Developing coaches for mathematical resilience

Johnston-Wilder, S.; Lee, C.; Garton, L.; Goodlad, S. and Brindley, J. (2013). Developing coaches for mathematical resilience. In: 2013 ICERI 2013 : 6th International Conference on Education, Research and Innovation, 18-20 Nov 2013, Seville, Spain.



The construct ‘Mathematical Resilience’ [1] has been developed to describe a positive stance towards mathematics that enables learners to develop approaches to mathematical learning which enable them to overcome the barriers and setbacks that can be part of learning mathematics for many people. A resilient stance towards mathematics can be engineered by a strategic and explicit focus on the culture of learning mathematics within both formal and informal learning environments. As part of that cultural engineering, we have developed the notion of coaches specifically to support emergent resilience. The work described here is focused on developing coaches who can work beside learners, helping them to think about and use resilient learning ideas when facing difficulties in mathematics. Coaches develop a culture of ‘can do’ mathematics which works to counter the prevalent culture of mathematics helplessness and mathematics anxiety in the general population when faced with mathematical ideas. The coaches are not required to know the answer but rather to know ways that might yield an understanding of the mathematical ideas involved and thus lead to an answer.
This paper discusses the outcomes of a pilot course (April to June 2013) designed to develop ‘coaches for mathematical resilience’. The course recruited 11 participants who regularly work with apprentices, both young and more mature, in a work-based environment and who are required to learn and use mathematics as part of their on-going training. They became part of the course due to recognition of their own lack of knowledge about how to overcome deep seated antipathy to mathematics in themselves and in those with whom they work.
The data confirms that in order to become an effective coach, an individual first needs to develop their own personal mathematical resilience, work through their own anxieties and negative stance towards mathematics in a safe and collaborative environment, before they can coach a learner to develop as a resilient learner of mathematics. An environment that enables an individual to learn to be a mathematics resilience coach will need to expose the learners to mathematical ideas in order to enable participants to consider and manage their own reactions to mathematical ideas and reflect on how to help someone else find the resources to overcome their own barriers to learning mathematics.

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