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Not for ourselves alone

Mount Barker High School

Positive Self Talk and Maths

At Mount Barker High School we asked each of our learning areas to embed positive education into their program in some way. This request challenged the Maths team at first but read below about how they responded and the strategies they put in place!

As a faculty we were given the challenge to incorporate an aspect of Positive Psychology into our teaching. David Garrett gave as the idea a while back that we didn’t need to do an assessment task or teach maths that can specifically show an aspect of Positive Psychology, what we could do was incorporate something in our dealings with students during Maths lessons. This made it much easier for us as we have all had students who come to our classes consistently saying things like ‘I am no good at Maths’, ‘I hate Maths’, ‘I just don’t get it at all’ or ‘I give up, it’s too hard’. So we decided that we could easily help our students with positive self-talk and teach them about perseverance (one of the character strengths). Many teachers within the faculty have incorporated different things (clips, saying, posters etc) and this is just about an activity that I was involved in.

Martin Gare, (a counsellor from CAMHS), came to a meeting and chatted to us about what he could offer the Maths Faculty on our quest to incorporate positive self-talk and perseverance into our teaching. It was then decided that Martin would come to my Yr 10 Maths class and we would conduct an activity to help the students understand self-talk and demonstrate the positive effects that self-talk can have.

During our single lesson I got the students to throw balls into a bucket. There were 10 balls and the bucket was about 3m away from where it was thrown. Students had 10 attempts to get the balls in the buckets and the results were recorded. The students had no idea why we did it.

The following day Martin came to class and we divided the group randomly into two groups. One group (the control group) were taken out of the room, put into another classroom and given maths work to continue with. The remaining students were spoken to by Martin about positive self-talk for about 40 mins. These students then had to practise a strategy whilst throwing the balls back in the buckets from the same distance. Results were again recorded. The control group then returned to class and were told to try again to throw the balls in the buckets.

Martin and I at this point were a little worried and we were not sure as to whether the results would indicate what we wanted them too….. but they did!!! Whilst both groups did see an improvement in their strike rate, the group which had been debriefed about positive self-talk saw a much greater improvement which was pleasing.

It is now envisaged that in 2014 we will be working with all our Yr 8 students about positive self-talk and further implement it into our Mathematics program.