Doug Dickinson

Muses of an E-Learning Consultant

Week 8 – Egyptian Maths Teachers

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Getting towards the final stages of the course now and things are developing nicely. There is a lot of understanding about the need to vary teaching strategies and that technology could and should help with this.

The group has thoroughly engaged in the course content and some really creative ideas have come forward and have been shared.

There is a tendency to revert back to the present Egyptian Maths curriculum as a prop to non- engagement at some stages. It is too easy to accept that things cannot be done and we have tried to adopt the principle of ‘If not you then who? If not now then when?’

Week 5 – Egyptian Teachers – Half Way


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The teachers are now halfway through their course here at Leicester and are working hard on a great number of areas. School visits have been an eye-opener for them and they have been immersed in a whole range of styles, ages and techniques.
Their level of English both in writing and speech is increasing as is the understanding of the nuances of the language.
My Arabic still only extends to about 3 words and I am ashamed that I can’t remember more. It is all about usage.

Week 1 Egyptian Teachers

Week 1 was really about getting used to walking to the teaching venue at Brookfield, being given and getting used to the iPads but most of all visiting BETT 2015 at ExCeL.

gives the highlights as seen by the press and UK teachers. It is now up to the Egyptian teachers to make sense of all of the  things that they saw and put the ideas in place within their curriculum. The problem is being dazzled by the vast array of things available that will probably have little or no impact in Egyptian schools. What was good, what was useful and why are the key questions to be answered.

Blogging Day

Today has been quite a stressful one in  that our assumptions about how difficult the task of blogging was were wrong. We must understand that the things we have been doing for a long while look really strange when they are new and the directions are not in a first language.

Message to self : must try harder

Message to group: when you can do something quickly please go and help someone who can’t

Egyptian Maths Teachers

The second group of Egyptian teachers have arrived at the University of Leicester. This group are all teachers of maths and their arrival has provoked me to revisit this blog  to muse over ideas that have moved on since the last post.

It has got me thinking about how innovation looks from a different direction and has alerted me to the layered nature of teaching. High ideals beyond pedagogy are the order of the day but feet musty be kept firmly on the ground to provide useful and usable opportunities for growth.

I will use this blog to post the progression of thought for the next 10 weeks as the course for these Egyptian teachers develops.

Notes to self:

  • Speak more slowly
  • Give things more time
  • Allow white space to develop
  • Listen to the shouts and the whispers

Just need some answers

Is it true that bits of the DfE do not talk to each other? How is it that one end of  curriculum assessment is suggesting that maths needs to be made more relevant and appropriate to a digital age and another, at primary level, is saying that children should learn their ‘tables’ up to 12*12 and … This means learning times tables up to 12×12 and being able to carry out long multiplication and division without the aid of a calculator… says Education Minister Elizabeth Truss.

Also indicated:


  • adding and subtracting fractions with different denominations and mixed numbers
  • calculating the area of a parallelogram and a triangle, and the volume of a cuboid
  • using their knowledge of the order of operations to carry out calculations involving the four operations (division, multiplication, subtraction and addition)

Tests under the current curriculum do not ask as much of pupils. For instance, they only have to know their 10×10 times tables and they only need to know how to calculate the area of squares and rectangles.

A new separate written arithmetic paper has been introduced to key stage 2 tests to ensure pupils are fluent in the discipline.

The government is also banning the use of calculators in tests for 11-year-olds from this year for the first time.

Also marks will only be given to pupils who get the wrong answer if they show their working has been done in efficient methods, including long and short division and multiplication instead of so-called ‘chunking’ or ‘grid methods’. Pupils who get the right answer will still get full marks, whatever method they have used.

As a thought:

Q: When did I last use my ability to add and subtract fractions with different denominations and mixed numbers?

A: When I took my GCE Maths – 55 years ago

Q: Why do people need to know the multiplication facts to 12*12 … have we  gone all American and still wish to use feet and inches and is our currency going back to £.s.d?

A: No idea and No and No

Q: When did I need to know (-*- =+)

A: Actually never … except in an exam

Q: When do children, in general, at the age of 11, need to know how to calculate the volume of a cuboid?

A: Never … if they did want to know –

Q: Why are people so anti-calculator ?

A: No idea … what is the big deal about being able to do sums without one and do long multiplication by a non efficient method ( using a bit of paper etc) when a Google search will give the answer to 576*345 straight away? (198720)

Q: Is there an understanding about the difference between arithmetic and maths?

A: I think not

I could go on but the issue is clear that the things that we teach our young people should be relevant to their developing lives and not just so that the institutional education system can say that it is better than others in the world.


Sorry for the breakdown in service on this blog.

My ISP chose to move to another server and it has taken us some time to sort out all the bits and pieces. I think that some of the order may have got a bit mangled but the content is all there.

So normal, whatever that is, service will be resumed  when there is something that gets me excited or upset.

Thanks to Mat for sorting out all of the twiddly bits.

Let them PLAY !!

Article 31 of the UN Convention
That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
Many thanks for all of the kind comments and retweets etc following yesterday’s post. This is so important … we must not move blinkered into a world where childhood merely becomes a precursor for growing up (or even old). It is so wonderful, so all encompassing that it must be protected and nurtured. Its provision is a fundamental human right.

My thanks to Tricia for sending me this link: This Is Me : Article 31 and a Child’s Right to Play


And from the Daily Telegraph :

Believe it or not … same subject !

And some fell on stoney ground …

It appears, after reading and listening to the BBC News today, that Mr Wilshaw is again attempting to steal childhood. I just don’t know why he can’t see that today is important in itself and is not, I repeat not, in preparation for adulthood. And the joy of the early years of growing up is about playing, getting excited, being with friends and not about learning how to behave in school. I just cannot understand why we persist in going down this pathway when few other countries in the world seem to do this. Institutionalising children at the age of two just does not make sense. Just view this quote from Mr Wilshaw from the BBC site: A greater emphasis on structured learning is the answer, he says. And he calls for schools to take the lead by providing high-quality early-years education in on-site nurseries.

Further: Sir Michael added: “The corollary of not preparing children well for school is that they don’t do well in reception and, if they don’t do well in reception, they don’t get on at key stage one, they find it difficult to read at seven, they fail at the end of primary school and that failure continues into secondary school.

So according to Wilshaw today is a preparation for tomorrow and what do we know about tomorrow? Very little indeed, we continue to prepare our children for a world that we have no idea about. So what would a key skill look like? … I suggest that learning how to grow vegetables would be a really good skill to have. And learning to be safe and kind and thoughtful and caring are much more important than learning the five times table.

We need to give children time to grow and time to be still, there is no rush to formalise learning in any way. Being allowed moments to fail and to experience moments of joy are fundamentally important to developing a sense of self. The formalised, stratified learning talked about by Children’s Minister Liz Truss who has said repeatedly that she wants to see more teacher-led sessions in the nation’s nurseries – is not appropriate for our youngest children.

The divided education system that we have at present continues to head off in the wrong direction. I just hope that the present teachers in training will have the sense and power to turn things around.