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​ A-E Grading versus the Importance of Growth

Our Mathematics teachers at Peter Moyes Anglican Community School appreciate the beauty of Mathematics. We deliver our lessons with love and passion in the hope that all our students feel the same way towards our subject. Society, parents and the media are not helping by continually speaking negatively about mathematics.   "I am not a maths person, I could never do maths, I struggled at maths”, with those that are good at maths are often portrayed as not being the “cool kids”.

Ultimately, we need a fundamental shift in society to assist in combatting the negative connotation towards mathematics, although, their attitudes are not unreasonable.  Historically, teachers have not been in position to provide students with the opportunity to love mathematics.  At Peter Moyes Anglican Community School, the Mathematics Department has undergone a cultural and educational change over the past few years.  With advances in technology, we are now in a reasonable position to make significant change in the way we teach.

In considering the question “How to get students to love math?” TeacherVision provided 5 key recommendations (Dusko, 2018).  TeacherVision is an advisory board with members from the United States and Canada.  They aspire to provide innovative and reputable resources, thought and leadership for teachers.  Their first recommendation is to “Teach your students a growth mindset.”

Maths Pathway has enabled us to consciously use more growth mindset language with our students We encourage our students to take risks, work collaboratively and engage in fun rich learning tasks. There is differentiated learning, mastery and success, and all students are encouraged to learn core skills and move on and grow in their learning.

The downside of this shift is that there is a constant struggle with the message of A-E grading versus the importance of encouraging growth.  The two concepts do not mesh well.  Students spend a lot of time celebrating growth, only to find that some of them will continue to achieve a standard below the expected benchmark.  People who value the A-E result as an “outcome” may see that functionally a student could rote learn higher standards to achieve a higher grade, at the risk of having too many gaps in the future to succeed at a high level maths course.

We will continue to drive the growth mindset by educating parents, teachers and students that the A-E result is a snapshot in time of what was learned, not a reflection on how much effort they have put in or how much they have grown.  We cannot change the past, but we can continue to encourage a growth mindset.   The cultural shift is happening and it is exciting to be a part of this change for the future so that all students have a fair opportunity to one day say “I can do maths” or even “I love maths”.

Mrs Wendy Hurst
Head of Mathematics