Managing the Maths Learning Environment

IMG_4890Silence or discussion? Speed or accuracy? Procedure or understanding? Tests or questioning?

There is hidden meaning in the way that a classroom is set up for mathematics. The type of learning environment, through considerations like furniture, layout, space, resources, and displays, all have an impact on the importance and role of maths in the classroom. These considerations can also reflect the teacher’s approach to teaching maths, and their perceived identity as a mathematician (Bobis, Mulligan & Lowrie, 2013, p. 294). How teacher’s motivate their students to learn maths comes through in every aspect of their teaching.

Bobis, Mulligan and Lowrie (2013) outline an interesting task that can reflect how student’s perceive the maths learning environment:

Close your eyes and try to picture a mathematics classroom. Where is the teacher? What is the teacher doing? Where are the children? What are they doing? What resources are being used? Now draw a picture of the scene you imagined.

Here, students generally picture a conservative looking teacher, either sitting at a desk, or standing at a board filled with written computations. The classroom is basic and students are seated in rows. This view of mathematics sees it as a solitary endeavour, removed from the everyday world and their surroundings (Bobis, Mulligan & Lowrie, 2013, p. 294).

Something to ask yourself on an ongoing basis:

How have you structured the maths learning environment in the classroom?

Is your teacher identity a mathematician?

How can you develop your identity as a mathematician?

Are you doing enough to motivate and engage students in maths thinking?

“For meaningful mathematics to occur, students should be actively involved in solving problems, explaining their reasoning, justifying their assertions, hypothesising, discussing, questioning and reflecting on their own thinking and the thinking of others” (Bobis, Mulligan & Lowrie, 2013, p. 292).


Bobis, J., Mulligan, J. & Lowrie, T. (2013). Mathematics for Children: Challenging Children to Think Mathematically (4th ed.). Frenchs Forest: Pearson Australia.


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