been going on behind the cooking. Children were researching the origins of the spices that they were cooking with, the nutritional information, and they were investigating ways in which to modify the recipes. For example, how to make Satay for someone with a peanut allergy. Alongside all this comes the authentic and hands on maths, the reading of the recipe correctly, the ranking of the foods, the importance of presentation, and of course the cooking. A meeting that had the potential to be a boring transactional information passing meeting (that in all honesty could have been an email) came to life.

The learning through play info evening was also a huge success.  Again I was extremely proud of our teachers who a truly passionate about the job that they do and the children that they work with. During our debrief we spoke about how we need to hold these kinds of evenings more often. Although they are time consuming and that they take valuable time away from our lovely families we couldnt help but notice how much time that they save. By this, I mean that our whanau can see that our practise is extremely well thought out and considered. That we are not teaching on a whim, and that everything that we do is in order to benefit our children's learning. By investing in this time our whanau begin to see that we are teaching and learning experts and, as a result, they trust us with their most precious taonga.


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