“A successful learner in mathematics involves constructing understanding through
exploration, problem solving, discussion and practical experience and evidentially through a
teacher who has a clear grasp of the underlying structure of the mathematics being taught”
(Haylock 2010:3). Analysing my personal journey through mathematics will allow me to
explore if my experiences have influenced my attitudes towards mathematics. Beginning by
exploring the ways in which I was taught as a child, examining what framework was used for
the teaching of mathematics, before continuing to explore if education reforms and learning
strategies could have influenced by experiences. Concluding by reflecting on my attitude
towards mathematics as an adult and trainee teacher, discussing how they will affect or
influence the methods of teaching I will adopt.
Entering formal education in 1991 I was taught by means of the revised version of
mathematical national curriculum 1991 (DfE 2013b) brought about by the Educational
Reform Act 1988.The main two principles of the national curriculum were: firstly to ensure
all pupils learn and achieve and secondly to promote pupils spiritual, moral, social and
cultural development (DES 1987) The basis of therevised curriculum and its associated
testing was to standardise the content taught across schools in order to raise standards of
attainment in mathematics. With the introduction of a national curriculum came the
introduction of national tests SATs, programmes of study, attainment targets and levels.
This was the framework for my memories of mathematics to be established (DfE 2013a).
My early recollections of being taught mathematics are through teacher explanation
followed by an activity to complete to show you were able to apply the process shown and
therefore achieve the correct answer. This process was normally carried out through
completing worksheets, very rarely did we manipulate resources or have discussions or
work in groups. This made mathematics from a very early age appear to be a black and
white subject, teacher set the boundaries and if you complete the algorithm being taught
you will arrive at the correct answer (Stewart 2013). This method of teaching had a
profound effect on my mathematics ability at primary and secondary level through being an
auditory learner I had the ability to learn a rule and apply it, but did this challenge my
ability? And show I had an understanding and relevance to the mathematics being taught?
According to Richard Skemp’s theory of how children learn, my early recollections of
mathematics teachings would show I was developing an ‘instrumental understanding’ due
to being only able to apply the rule demonstrated by the class teacher (Skemp 2002).
Implications including fostering a weak understanding to the nature of what is being taught
can arise from merely developing instrumental understanding as a student cannot take
what they have already learnt and apply and adjust it to a new idea...