Maths ‘makeover’ project

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Jackie Brown, front row with glasses, and her fellow Boma NZ Education Fellows during a Californian education visit.

By Mick Jensen

Mount Hutt College teacher Jackie Brown has just returned from a Californian educational field trip of a lifetime and has ideas, inspiration and a determination to give her subject of mathematics a modern “makeover”.

At the end of last year she was named among the inaugural cohort of Boma NZ Education Fellows and was tasked with looking at how change and technology can be used to transform learning outcomes for students and wider school communities.

Her recent 10 day overseas trip with nine other educationalists from Canterbury was funded by Boma and included trips to the Silicon Valley, Stanford University and Google X.

Mrs Brown, who is the head of maths at Mount Hutt College, said she was privileged to be among the chosen education fellows and had enjoyed the time she spent with them.

“Before the trip, we met monthly a few times and emailed, but since the overseas experience, we have really bonded and become mentors for each other.”

She said the USA trip had opened her eyes to the influence the Boma global support network had and the doors it could open.

That influence enabled the Boma fellows to visit and speak with staff and pupils at High Tech High in San Diego, a Californian school-development organisation that includes a network of charter schools, a teacher certification programme, and a graduate school of education.

They had also visited the June Jordan School For Equity, a school for social justice serving working-class, communities of colour, which aimed to prepare graduates to be agents of positive change in the world, the Stanford Design School and also Google X, where they learnt about driverless cars.

Mrs Brown said the trip had offered inspiration, ideas and also mentors for projects that the Boma fellows were tasked with developing over the coming months,

“We were forced to look inwards at ourselves and to confront who we were, what we stood for and what we wanted to achieve.

“My project is still being formulated, but basically it’s about changing the mindset of students and parents around maths learning.”

Maths was often the subject used when learning was described as “hard” and that description needed to change.

The first stage of her project was about developing a groundswell of interest and spreading her infectious love for the subject.

Mrs Brown said it was her intention to set up a maths exhibition at school by the end of Term 2.

She would enlist the the help of the nine other teachers who taught it at Mount Hutt and would continue to get feedback from her fellow Boma fellows and students.

She said perseverance, positive belief, discussion and relevance were all key parts of maths learning.

Parents had a role to play and needed to buy into the “maths makeover”, she said.

Mrs Brown said changing long held perceptions was hard and the project she was starting was “massive” and would be ongoing.

Jackie Brown and the Boma NZ Education Fellows will present their projects at a graduation ceremony in late November in Christchurch.