There are two brilliant mathematics resources that I believe everyone should know about and use to improve mathematics in schools and in our community. One is designed for people of all ages, and the other is one of my favourite mathematics problem solving websites. Some of you would have seen and used these two websites. If you haven’t, I would encourage you to take a look – these resources are free and of high quality! Although quite different, these websites have educational resources that access a broad range of mathematics content, and more importantly, the processes of mathematics. That is, the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics proficiencies, or if you live in New South Wales, the Working Mathematically components of the current mathematics curriculum.
Last week I wrote about financial literacy and what it means in the context of mathematics and primary schools. Since then, I have spoken to several more teachers and children at schools in low socio-economic areas as part of my current research project on financial literacy and mathematics. A result of my conversations is that I am even more convinced of the importance of teaching consumer and financial literacy in the classroom and beyond, in the wider community.
Part of my research involves the participating teachers using the existing MoneySmart resources to introduce their students to consumer and financial literacy prior to developing their own context specific units of work. This requirement led to some professional development based on the MoneySmart resources (https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/), which have been funded by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). Prior to this professional development, almost all of the teachers I have spoken to did not fully understand that financial literacy is much more than being able to recognise currency and the adding and subtracting of dollars and cents. Some teachers also expressed a need to develop their own financial literacy to improve their own financial health.
After exploring the range of resources on the MoneySmart website I am convinced that this resource should be used in every school and community. The website provides educational resources for people of all ages and stages in life and could potentially change lives by promoting the development of healthy consumer and financial habits. It’s not enough that we are promoting financial literacy amongst children – the message needs to spread beyond the school gates, and I believe MoneySmart has the power to do this.
The second free resource that everyone needs to know about is the NRICH mathematics enrichment website (http://nrich.maths.org/teacher-primary), published by the University of Cambridge as part of the Millenium Mathematics Project. I have been using this site for many years now and it continues to improve and evolve. The standard of the mathematics problems on this site are excellent and an added benefit is that there are also many resources that provide professional development for teachers. Although the website is based on the British school curriculum, it aligns quite well with the Australian Curriculum.
The best thing about the NRICH website is that it is based on rich mathematical problem solving and investigation, which lies at the heart of our mathematics curriculum in Australia. The activities can be used in the classroom, for homework (if you have to set homework), and can be accessed by parents who are looking for some mathematics they can do with their children.
So what do these fabulous free resources have in common? Apart from the fact that they’re both free, they promote high quality mathematics education by using either contextual, real-life project based learning or rich tasks that can help children (and adults) learn mathematics in a much more engaging way than traditional text books and worksheets. They also promote the development of skills and understandings that can be applied beyond the mathematics classroom and have the potential to improve life opportunities – that’s got to be a good thing!