Maths workshop with a Master Teacher




Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Maths workshop presented by Mark Philips and the Mind Action Series Textbook publishers. I signed up on a whim because of the topic, which was Euclidean Geometry. In my experience it’s one of the most poorly understand topics by learners.  I hoped to learn some new approaches that would make the time I spend on this section more productive and ultimately improve the learning outcomes.


Key Ideas:

  • Focus on the Process
  • In Geometry, do exercises first & then theorems. (Build’s awareness before complexity)
  • Allow learners to do well in early tests to build confidence
  • Build confidence through slow ascent in difficulty
  • Don’t be so preoccupied with Time
  • Spend 80% of the Time on Basics and 20% on the Harder Questions for most classes
  • Encourage learners to move around and do physical stuff – Eg Circle Dance
  • Use narratives and stories in your teaching – especially those involving relationships
  • Make Learners Feel about the Topic, see above
  • Humour & Novelty are important – keep learners on their toes
  • Integration between Mathematical Topics important
  • Get Learners to make their own questions – higher cognitive levels of thinking
  • Understanding Mathematical vocabulary is important – specific practice on this is warranted


What stood out for me

So the biggest surprise for me was how for the most part, our attention was held throughout the 3hr workshop. It’s no easy feet to keep a room of 40 + teachers on a Saturday morning engaged, talking about content that they cover every year. The presenter was really skilled at keeping people on their toes and you never quite knew what was coming next. The amount of movement in the session also stood out for me as well as the clarity and size of the visual aids. The presenter also showed a depth of understanding on the topic and vast experience teaching it, which meant his comments were specific and helpful.



I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learn’t in the session. It is not always the case when going to Maths Development workshops. I took detailed notes and they are reflected in the key ideas section above.  I also managed to grab a clip of the Circle Dance (below),  which was a fantastically creative way to remember the circle geometry theorems. I am struck by how useful it is to have a development session with a teacher who is a real master of their craft. More of these types of workshops would be brilliant for the development of best practice among Maths teachers.


The Circle Dance



Additional Resources from Workshop:


Inspiring Video of the Month

I saw this video a while back and was so inspired by this students fearlessness , honesty and drive that it has become one of my favourite videos. I really love the way he has embraced feedback as a part of the learning process. And I love his attitude to failure!! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I would be interested to know what stands out from your point of view. Please feel free to leave a comment by clicking on “comment” above if you have something to add.



Google Certified Trainer Curriculum

My Take:

I recently complete the Google Certified Trainer course and thought the material was so good I wanted to make sure I had easy access to it in future. So I decided to create this mind map. There is an enormous amount in information in here, so I would suggest just concentrating on one piece at a time.



Staff Training on Enneagram & Future

With  Keith Coates from Tomorrow Today

Good Questions from Workshop

What are the questions WYNGHS should be asking, but aren’t?

  • What is the most effective way to manage the schools information?
  • What are the systems we have in place that are there but no longer contribute any value?
  • Are we leveraging the power of the internet effectively?
  • Why are we so scared of positive failures?
  • Will all the staff buy in to this new way of educating?
  • How do we harness the power of social media to revolutionise our teaching?
  • How do we instil value for skills that aren’t measured in a matric exam?
  • How do we get the buy-in from parents and girls?
  • What is the most efficient way to develop short and long term plans for the school, where everybody feels a shared sense of ownership of those goals/plans .?
  • Are we maximising  and leveraging the potential of the staff  in the way  we choose to  organise  ourselves?
  • What is the organisational culture at WYNGHS at present , what  do we  want it to be in future ?
  • Why aren’t these questions being asked?
  • Is it a good idea to implement the use of tablets based on the subject, or would it not be better to first implement it based on individuals who are willing to run with it?
  • What or who is holding us back from implementing exciting new ideas and structures that could speak to our learners in a more powerful way?
  • Do we have the buy-in from our IT Department to effectively move forward in this regard?
  • Are we effectively highlighting the sections of curriculum that would prepare learners for life after school, and not just giving them the tools to pass their exams?
  • Why is our IT network so managed and why aren’t we making use of cloud technology?
  • Why are we allowing ourselves to be so restricted in terms of IT?
  • Can teaching staff be kept up to date with IT developments at school?
  • How do we convince girls to take responsibility for their own learning?
  • What are we teaching that’s not useful in the real world and how do we give extra emphasis to what is relevant to learners’ needs?
  • why are we still blocked off certain sites which c prevents us from using the technology effectively
  • who are we paying to ‘look out the window’?
  • what happens to those who can’t afford it?
  • what about learners who have ot previously been introduced to technology?
  • what about social skills? What happens about interaction between learners and between leaners and teachers?
  • what are the ramifications of not changing?
  • what do we feel passionate about that we want to keep, what to kick out and what to keep?
  • how do we make our teachers and learners accountable for everything they say and do?
  • what are our opportunities?
  • what are our threats?
  • is it important to keep up with other schools?
  • why are we so scared to rock the boat?
  • what are we guarding that which we should not guard?
  • what are we building in the air? Where do we play with ideas?
  • what fires are we continually putting out?
  • My main concern is that we prioritise very carefully what we do so that there  is sufficient time and space to focus on the really important  and urgent things.


