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Engagement: Winning Over Your Maths Class Richard Andrew

4 East Belt, Rangiora, 7400 NZ

Richard Andrew

Richard has spent 25 years in the classroom, 6 as a Head of Department. He runs high-quality, comprehensive, self-paced, online PD for teachers, mostly in the field of mathematics. The overarching theme is authentic (intrinsic) student engagement; namely, implementing strategies which empower students to take responsibility for and experience ownership over their learning. Within the field of mathematics education, specifically, we also show teachers how to present mathematics in ways that promote an 'Understanding-first, Procedures-second' approach. This is because we want to maximise the amount of lesson time students spend actually understanding the tasks they are working through. When teachers extensively use approaches that allow students to 'get their hands dirty' using their own thinking rather than blindly following procedures written on the board, maths lessons suddenly become a desirable place to be.

Special Services
  • Maths
  • Behaviour Management
  • Teaching and Learning

WWCC no WWC2004978E

ABN no 44079773558

A quality, 4-month, online, guided learning journey. This 16-week, self-paced online course is for both competent Middle and High School mathematics teachers who desire to have students who: Are authentically engaged in lessons Spend the majority of lesson time understanding the work you set them Use their own thinking and reasoning for the majority of lesson time (rather than spending a majority of lesson time following procedures they do not really understand) Take responsibility for their learning The course is also for teachers who want to rekindle/enhance their love for teaching mathematics and to spend more time teaching and less time playing traffic cop. Participants are guided through an approach to teaching mathematics which is in line with formative assessment and feedback strategies and which is based on pedagogies which better-generate 'aha' moments in students. The approach could be referred to as a 'hybrid conceptual approach' because, in addition to it being conceptually-based, it is well-structured and advocates the explicit teaching of procedures. Participants LEARN new strategies, IMPLEMENT strategies with their students and SHARE their implementation experiences with their course colleagues. Numerous classroom-ready strategies and resources are explained in detail, which make the classroom implementations relatively seamless. The course can be completed with a 1 to 2 hour commitment per week.

The Team Approach

This course is ideal to be run as a department-wide program to bring about department-wide or school-wide change. 

The Team approach enables multiple teachers from a school to progress through a course together, enjoy the usual benefits afforded to individual course participants yet also benefit from on-site, in-person teacher collaboration with TEAM members. 

What is a TEAM?

A TEAM is a number of teachers (4+), usually from the same department, undertaking a course simultaneously.

A TEAM has a TEAM Leader who supports and encourages his/her team of teachers.

Teachers, including the TEAM Leader, progress through the content individually, with 24/7 access.

The TEAM Leader helps foster teacher collaboration between TEAM members as they progress through the course. TEAM members support each other as they create resources and plan and share implementations.

The course facilitator supports the TEAM Leader as well as the individual teachers.  

School Leader's exert pedagogical influence through the TEAM Approach:

The TEAM Approach provides an ideal opportunity for School Leaders to affect the pedagogy of their staff by assuming a leadership role in the course.

The same advantage applies to Community of Schools Coordinators/Consultants. 

Additional advantages of the TEAM Approach:

One major advantage of the TEAM Approach arises from the sharing of ideas both informally (e.g. over coffee, when conversations are 'fertile') and formally, during meetings - between one and three meetings are recommended during the final half of the course. 

Related to the above, collegial development occurs through collaborating on implementations and through sharing implementation experiences.​

Support for TEAM Leaders:

All TEAM Leaders are supported by the course facilitator via email and phone or Skype. The larger the TEAM, the greater the level of support.

Course Modules

1. Overview / Getting Started (30 min)

Participants are welcomed to the course and 'meet' the presenter/facilitator. The course requirements are explained. Participants introduce themselves via an introductory post.  

2. The mathematics classroom unpacked (1.5 hrs)

The first of several modules which prepare the ground for the coming opportunities for change. Before we can improve we need to acknowledge where we are at in our teaching. Several typical classroom scenarios are explored which have the effect of putting everyone at ease and to which participants respond. Module Two also explores some factors affecting change and issues around control within the classroom.

3. Student Engagement (1 hr)

Explores the nature and makeup of an engaged mathematics classroom. An opportunity to share.

4. A human is a learning machine (1.5 hrs)

The process of learning is explored with the help of an excellent snippet from a TED talk. This leads to an unpacking of independent - or student-centred - learning. Also, a quick look at student resistance and creating proactive vs reactive students.

