Jobs for the girls;Shelf life;Mathematics

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
As part of our occasional series on influential books, Ann Kitchen describes some of the work that has affected her career

If I could pass on one thought to those responsible for our schools, it is that there is no single way of teaching that will work for all teachers and all students all of the time. Teachers must be flexible and knowledgeable enough to choose the right method for the occasion. Teaching, Learning and Mathematics, a collection of articles mainly from Mathematics Teaching, is all about how to make that choice.

When I was new to teaching in the early 1980s - I was a late entrant having first had a stint in industry and then bringing up a family - I found the articles in the journals of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics and the Mathematical Association immensely reassuring. Other teachers were not only facing the same challenges as myself, but were finding ways to meet them.

Once I had found my feet, many of the articles made me look more deeply into my own teaching and understanding of mathematics. The next stage was to pluck up enough courage to contribute to the debate.

In 1995, I became a member of the general council of the ATM. The compilers of Teaching, Learning and Mathematics no doubt had much discussion about what to leave out and what to put in, but many of my own favourites are here - all of them as relevant as when they were first written.

"Girl-friendly Mathematics" is an account of a careers fair for girls, where women were doing mathematically-oriented jobs. The girls' reactions were analysed and make powerful observations on the way we perceive women and mathematics. A short article on whether teachers should use positive action to ensure equal opportunities stimulated a valuable debate that helped me work out my own strategies.

Another contribution looks at some of the misunderstandings that arise between home and school on the use of calculators. It should be required reading for politicians and parents.

Although this collection is aimed at those entering teaching, I recommend it to any mathematics teacher. It contains much that is useful, whatever your level of expertise. It may even encourage you to join the ATM.

Finally, two other books that are worth reading - Girls into Maths Can Go, edited by Leone Burton is for anyone who believes the boys or girls in their class are underachieving. And Mechanics in Action by Mike Savage and Julian Williams is a textbook with a difference. Many students come to mechanics with misconceptions that prevent them making sense of the subject. The series of investigations and worksheets with detailed notes gives teachers the chance to make the subject interesting and accessible.

Teaching, Learning and Mathematics. Edited by Alan Bloomfield and Tony Harries. Association of Teachers of Mathematics 1994.

Girls Into Maths Can Go. Edited by Leone Burton.Holt Education 1985.

Mechanics in Action. By Mike Savage and Julian Williams. Cambridge University Press 1990.

Ann Kitchen is a research fellow at the Centre for Mathematics Education at the University of Manchester and chair of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics

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