What does this mean for us & our stakeholders?

  • Duplication of information gathering wastes time that could be better invested elsewhere.
  • Certain systems only take up time but do not contribute value
  • Prioritising stable and fast access to the internet for all stakeholders , ahead of  almost all other projects , understanding how  to manage that
  • Should the girls have a say in how we move forwards (with regards to getting their opinions on how to manage the wifi)
  • how do we engage the parents on the way forward at Wynberg, given the changes that TIDES will bring?

Practical things WYNGHS could do/implement based on the talk?

  • Implement better feedback systems for gathering up to date information from all stakeholders
  • Get more staff input before big decisions are made -> less of a top-down approach to planning, even at the subject level.  
  • Try to become more nimble in our decision making and planning ,try to have more of a culture of planning on the go as well as long term planning. Inevitably the goal posts will move and we need to be able to handle that quickly and efficiently  
  • Educate parents on the use of technology so that communication with them becomes easier
  • Educate learners not only on what to think but also on how to think, by equipping them with ways to filter, summarise and critically analyse information (especially information that they find on the internet). (Should we have training on this? Or would our own discretion be enough?)
  • As IT requirements have changed, we should look at changing job functions/descriptions of our IT staff
  • Look at starting a few more societies that are academic in nature but not confined to what’s covered in the curriculum – try to encourage learning for the sake of the love of learning.
  • what do we want our IT staff to do?


General things that don’t fit elsewhere but you want to note.

  • School Book Club with focus on interesting books with applications to education, executive summary produced noting ideas discussed.
  • Steven Covey (7 habits of highly …….) , start  by  influencing  things in your sphere of influence  and over time it will enlarge and  allow you to  influence  a  greater degree of situations in the future .
  • Needs to be much more staff training in how to use lots of different technologies.
  • I would like to see something come of the course that  we attended on Saturday. It’s very deflating when you are inspired by such things, but it bears no fruit.
  • I think we need to be very clear about what we want to keep at WGHS, what we want to get rid of because it is no longer useful and what we need to adapt.
  • Good book to read ( Team of Rivals – A  Lincoln )
  • What is an enneagram and how could we use it to  inform our  perspectives on  different members of staff
  • shift the mindset, it’s not a technology change.
  • why do we fear change?   We need to be more afraid of not changing
  • Peter Drucker: The greatest danger in times of turbulence, is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday’s logic.
  • Second law of Dator:any idea about the future which does not appear ridiculous, is not worth considering
  • Important to develop skills to use available technology but not to let that become the focus  rather than just a useful tool to teach the skills we  need to teach in each subject area of the school curriculum.
  • Good movie to watch: “Disconnect”
  • Anyone interested in Mindfulness/Meditation training as a  means of focus and stress management ……..




Random Reflections



Summary from SH of Enneagram

Style 1 With high internal expectations for behaviour,  I hold myself and others accountable to meet these important standards.   It is easy for me to see what is wrong or incorrect in a situation, as well as see how things can be improved, I may  come across as overly demanding or critical, but it is simply hard for me not to have things done the right way.  I take great satisfaction in assuming responsibility,  and I enjoy a refined,  aesthetic sense of perfection.  When I say I will do something, I make sure it is done properly.  When others act unfairly or irresponsibly,  I get resentful, although I try not to show it. Growth to good things of Style 7


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 4

Style 2 My greatest strength is being sensitive to other people’s needs – sometimes with people I don’t even know.   It is as if I have an invisible antenna that can read other people’s needs, often before they do.  I like to think if myself as a warm-hearted, friendly and generous person. Good relationships are important to me; I work hard at developing them. Sometimes it is hard for me to resist helping others, even though I may be overwhelmed or in need of help myself. I may then feel taken for granted or unappreciated for my efforts and come become emotional or insistent Growth to good things of Style 4


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 8

Style 3 I am motivated by a need for success, achievement and being the best.  Generally, I have done well with whatever I have set as a goal.  I strongly identify with work, and I believe a person’s value is largely based on what he or she accomplishes.   Because I am so busy, I often set aside feelings or self-reflection so I can get everything done. I can get frustrated with people who do not use my time well or who do not step up to the task.  Although I am a competitor,  I can also be a good team player (although I often head up the team!) Growth to good things of Style 6


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 9

Style 4 I am a sensitive person who finds richness and meaning in authentic relationships with others.  Because I enjoy a symbolic aesthetic expression, I may be drawn to the arts in various forms.  My artistic sense is for the sophisticated and unique.  I often feel that other people do not understand me; I can react strongly to this with anger or sadness.  I am happiest when I feel special and deeply connected .  I am also willing to experience the sadder parts of life, in fact, melancholy has a wistful quality for me. Often, I find the ordinary boring, and distant or unavailable appealing. Growth to good things of Style 1


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 2

Style 5 I see myself as an analytical person who thrives on time alone to recharge my energy. I enjoy observing situations rather than being in the middle of them, and I do not like too many demands being placed on me. I like to reflect on my experiences when I am by myself so I can enjoy, understand and sometimes relive them.  Because I have such an active mental life, I am never bored when I am alone.  I would like to live a simple uncomplicated life and be as self-sufficient as possible. Growth to good things of Style 8


