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Learning Diary Reflection Mental Mathematical Machinations

Each of the presentations offered complementary insights into the nature


and value of mental mathematics. The psychological dimension, in the
first presentation, highlighted the role of competent mental mathematical
ability in developing self-esteem and confidence. The feeling of maths
anxiety has become a notable feature of mathematics education and
ability in the UK.1 A second feature of the presentation addressed the
important need to make mathematical scenarios meaningful and non-
artificial. Abbe Herzegs essay, Goals for Achieving Diversity in
Mathematics Classrooms (2005), addresses the issue of belongingness in
the mathematics classroom and cites the case of African American
students forced to contextualise mathematical knowledge through the
prism of white middle-class students.2

The issue of self esteem and contextual learning highlights the need for
teachers to carry out reflective practice in the design of lessons and the
ways in which mathematical concepts are introduced in the classroom.
The same theme is picked up in the third presentation wherein the idea
of at-home-ness is emphasised. Consequently, teachers must reflect on
the often competing notions of process and innate ability. The idea
that mathematical ability is largely innate is counterproductive and
subversive to the goal of making students feel at-home with mental
mathematical techniques. Rather, a focus on the need to continually
refine and develop the process of mathematical machinations with a
concentration on personal effort and learned, reflective strategies will
inspire students to sick with the subject.3

The second, third and fourth presentations, with their focus on the four
operations, number properties and sequences, demonstrate that metal
mathematics extends beyond the initial ability to add together or multiply
two numbers. Developing an at-home-ness with mental methods and
concepts involves looking at a full range of properties including, primes,
divisors, factors and summation and progression within various
sequences. The section of the difference between two squares, for
example, demonstrates how an algebraic technique bears relevance to a
1
https://www.nationalnumeracy.org.uk/sites/default/files/attitudes_towards
_maths_-_updated_branding.pdf
2 www.nctm.org/Publications/mathematics-teacher/2005/.../mt2005-11-
253a_pdf/
3 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-to-raising-smart-
kids1/
question of subtracting one square number value from another. This
shows that the teacher of maths must think carefully about how different
topics within the mathematics curriculum should be integrated with each
other and used to show the overall interconnectedness of the subject
(note, for example, the use of the median average in calculating the sum
of a series).

I found that the section on summing integers from 1 to 100 serves as an


interesting precursor to the final presentation on geometric visualisation.
The technique of wrapping the numbers around to create pairs provides
a useful visual aid when thinking about how numbers in a series can be
summed (the same applies to identifying factors). This technique shows
that visualisation is an important component in developing maths
intuition in treating a variety of topics. Of course, visualisation in the
geometric context is a clear example where a confidence in the spatial
properties of shapes lends itself to making sense of mathematical
concepts such as area, volume or trigonometry. The use of graphs to
represent algebraic concepts is another important case. What these
presentations show, through the use of arrays for example, that
visualisation techniques can be developed in the context of mental
mathematics as well.4

4 Interestingly, see: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20775-


mental-abacus-does-away-with-words/