5. School mathematics - A game of memory (1 hr)

Is school-based mathematics too compartmentalised? And if it is, what is the alternative? These and related issues are explored as an introduction to the remaining modules. An opportunity to share.​​​

6. Unpacking conceptual teaching and learning (1.5 hrs)

The notion of conceptual teaching and learning has received a pretty bad rap over recent decades and many widely-held misconceptions abound. Participants commonly respond at this point with comments such as “This all sounds fine but I just can’t see this working” to which I respond with “Thanks, that’s a very understandable response … but stay tuned!” The videos, articles and opportunities to comment in this module allow participants to reap the benefits during the remainder of the course.

7. Conceptual teaching and learning - some strategies (1.5 hours)

Here we unpack specific, tried-and-proven strategies which can be implemented ‘the next day’ by any teacher, strategies which serve to increase engagement of students - and the teacher - as well as understanding, collaboration, higher order thinking and more. An opportunity to comment is provided. Teachers choose some of these strategies to implement with their students during the remainder of the course.

8. Conceptual teaching and learning - some examples (1.5 hrs)

Now we explore specific, tried-and-proven resources which are infused with the conceptual approach principles proposed throughout the course. Again these are resources and ideas which can be implemented ‘the next day’ and prove to be excellent for implementations. This is the point in the course where participants become especially inspired.

9. Dealing with student spread ​(30 min)

If we are going to approach mathematics teaching in a more student-centred, conceptual manner then we need to learn to deal with the resulting increased student spread. This is easier said than done if you don’t have appropriate strategies. This module equips teachers with some excellent strategies to effectively deal with student spread.

10. The Work Requirement System ​(45 min)

One excellent option for running an engaging, student-centred, conceptually-based unit of work is the consistently successful Work Requirement System. The system has proved to be a popular implementation choice for course participants.

11. Further engagement and management strategies (1 hr)

There’s always more to explore! This module, in addition to sharing some extra engagement strategies, includes some bonus tried-and-proven student management strategies for those with students of the more ‘difficult’ type.

12.  Implementations (1.5 hrs)

Participants share their experiences of trialling their chosen strategies from the course.

13. Course Completion (15 min)

The course completion process including accreditation information, a short survey, staying in touch and options for continued access.


Should we enrol more than one teacher in this online course

If you are looking for department-wide improvement regarding the engagement of students in mathematics lessons then the ideal way to achieve this is to enrol all or most of your teachers into this course. However, this course is also ideal for individual teachers wanting to see significant changes occur in their classroom teaching. 

It says courses commence in March, June, September and December of each year. Can I start at a different time which suits me better? 

Yes. Included on the application form is an option to ‘Start now’. If you choose this option, we will contact you to ascertain the best occurrence to place you in. 

For Southern Hemisphere teachers - the December occurrence enables you to complete most of the content during the Christmas holidays, allowing you to run your implementations during Term One and complete the course by mid-March.

What happens if I don't finish my course within the four months?

Teachers have hectic lives, and sometimes things get in the way of completing a course in the allocated time. Be assured that if this happens to you, and you are keen to complete, we will do enable you to do so.  ​​

Will I have to be logged in at specific times?

The course is self-paced and accessible 24/7. There is no requirement to be logged in at any specific time.

Example Testimonials

This is the best PD I've done in a while if not ever. My favourite part of the course was the lack of long-winded theoretical research papers saying what should work. It was straight to the point, this is what I've done and it works with real workable examples. Thank you for giving examples of what you have done and reading other peoples work was also good to get some ideas as well. Peter Davies, Narrandera High School, March 2018

Besides the resources and ideas that I have gained, the best part is the self-paced aspect of the course. This course has inspired some ideas and approaches (Brick-wall, WRS to name a few that I really like) and I can't wait to continue implementing these ideas in different topics! I have noticed some improvement in the engagement of students and some are starting to take more responsibility for their own learning which are two things I was hoping to gain from this course. Grace Piol, Lithgow High School, Feb 2020

Every maths teacher needs to take this course.  It doesn’t matter if you are new to teaching or have been teaching for 30 years – this course will make you think about teaching for understanding and hence generate an open, engaged learning environment. It is a hands-on, practical course that creates opportunities to make genuine changes in your classroom as you go.  

Richard has a great understanding of the needs of a classroom teacher and the challenges that we all face.  He provides us with strategies that are easy to implement. The course is a pleasure to take, rather than work.  Every part of it is well-thought out, interesting and extremely practical. It requires you to stop regularly and reflect on different aspects of your own teaching style. Feedback from others taking the course also regularly happens which is really encouraging. You will not go back to your old ways after taking this course and your students will be the ones who benefit from that. (Team Course)   Debra Penny, Head of Mathematics, Bacchus Marsh Grammar, Victoria, October 2018

One of the best PD courses I think I have done as far as approaching mathematics is concerned. This course has helped me narrow my focus in the way I approach content in the classroom. I feel like I have always been in constant experimental mode and this course has helped finalise the details. I have implemented so much already and will continue to refine and expand my repertoire in these areas.                                                                                   Belinda Naujok, Moss Vale High School, November 2019

Example Implementation Reports

For the student-centred approach, I consistently used a WRS equivalent for all of my classes and worked on strategies to increase independent learning. The checklist (WRS) I created for every topic in maths since the beginning of this course has been modified as my experience in using them has increased. The checklist included: minimum requirements for each exercise, extension tasks, glossary words, work habits and reminders of class protocols. 