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 7

Style 6 One of my greatest strengths is my sharp incisive mind which switches into high gear when I imagine something is threatening my security or safety. My inquisitive mind also allows me access to keen insights or intuition. Trusting others is a central issue for me and I often scan my environment to determine whether a danger may be forthcoming. Suspicious of authority, I am also committed to organisations to which I belong.  I may either avoid danger, or confront it head-on and I am usually supportive of underdog causes. Growth to good things of Style 9


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 3

Style 7 I am an optimistic person who enjoys coming up with new and interesting things to do. I have a very active mind that quickly moves back and forth between different ideas. I like to get a global picture of how these ideas fit together and I get excited when I can connect concepts that initially do not appear to be related. I like to work on things that interest me, and I have a lot of energy to devote to them.  I have a hard time sticking with unrewarding or repetitive tasks.  If something gets me down, I prefer to shift my attention to more pleasant things. Having multiple options is important for me; otherwise, I feel boxed in. Growth to good things of Style 5


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 1

Style 8 I set great value on being strong, honest and dependable and I approach issues of importance in a straightforward way.  I like strength and directness in others and I can usually tell when someone is not telling me the truth or being devious. I will protect innocent people, especially when an injustice had been done, yet I have trouble tolerating weakness in others.  If I do not agree with those in authority, or if no-one is taking charge, I will step in and take control.  It is hard not to display my feelings when I’m angry, and I am usually ready to stick up for friends and family Growth to good things of Style 2


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 5

Style 9 Because I can usually see and appreciate all points of view, I am good at helping others resolve their differences.  This ability to grasp the advantages of all sides makes me non-judgemental but may make me appear indecisive. I do not like conflict, and it takes a lot for me to show my anger directly. I enjoy engaging in a number of activities, and I sometimes get so completely involved in an activity that I may forget about something else I am supposed to be doing.  Easygoing and likeable, I seek a comfortable, harmonious and accepting life. Growth to good things of Style 3


Stress tends towards the negative characteristics of Style 6



EdTech Integrated School 2020 – Rough Planning


As I am stimulated more and more by the incredible ideas floating around in places like twitter for educational reform, I am struck by what a sweet spot we seem to be in, in terms of the possibilities for real improvement in the standards and usefulness of the educational system over the next decade. However when I revert to my day job as a teacher and I see the educational landscape in the country I am struck by how many world’s apart we still are in terms of implementation. In fact my fear is despite the opportunities available, if we do not begin to create real action plans for the change we believe is necessary the system will continue on as it always has and the chance for real improvement will be lost.

My belief is that a lot of the raw ideas being generated need to be further refined into realistic goals, action plans and targetable outcomes that can be measured and assessed going forward.

The start of this process is this shared document which through its targeted headings will begin to give structure to a great educational plan built from the bottom up that will put us on a path to improvement in the education system that is real and creates the change we desire .  

Targeted Headings to be detailed in future:

Profile of the Teacher:
Time Allocation of  Teacher Day:
The Makeup of the Staff of a School:
The Building:
The Equipment/Learning Materials:
Partnerships with NGO/Corporates:
Teacher Incentives:
School as the center of the community:
Inter-school networks:


My 1st EdTech Conference – Why it mattered?


In May 2011 I was lucky enough to go to my first Educational Technology conference. The conference was organized by Tim Keller and Arthur Preston and took place at the International School of Cape Town situated in Wynberg. I had been interested in the potential of Ed Tech to improve learning since 2010 when I came back to teaching after some time working in financial services. However this was the first time I truly began to understand the latent potential and under achievement in our Educational System. It was here that I realised that there were lots of other educators thinking about the same things as me and experiencing the same frustrations. I also encountered the concept of a Professional Learning Network(PLN) for the first time. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this concept alone has changed the course of my entire career.

I was also fortunate enough to be introduced to Twitter. At first sight it seemed rather peculiar to me as well as a tad overwhelming. It felt a lot like Tetris trying to keep up with everything and participate at the same time. Fortunately with gradual experimentation it started to make a lot more sense to me. As of today, Twitter is the main driver of my PLN and has introduced me to people and concepts I would never dreamed of before.



I was also introduced to Social Bookmarking. The tool I settled on was Diigo and I have used it ever since. It’s amazing how often I go back to my Diigo Library for inspiration and to find content that I know I have stored somewhere. It really has made a difference to me staying organized and prevented me from trying to print out a pile of papers a mile high.



Lastly probably the most important part of the conference was seeing the famous Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson , “Do Schools Kill Creativity”?  I had sensed a lot of what he said for a long time in my career as an educator. But it was the first time I was presented was a unified framework for understanding why it was occurring. I continue to be a fan of his work.

As I reflect on this conference I am struck by how important it was to my development as a Teacher and how this one opportunity greatly contributed to the growth path I am on today in my career. I wonder how many other teachers there are out there have similar stories ? I hope as I moved forward in my career I can be part of creating similar moments for other educators and be part of reinvigorating what it means to get a good quality Education.