Category Archives: financial literacy

Setting up Your Students for Mathematical Success : Tips for Teachers

Many children begin the new school year with feelings of fear and anxiety. Will they like their new teacher or teachers? Will the work be difficult? What will the homework be like? As you prepare programming and planning for a new teaching year and new students, give some thought to the strategies and activities you and your students can do in the first few weeks of term to ensure everyone gets the most out of their mathematics lessons for the entire school year. Think about what you can do differently in 2017 to make your work more engaging for both you and your students. The following are some ideas to consider.

  1. Be a positive mathematical role model

I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise, but there are teachers in our schools who actually don’t like maths and don’t like teaching it. Why is this a problem? Student know! This knowledge perpetuates the common misconception that it’s okay to dislike mathematics, and worse still, it’s okay to be considered ‘bad’ at maths.  Unless the teacher is an award-winning actor or actress, it’s really difficult to hide how you feel about a subject – it’s obvious in body language, tone of voice and of course, the way you teach the subject and the resources you use. If you know someone like this, suggest they seek some support from a colleague or colleagues. Often the reason a person dislikes mathematics is related to a lack of confidence.

  1. Get to know your students as learners of mathematics

The foundation of student engagement requires an understanding of students as learners, in other words, the development of positive pedagogical relationships (Attard, 2014). Positive relationships require teachers to understand how their students learn, and where and when they need assistance. It’s also important to provide opportunities for ongoing interactions between you and your students as well as amongst your students.

Another way to get to know your students as learners is to use existing data. For example, if your school takes part in external testing such as PAT, you can use this data as a guide. However, keep in mind that things change quickly when children are young – what they knew or understood three months ago may be very different after a long summer holiday.

A great activity to do in the very first few maths classes of the year is to ask your students to write or create a ‘Maths Autobiography’. If required, provide the students with some sentence starters such as “I think maths is…” “The thing I like best about maths is…” “The thing or things that worry me about maths is…” They could do this in different formats:

  • In a maths journal
  • Making a video
  • Using drawings (great for young children – a drawing can provide lots of information)
  1. Start off on a positive note

Have some fun with your maths lessons. I would strongly recommend that you don’t start the year with a maths test! If you want to do some early assessment, consider using open-ended tasks or some rich mathematical investigations. Often these types of assessments will provide much deeper insights into the abilities of your students. You can even use some maths games (either concrete or digital) to assess the abilities of your students.

A great maths activity for the first lesson of the year is getting-to-know-you-mathematically, where students use a pattern block and then need to go on a hunt to find other students who have specific mathematical attributes. Encourage your students to find someone different for every attribute on the list, and change the list to suit the age and ability of your students. For example, in the younger years you could use illustrations and not words. In the older years, you could make the mathematics more abstract.

  1. Take a fresh look at the curriculum

Even if you’ve been teaching for many years, it’s always good to take a fresh new look at the curriculum at the start of each year. Consider how the Proficiencies or Working Mathematically processes can be the foundation of the content that you’re teaching. For example, how can you make problem solving a central part of your lessons?
Take a close look at the General Capabilities. They provide a perfect foundation for contextual, relevant tasks that allow you to teach mathematics and integrate with other content areas.

  1. Consider the resources you use: Get rid of the worksheets!

Think about using a range of resources in your mathematics teaching. Regardless of their age or ability, children benefit from using concrete manipulatives. Have materials available for students to use when and if they need them. This includes calculators in early primary classrooms, where students can explore patterns in numbers, place value and lots of other powerful concepts using calculators.

Children’s literature is also a great resource. A wonderful book to start off the year is Math Curse by Jon Scieska and Lane Smith. Read the book to your students either in one sitting or bit by bit. There are lots of lesson ideas within the pages. Ask your students to write their own maths curse. It’s a great way to illustrate that mathematics underpins everything we do! It’s also a great way to gain insight into how your students view mathematics and what they understand about mathematics.

