Why do we need to know this?

This tends to be a common question among students in maths classes and I try to do all I can to answer constructively and reduce the number of times it is asked. But recently, in a new teaching post, I was asked why we need to know how to estimate.

I don’t think I have ever been asked this question in relation to this topic, and it started me thinking. Personally, I think estimating is one of the most commonly used maths skills that people use – giving the ability to reason, check and quickly calculate. It is certainly a topic that, when understood and used correctly, makes life much easier.

But, more intriguingly, why was it asked?

The student struggles a little, but is in the ‘top’ set. Were they looking to test me? Were they trying to distract me? Did they want to avoid doing the work? Was it genuine? Am I over analysing? Does it matter?

My current thinking is “maybe, probably not, probably not, probably, yes (definitely) and yes (but probably only for my own pedagogical understanding)”. Although the cynic in me suspects “yes, yes, yes, no, yes, no”.

A new venture

I have been reading a few maths teaching blogs on the internet over the last few months, which encouraged me to start my own (http://ttsjl.posterous.com/ ).

As I embark on the next stage of my career, I thought I would follow suit and blog my own mathematical teaching thoughts, successes and maybe even my failures. It is a bit of an experiment, but I hope that it proves to be useful to either me or somebody else.

We’ll see how it goes, but I’ll begin as I did in a recent statistics lessons – by displaying an image following my recent run in the relay for the school sports day. It certainly provoked discussion.