Thursday 19 March 2015

A new maths?

I attended a workshop run by Associate Professor Joanne Mulligan from Australia.  She was discussing a new 'type' of assessment that will be up and running this year.

The area being discussed was 'pattern and structure' in contrast to 'number' which is what we usually are exposed to.  Although, actually the Learning Progressions do a pretty good job of covering a broad range, although not not so much the above.

The assessment deals with how children perceive, make sense of, and recall visual images (one part anyway).  An interesting piece of information was the fact that learners can score fairly highly in number, yet have significant difficulties with pattern and structure.

The assessment tasks and learner responses really got me thinking about adult learners.

For example, I have noticed that learners often struggle with the idea of 'area' being measured in equal sized squares (not to mention when the area includes a decimal).  I have also noticed that some learners often struggle to copy the 'dice of fortune' grid when copying from the board.  These, and other areas of difficulty, may represent weaknesses in pattern and structure.  If a learner cannot 'see' the pattern as a pattern, but rather see it as random lines and dots, then their working memory is really up against it.  A bit like someone partitioning without automaticity in basic number.  Eventually, they fall behind.  

If these skills are undeveloped it will manifest as difficulties in number at some point, but particularly in space and shape.

The assessment is still confidential, but will be released in Australia later this year.  It would be well worth the adult sector having a look at it.

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