What does it mean to be a successful maths learner?

Ask 100 teachers and you'll get 100 different answers! But, across those answers, some fascinating themes will emerge.

Here's what 100 teachers (well, 91) had to say when I asked them this question. What do you notice about this word cloud? What catches your eye?

In 2001, a group of researchers were asked this same question. Rather than create a word cloud, they produced a 400-page book (researchers, right?!) and, at the heart, was a new concept that they believed summarised what is most important:

â€śWe have chosen mathematical proficiency to capture what we believe is necessary for anyone to learn mathematics successfully.â€ť– National Research Council, 2001

And so, the maths proficiencies were born.

## What are the maths proficiencies?

Here's how I define all five proficiencies (yes, there are five! Productive Disposition often gets bumped off the list… why do you think that might be?):

Together, the maths proficiencies form this bright entanglement:

Students don't just learn how to reason, or how to become fluent. Each proficiency informs and supports the others. You can't separate them.

## How do you teach the proficiencies?

If the proficiencies are interdependent, then how do you teach them?

Let's go back to the original intention of the proficiencies: they are indicators of mathematical success.

**So, for any new skill or concept, design task outcomes with the proficiency in mind (e.g. questions used, discussion focus, opportunities for reflection).**

Let's look at an example: finding the perimeter of shapes:

Here are ways that the problem might be tweaked to focus on each proficiency:

**Fluency:**Calculate the perimeter in at least 2 ways. Which method seems best to use?**Understanding**: Look at different (pre-prepared) solutions to the problem. Identify which are correct/incorrect.**Reasoning:**Justify your solution. Why is it correct?**Problem solving**: Start with a perimeter (e.g. 44 m) and identify possible rectangles. How many can you find? How do you know when you've found them all?

If you respond to any of these four prompts, notice how you'll necessarily use a range of proficiencies in order to answer it – but your framing of the problem and how you wrap it up with students, will bring one proficiency to the forefront.

The shape example highlights another important point:

**To draw out and emphasise each proficiency, you don't need to do massive amounts of work and preparation. Instead, small changes to an existing task are more than enough.**

## Where does the curriculum fit in?

The beauty of the proficiencies is in providing another way to look at maths teaching and learning.

The proficiencies aren't in place of or in competition with curriculum content – instead, they sit underneath and draw out the richness of what it means to truly learn maths.

*Keen for more practical ideas so you can bring the maths proficiencies to life for your students? Join ourÂ Circles MembershipÂ today.*

As always Michaela, you bring maths to life! We love using the proficiencies as part of our daily and weekly programs.

Wonderful, Karen!

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