  1. How will you use technology in the classroom?

If you don’t already integrate technology into your mathematics lessons, then it’s time to start. Not only is it a curriculum requirement, it is part of students’ everyday lives – we need to make efforts to link students’ lives to what happens in the classroom and one way to do that is by using technology. Whether it’s websites, apps, YouTube videos, screencasting, just make sure that you have a clear purpose for using the technology. What mathematics will your students be learning or practicing, and how will you assess their learning?

  1. Reach out to parents

As challenging as it may be, it’s vital that parents play an active role in your students’ mathematical education. They too may suffer from anxiety around mathematics so it’s helpful to invite them into the classroom or hold mathematics workshops where parents can experience contemporary teaching practices that their students are experiencing at school. Most importantly, you need to communicate to parents that they must try really hard to be positive about mathematics!

These are just a few tips to begin the year with…my next blog post will discuss lesson structure. In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of the school year and:

Be engaged in your teaching.

Engaged teachers = engaged students.



Attard, C. (2014). “I don’t like it, I don’t love it, but I do it and I don’t mind”: Introducing a framework for engagement with mathematics. Curriculum Perspectives, 34(3), 1-14.

Maths and Money: Engaging students in real world mathematics

Many children are consumers of financial services from a young age. According to Thomson (2014) it’s not uncommon for them to have accounts with access to online payment facilities or to use mobile phones during the primary school years, and it’s clear that financial literacy and mathematics skills would be of benefit when using such products. Prior to leaving school, young people often face decisions about issues such as car insurance, savings products and overdrafts. In fact, by the age of 15 to 18, many young people face one of their most important financial decisions: that is, whether or not to invest in higher education. Financial education programs for young people can be essential in nurturing sound financial knowledge and behaviour in students from a young age (Ministerial Council for Education Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs, 2011).

This week (14th – 20th March) is Global Money Week, initiated by Child & Youth Finance International. What’s that got to do with maths and engagement? When integrated and contextualised to suit students’ needs and interests, mathematics and financial literacy education can be highly engaging for students. My current study into the use of Financial Literacy as a tool to engage students with mathematics has highlighted how teaching financial literacy through the mathematics curriculum improves students’ understanding of mathematical concepts, their engagement with mathematics and how important it is for all students to:

  1. Understand the importance and value of money;
  2. Recognise the mathematics that underpins consumer and financial literacy;
  3. Engage in real-world projects and investigations relating to consumer and financial literacy to understand how mathematics is applied in everyday decisions that could influence life opportunities; and
  4. Learn about consumer and financial literacy via the mathematics curriculum.

In this research project I worked with teachers from four different schools across the state of NSW. Each of the schools as situated in low socio-economic areas and each was a unique context. Initially the teachers were asked to explore the MoneySmart  teaching Units of Work to find and teach one that suited the needs of their learners and to familiarise themselves with the teaching of consumer and financial literacy concepts, including the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework  alongside the NSW mathematics curriculum. Following this, the research team worked with the teachers to develop context-specific units of work that responded to the needs and interests of the students in their classrooms. The results, which I will report on in forthcoming blogs and publications, were inspiring.

The teachers involved in the project went from knowing very little about teaching consumer and financial literacy and where it fit within the mathematics curriculum to disseminating their knowledge across and beyond their school communities. The children became ‘experts’ at financial matters and a range of rich projects emerged that included a fully functioning Money Museum, a Market Day that involved a range of ‘small businesses’, and the planning, financing and building of a school ‘buddy bench’. Once school had every single class involved in individual projects, and one class planned and financed their end-of-year excursion.

Over the coming months I will share some of the exciting work from this project and the project findings on this blog. In the meantime, consider how you might celebrate Global Money Week in your classroom.


Ministerial Council for Education Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs. (2011). National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework. from,34096.html

Thomson, S. (2014). Financing the future: Australian students’ results in the PISA 2012 Financial Literacy assessment. https://