Even or Odd: the Case for Maths Sets

28th November 2015

We set for maths and I have the pleasure of working with eight children who have failed to grasp things over the course of their educational careers.  I explained to them at the start that we could all ask any questions, that it was important that they understood all the work we did and it was their responsibility to ask.

Victoria approached me shyly. She is a copying queen, always looking for someone else’s work to use. Unfortunately our maths group provided scant pickings for this. Victoria said, “I don’t really understand anything in maths.”

I cheerfully reassured her and asked her what was her biggest worry.

“Well,” she said, “when they say ‘even’ I don’t get it. People say ‘Is it even a number’ I think yeah it’s a number , then they say ‘No, it’s odd’ but they are all odd. So I just don’t know.”
Language and maths collide. Did any teacher, puzzling over her maths work have the time or capacity to ask exactly what she thought the question was? Did Victoria ever have the capacity, space or confidence to explain her confusion? The answer is no, until she was in a maths group, small enough and unthreatening enough.

Do you have a Victoria in your class or group? It might be worth trying to create a moment to check back on a few basic ideas.