Why? Because I Said So!

Want to know the best question a student can ask in Maths? Or, anywhere, in my humble opinion. A single word, that opens up a world of potential. A word that inspires curiosity, arguably the most important trait in any budding Mathematician or Scientist.


It is the very definition of curiosity. It shows interest, sparks excitement and fascination, and usually leads to a much deeper understanding on whatever they happening to be studying.

Unfortunately, this wonderful question can often be met with some truly horrible answers.

“Because that’s the way it is”

“Because I said so”

“That doesn’t really matter”

I hear it far too often. In school, in sport, even in art, and especially the workplace. And every single time, I cringe.

For quite a few reasons.

It means the instructor doesn’t really understand

If someone can’t explain why a process is in place, they probably don’t truly understand the process in the first place. Which, in itself is not a crime. We are all learning something at some point.

The real issue is that, when someone is in a position to teach, it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing they should know everything. Rather than accepting gaps in their own knowledge and striving to fill them. Students love seeing that their teachers (or tutors, or coaches, or managers) are human too. We are all learning. But by refusing to admit that you don’t know something, you’re doing a disservice to yourself AND your student.

It discourages curiosity

If students don’t get satisfying answers to questions, eventually they’ll just stop asking. Which is worse. Much worse. It ends up perpetuating the vicious cycle that we all moan about.

It’s a big trend at the moment to complain about how the education system is broken. Which it kind of is. But I firmly believe that nurturing curiosity can save it.

It’s all well and good to talk about personalised learning experience, multi faceted learning, and all the other fads. And while they’re brilliant ideas, they’re not sustainable in the world we live in – there aren’t enough teachers in classrooms, and they aren’t paid enough to be able to foster that kind of environment permanently.

The thing that IS killing the system is situations in which students are afraid or otherwise discouraged from discovering things for themselves. Asking questions, adventuring, and being curious.

It gives knowledge without wisdom

We all know the saying.

Knowledge is knowing the tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Knowledge is knowing how to add two numbers together. Wisdom is knowing when to add two numbers together.

One without the other creates very human looking calculators, and not a whole lot more.

If a student asks why, either answer the question, or find someone who can.


Why Folios and Projects Are Better Than Exams (Even For Maths)

why projects and folios are better than tests

Do you remember doing “projects” in Primary School? They were about as much fun as you could have while still being productive.

Posters, Slideshows, Dioramas…

Students (usually) put heart and soul into those projects, with many spending tens of hours on a single piece.

More importantly, those hours always paid off in the results.

It’s always easy to see which projects are given time and attention, and which ones are just rushed.

But as students move in their senior years of education, those projects are left behind in favour of tests and examinations. With the exception of certain art based subjects, most academic evaluation is done via the written test.

Primary School is better at preparing students for the real world than High School

Why? Because in the world of careers and professions, nobody sits written tests. We’re give tasks, projects, and large scale jobs to complete.

[bctt tweet=””Primary School is better at preparing students for the real world than High School”” username=”simplymaths”]

Which means that the process of completing a project is far more useful than being able to answer questions under time constraints. Think of everything that goes into a typical school project:

  • Planning
  • Research
  • Resource gathering
  • Breakdown and ordering of necessary tasks
  • Job delegation (in the case of group projects)
  • Planning of job completion dates
  • Problem solving
  • Collaboration
  • Presentation

Now think of what would be necessary if an employer asked you build a website or a booklet for a business. I’m betting that the list of jobs would be very similar.

Projects simulate real world challenges much better than tests possibly could

Primary does a great job of teaching us how to plan out and coordinate a project, but we’ve usually forgotten by the time we get to late high school.

Art and folio subjects are a great (but sometimes rude) reminder of how those projects work. And while many students moan and groan about how much work a folio subject is, it is truthfully far more beneficial than the assessments in most other subjects.

Could we really use folios and projects for all subjects?

Short answer? Yes.

[bctt tweet=””Projects and research are a far better preparation for the world than tests could ever be.”” username=”simplymaths”]

Maths subjects would move into assignments that help students investigate applications of principles and mathematical methods.

Science based subjects would move more into research and reports.

English would allow students to more fully explore essays and analytical writing, without having to stress about rushing their thoughts and scribbling the first thing that comes to mind.

The potential is there. With some exploration, school and education can be turned from a place of facts into an environment where students can learn those critical skills and understanding that will be required of them in the years ahead.

