Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Maths as a Mixed Martial art

 Entering a Year 7 classroom can be quite daunting for a student. I'm reading a few dystopian dramas and imagined a parallel universe with traditional classes mixed with mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts - a child entering a high school classroom for the first time.  It's all a bit dramatic but typical of my sense of humour.

“Jonny enters the Octagon being unable to count the sides, knowing that he is about to take a beating.  He hasn’t done the work required to be at this level.  Every previous outing he has failed. He seeks to distract his opponent by avoiding work set, breaking the rules and getting thrown out before his lack of competence can be identified and ridiculed.  Against all odds he attempts to answer the first question and it beats him to a pulp.”

“Mary enters the Octagon full of confidence.  She struts around the room announcing to everyone how this is too easy, she has the answer for every problem, being well prepared through her summer programme and her University educated parents.  She sees others in the room similarly confident – is she really the best in the room anymore? Her confidence falls.  Her first answer is wrong and now she is no longer the no.1 contender.”

“Harry walks into the Octagon.  He has worked hard but never found the success that warrants the work that he has put in.  Every step forward is difficult and he envies those that make it easy.  He timidly lifts his hand to give an answer.  He is ignored for a student that is actively seeking to give theirs.  His answer is correct but nobody knows.  He fails again.”

“Jill enters and listens to the instruction before the match.  She has heard it all before and could recite it before it is said.  She drifts off and starts thinking about fairies and unicorns.  The match starts, the test given and it is all over in a moment.  She has defeated each question and can return to the unicorns, with no idea of what she is capable of.”

“The teacher stands in the middle of the ring again as referee, coach, mentor, instructor.  Full of enthusiasm at the start, waning over the course of the match as the level of focus required and the challenges faced start to wear her down.  Will she do a good job or will the commentators attack her for not being all that is required?”

“The crowd stand on the edge of the ring, each encouraging their contender despite all odds.  Every parent is different – some on phones watching Netflix, others actively denouncing the referee despite all evidence, others taking notes of what needs to be done in the next match, others confused unable to comprehend what is happening.” 

In hindsight after writing this in the shoes of each participant, I realised learning should not be treated as a combat sport but often has elements of it.   I think I traumatised some of my staff when I read it to them.  We need to be mindful of what we are expecting of students,  making it into something that is wonderful to experience and not what is written above.

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