Maths teaching without inspiration…?

Posted in Inspiration & Ideas

Maths teaching without inspiration…is just too hard!

I want to talk about inspiration. I’m so incredibly passionate about my work with schools but even with this drive and commitment to making a real difference, I find myself often struggling to focus and achieve the things I know I want to and I’m capable of in the way I ideally want to.

I’m in danger of slipping into ‘Eeyore’ mode when I’d much rather be ‘Tigger’…..

It’s easy to slip into the trap of doing things the same way because we’re all so busy. ‘Busy’ doesn’t come close to it when you’re a teacher. It’s relentless and finding time to ‘come up for air ‘and change the way we’re working can seem almost impossible. I’ve felt that myself many times over the twenty plus years as a former classroom teacher.

So I decided to ‘Flip It’ (Have you read the book? Brilliant advice for solving problems by ‘flipping’ them 180)

I started to realise that I perhaps had things the wrong way around. In the past I would try and do everything I had to do as a teacher first and if I had any time and energy left (ha!) I’d plan to read something to inspire me. Guess what? You never finish ANYTHING in teaching. You just decide you’ve done enough to stay afloat for another day and crawl home for a well-earned rest.

But changing has really worked!

So, I started to do the reading and exploring first. This way I felt energised by other people’s thoughts and ways of working, curious about how trying these new things would impact upon my practice and excited about my own learning. I felt braver to have a go at something I’d never done before and saw potential in familiar tasks I’d used many times before to extend them and exploit the learning far more successfully.

I need constant, easily accessible sources of inspiration to keep my energy levels high

My next challenge was how to find what to read and how to sustain this new behaviour effectively (and, dare I say, easily?). We all know how easy it is to change something for a short time but keeping it up is quite another matter.

Making changing easy

I want to read things which are easy to read. By this I don’t mean low level language, but instead articles and ideas which really speak to me and are relevant to my aims and values as a teacher. I want to gain new insights, ways of working and have my old ways challenged.

Strategy 1 – Social Media (not just for pictures of dogs and ranting it turns out….)

Follow someone you admire on Facebook and Twitter. Not only will you benefit from all of their research brought straight with no effort at all to you but you can also see where they got it from and can follow those people yourself. Follow my Facebook page here; I’m always sharing stuff. My Twitter account is @karenwildingedu; take a look at who I’m following too.

Strategy 2 – Try not reading….?

One way of making it easy, is to not read at all. Watch inspirational videos instead. I recommend everything and anything from TED Talks. For tired teachers who want to be inspired start by taking a look at Dan Meyer and Sir Ken Robinson. If you watch them on YouTube and them look at what else gets flagged up on the right-hand side of the screen and see where it takes you!

Strategy 3 – Keep it simple and ‘go deeper’ (using the ‘in vogue’ Mastery term)

My final recommendation for this particular blog (more to come) is to choose just one book and ‘go deep’ (i.e. read it all). I’ve chosen ‘Teaching and Learning Early Number’ edited by Ian Thompson this summer. It’s a collection of short articles which look at a huge range of learning in number across the whole primary range and it’s proving so useful. I often ‘flit’ in reading and rarely read a whole book, but giving myself the permission to just read one over a number of weeks is really working (and it’s very good).

My recommendation for a first ‘go deep’ read would be the wonderful ‘Elephant in the Classroom’ by Jo Boaler. If you’ve been on my training you’ll know I mention this brilliant book every time. It changed me forever.

Expect changing yourself to be challenging (why wouldn’t it be?)

I don’t always find it easy to work in this way. (Old habits do die hard it seems). But it really does work and it’s taking me far closer to who I want to be and keeping my passion for great maths teaching and learning burning brightly.

Karen Wilding is an Independent Primary Maths Consultant working in the UK and internationally to support schools in delivering learning which ignites a passion for maths for life. Karen’s training is known for being inspirational, engaging and hands-on, whilst building teacher confidence and skill across the whole primary range.

To find out more or enquire about inspirational training for your school visit or email

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  • ‘One of our EYFS Teachers has just attended this training and came back totally inspired and singing your praises. She said that she learnt more on this course than any course she has ever attended!’


    C Magnocavallo Head of Maths, Chesham Preparatory School, Bucks

  • Thank you for showing us HOW to change. So many courses just tell us what isn't working but not how to go about addressing this. Your approaches make so much sense! 

  • Just to say thank you again for 3 really brilliant talks at SGIS. We're a small school near Basel and we’d be interested in anything you’re doing nearby (Zurich way) so please let us know!