Post Graduate Studies

Over the past two years I have been leading the Mathematics Initiative for the Auckland Central Community of Schools. (ACCoS)

This year I wanted to continue to develop and to maintain knowledge and skills relevant for my performance as an Across School Leader of Mathematics in ACCoS.

One of the areas I identified as needing further learning, was growing my own knowledge about Mathematics for learning.

I applied for and received funding support for a Post Graduate Paper in Mathematics.

I was also extra lucky because Virginia, our initiative Champion for Mathematics, is an Adjunct Lecturer for the Auckland University and Newmarket School is a university partner school. Through our school’s involvement with the university, the other part of my paper’s fees were covered.

Together Virginia and I undertook the paper at postgraduate level. EDCURRIC 714: Exploring Mathematical Thinking.

A decade has passed since I have studied at post graduate level and so I undertook the challenge of completing the paper. The extra pressure of having the fees paid for was my greatest incentive to complete the course. I believe that if I had not that incentive I could have very easily given up.

Those of you who know me might have wondered where I had disappeared over the past few months. I have been surviving.

The course overview indicated that we would focus on critiquing historical number systems as a way of illuminating theoretical issues, and informing our teaching practice, around learning number and place value concepts.

I always believe and say that I would never ask teachers to do something I was not prepared to do myself. I am conscious that my maths is not as strong as it could be and I remembered the year I spent extra time learning maths with one of my teachers when I first arrived in New Zealand. I also remembered a high school teacher spending time with me to help strengthen strategies in preparation for school examinations. My brother in law also spent many afternoons helping me with my maths knowledge and I passed high school maths, but only just enough to get me through.

So maths for me has always been a challenge.

This post graduate paper introduced me to Ancient Egyptian Mathematics and Ancient Greek Mathematics. We learnt how our ancient maths ancestors developed their systems of calculations and we made links of how we could transfer this learning for when we teach children. One section of tasks was to test our children and evaluate where their gaps were. The gaps we identified for was Place Value. As educators we must take this part of mathematics seriously because most of maths knowledge hinges on place value knowledge.

What I learnt doing the course was a lot of what I needed could not be googled. I used youtube as much as possible to help with explanations because the research reading we were given made very little sense. Maybe because the topic I chose was not an area of strength, like language acquisition would have been.

Some of what I did to help with clarification and understanding was to use digital readings and flick them through word clouds so that I could identify what the key ideas might be. I also used free summariser to shorten huge reading down into an understandable paragraph. Therefore when I reread the whole article, I had a sense of what it was about.

As assignment deadlines loomed, I also gave up hope of achieving with excellence and just focussed on completing the assignment and uploading it on time.

I created a couple of videos to help me explain thinking, but learnt quickly that one minute of video equals approximately 100 words of writing and yet took a whole day to create.

My learning from completing the paper was identifying gaps in children’s mathematics and what to do about it. But would I do another paper?? Maybe. However I believe my other professional learning developments add to my microcredentialling such as completing Hapara Training where we focussed on Andragogy, or the book I cowrote with Pam Hook using SOLO Taxonomy, or the Global Educator Certificate with Julie Lindsay, or the collaborative projects I lead such as EdBookNZ where I have worked with forty educators to create collaborative books for education, or the TeachMeetNZ project where I have worked with 120 educators sharing their learning in three minute videoed presentations, or all the conference presentations and staff development I have led, as well as twitter for up to date professional readings, have contributed more to my professional learning than completing a written paper on my own. My other challenge with post graduate studies at Auckland University is that none of my other achievements count towards a qualification and yet they accept educators coming in with a Diploma of Education at Masters Level. I wonder what their digital portfolios look like and if they even share them.

I had Ginny with me and we had plenty of discussion which really helped. However more could have happened in a collaborative way. Yes we had group discussions and group problem solving, but we did not take that collaboration further. More could have happened in co-construction and co-creating. The online learning seemed really surface. There is a massive range of tools out there that could be used to help with co-creating. The simplest being google docs. Knowledge is the start and that is what this paper did. But now to take that knowledge and set up ways that our teachers and students can cocreate with it. I have ideas for maths week.

My Cumulative GPA currently stands at 5.361. But that is still not enough just to do the research component, I have to go back and do more university papers at post graduate certificate level and like I said all the other collaborative work I have done makes no difference.

I finish by thanking my school, Newmarket School, the University of Auckland, the Ministry of Education for covering my fees. However my biggest thanks goes to Virginia Kung, our initiatives champion who prodded me into doing more than just leading the Mathematics Initiative.

Yes I did pass.

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