To implement this strategy we did a class discussion/brainstorm on independent learning; how it looks in the class and examples. We came up some trouble-shooting protocols - seek assistance from the worked examples (or textbook), previously completed work, peers and then finally a teacher. That being said, it was stressed that they were always welcome to seek assistance from me at any time, however, I would guide them through the other trouble-shooting protocols as part of my assistance. 
Initially, they struggled with independence and got annoyed with me for putting the responsibility back on them, however with the support of the WRS, students became more confident in collaborating and assisting each other. 
It's now to the point where I hear them referring to the WRS themselves, they'll ask for one if I haven't handed it out to them yet and I've now provided the resources to other teachers because they keep asking their other teachers for it too. I've overheard " I can help, you don't need to ask Miss yet.." and " just use your checklist!". 
The independent learning is a work in progress but the WRS is a great resource in supporting that endeavour and I will definitely be maintaining it's implementation across all of my classes. I'm now more confident in building independence skills in students and I'm also going to be circulating my version of the WRS resource to other staff teaching the same classes, to support them as well.   Samantha Laird, Lalor Secondary College, Sept 2019

What I like in this course is the challenge to the conventional notion of a teacher and how students learn. So, I put on a brave face and turned the control of the learning process over to my Year 10 students giving them an assessment task vastly different from the traditional pen and paper tests. The task, on the topic of similarity, I have found students tend to have the highest rate of disengagement. I decided to utilise Richard’s suggestion of an “I can do” task.  The task was wildly open-ended. I provided students with the syllabus dot points, shown below, and asked them to demonstrate an understanding of each point by presenting detailed and practical examples of the concepts. The emphasis was to be on reasoning and presenting rather than the formal proof. The format of their “I can do” task was itself open-ended with some students choosing to make a video while others created PowerPoint presentations.
Proves triangles are similar and uses formal geometric reasoning to establish properties of triangles and quadrilaterals. MA 5.3-16MG Uses deductive reasoning in presenting arguments and formal proofs. MA 5.3-WM:
Worried that I had made the task too open-ended, I provided an opportunity in class for students to work in groups on their project. This allowed me time to move around and assess ideas and provide preliminary feedback. My Year 10 students were certainly not used to this style of learning, and initially, they were a little off task. But as the task was assessable, the students quickly made an effort and surprisingly (for me) turned out to be extremely engaged. One group had made a video with a murder mystery plot which could only be solved from correctly identifying similar triangles that betrayed the location of the shooter. Sounds complicated? It was! Importantly the students reported how much fun they had in making it.  I believe this led to a deeper understanding and engagement of the subject material. What began with a trial of an open-ended assessment task has certainly encouraged me to explore this avenue further.
Brett Scovell, Fort St High School, August 2019

I created a Metacognitive assessment for Year 8 doing algebra. I spent quite a bit of time explaining the expectations verbally, as well as making sure that everybody had a copy of the matrix, to ensure they took this seriously.
The assessment did not take a long time to create and I supplied them with all the information they needed to complete it to the best of their ability.
Overall, I am astounded by the results. Not for their understanding, but for the insight into the way they approach tasks and how they actually talk to themselves. I think for some it was an eye-opening experience too.
The students engaged really well with it, and for the most part, did everything they were asked of them. I think only 2 of the 30 missed the point entirely. Some have more work on themselves to do, as they don’t pay appropriate attention when marking their own work.  Some are trying to convince me that they truly understand when I can clearly see they don’t. “Learning to be honest with yourself…” was a phrase I used a lot in their feedback.
That was the best part, the feedback.  I always give feedback. I thrive on it, but it has never been this meaningful before. I was able to give pinpoint feedback on a person’s individual weaknesses, how to tighten up their mathematics, or the next step they need to work on to get better. Even the people that got all the questions correct, and knew what they were doing.  The students that were truly honest were able to explain, they make silly mistakes and are not always so comfortable.

This class will be getting another run through with equations, as I think it will help them to become better students in the end. Belinda Naujok, Moss Vale High School, November 2019

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15.00 hours
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