The Critical 21st Century Skills Every Learner Needs and Why

Preparing a child for the world that doesn’t yet exist is not an easy task for any teacher. Step back and look at that picture from a broad perspective. What are the critical 21st-century skills…

Sourced through Scoop.it from: medium.com

As we continue moving forward, many skills currently taught will become obsolete in favour of these new core goals. And while the study of Mathematics specifically tends to take less of a priority, the aspects that come as a result of its study (problem solving, analytical thinking) will become pivotal to our students future careers.

To The Teachers Who Are Offended When Their Students Get Tutors…

A letter to teachers: if your students get a tutor, it is NOT an insult

Dear Teachers,

Recently, I have heard from my students that you might be upset that they need a tutor.

It’s certainly not all teachers, but there are definitely enough to cause me concern.

My students tell me, and they’re a little miffed. Apparently, it hurts a little that students that you teach require extra help.

Aren’t I enough?

More than a few teachers have said this. And from what I can tell, it stems from a great concern that you aren’t enough to provide the quality help to your students.

And to this I say… “WHY??!”

Why would it bother you? Is it that you don’t trust other educators? Is that your ego is in the way? Or is there some other reason that I’m missing?

As a teacher, you know better than anyone that every student learns differently.

Which means you have surely accepted the fact that your teaching style won’t work for everyone in your class. It can’t, by definition! No matter how flexible you are, you can’t please everyone.

More importantly, you shouldn’t be expected to. 

Teachers perform (what I believe is) the most important job in the world. And most teachers do a remarkable, outstanding job at bringing students into the larger world.

Any one in the education world who expects one person to individually teach 25 people in their own unique style is either silly or ignorant.

Tutors have the flexibility to give each student what they need on a personal level – they have the time and freedom that your career doesn’t offer.

Tutors aren’t replacing teachers – they’re supporting them

Teachers are on the forefront of education – introducing hundreds or even thousands of students to the educational world.

Tutors are the support team: they take what the teacher starts and customises it to suit each individual student in a way that a teacher simply can’t do. Not due to a lack of skill, but a lack of time, energy and probably money!

Tutors are going to make your life easier

As a teacher, your job is to get your class through the year with smiles, passion and a ton of education.

When one or two of your students struggle, your plan tends to take the hit.

When your students get a tutor, it’s never supposed to be an insult to you.

What “having a tutor” actually means.

It does NOT mean that a teacher is bad.

It does NOT mean that a student is unintelligent.

But it DOES mean that students and parents are understanding the pressure that the current education system is applying across the country, and have decided to take action to make sure they don’t get left behind.

[VIDEO] Why Methods Is Actually Harder Than Specialist Maths

Why Methods Is Actually Harder Than Specialist Maths

It’s certainly not obvious upon first inspection. In fact, Specialist Maths is designed to be harder than Methods.

So why is it that so many students find Methods to be the tougher one? It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

It all comes down to context

There’s no denying that the Maths concepts taught in Specialist are harder than those taught in Methods. There are around half a dozen completely new ideas that are taught.

Methods, on the other hand, is almost entirely content that has been seen before. Around half of the course content uses ideas, concepts and knowledge from past years.

Which is both a blessing and a curse for Methods. 

In theory, it makes Methods easier.

But the fact is, in reality, most students don’t remember the content that they are supposed to remember. 

Which means that students are trying to work without the background knowledge that they need.

“You already know this, so I’ll skim over it”

A favourite line of teachers. And while that might be true in a perfect fairy tale…

It’s not true in real life.

But because of this “assumed knowledge”, Methods dives much deeper. It begins to manipulate the information in order to create challenging problem solving and application questions. Questions that are ultimately challenging students on a level that is often far beyond what is expected.

Specialist is all new

Which means there is a huge volume of content to learn. Which is tough.

But it also means that assessors tend to back off a little in terms of the tricky problem-solving questions. With so much new content in Specialist Maths, the emphasis is often on simply understanding concepts; Methods is more about a depth of understanding and problem-solving.

In Specialist, the Maths is harder… In Methods, the problems themselves are harder

And in general, students have more difficulty with application or “problem-solving” questions than they do with the numbers themselves. Which can lead many students (especially the ones who study both types of Maths) to find their Methods work significantly more tedious and challenging than their Specialist homework.

Having trouble choosing which Maths subject to study? Check out this handy guide >>