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On Friday 9 March two Year 7 Mathematics classes had the opportunity to receive a one-hour lecture about exploding dots from Dr James Tanton. The boys were highly engaged in the learning throughout the whole hour. Below are links to videos by Dr James Tanton on exploding dots and other mathematical thinking where he shares his insights and encourages thinking about mathematical concepts at all year levels.

Who is Dr James Tanton?
James Tanton (PhD, Princeton 1994, mathematics) is an education consultant and an ambassador for the Mathematical Association of America, currently serving as their Mathematician-at-Large. He has taught mathematics both at university and high school institutions. James is committed to sharing joyful and beautiful mathematical thinking. He writes books and articles, advises on curriculum, and consults with teachers giving demonstration classes across the globe. James also designs and teachers graduate education courses, gives public outreach lectures, and works with students of all ages and backgrounds to experience the wonder of mathematics.

Below are some of the boys comments about their experience:

“The workshop was very interesting, as it changed my perspective of maths and numbers in general quite substantially. It made me think more about how the numbers actually worked with each other within a sum in a more stripped down and raw way, contrary to how I normally do sums; quick, using an algorithm and without any deep thinking. It also created an addition method to calculating addition, subtraction, multiplication and division sums, as the ‘machine’ method, though long and tedious, is quite fun to do and usually comes with the correct answer.”

 “I found his tactics very interesting and showed other people are taught and how we can use different tactics instead of going from right to left but going left to right.”

At first the machines didn’t make sense to but when I thought about it more the machines just seemed to how I was taught but in more of an expanded way which helped me to understand more.”

“James Tanton didn’t make the lesson boring at all and I found the lesson extremely exciting.”

“I liked how Dr Tanton saw maths from a different angle and taught us how he did addition, backwards addition, multiplication and division. Dr Tanton then told us about how most humans are obsessed with base ten because we have 10 fingers but if we had 8 fingers or twelve the way we think about maths would completely change. It was interesting to see what we had learnt for our whole life being shown with exploding dots. I also liked how he made the base x machine and said that high school maths was the same as primary school maths. I learnt that maths isn’t as hard as you think as long as you use common sense.”

Vanessa Gorman, Head of Mathematics