Why Maths Teachers Don’t Like Knowledge Organisers

TeacherTapp said this:

Blog 1

Blog 2

So I said this… (though I meant to say ‘knowledge’ – damnyouautocorrect ‘n all that)

Tweet 1

Then Laura said this…

Tweet 2

 

And so here’s my best, super-brief shot.

 

Point 1)  Knowledge comes in different forms

As a minimum:

  • Concepts
  • Facts
  • Processes

 

Point 2) Knowledge Organisers don’t really organise knowledge

They organise facts, and are very well-suited to doing so.

But they’re terrible for organising concepts and processes.

 

In this sense, Knowledge Organisers are really more ‘Fact Organisers‘ than Knowledge Organisers…

‘Knowledge’ Organiser suggests a broader remit than to what they’re really suited.

 

Point 3) Maths consists of very, very few facts

Most people think that maths is replete with factual knowledge… but actually, it’s subjects like English, the Humanities, and some sciences that are hefty in factual content.

The only maths topics, up to GCSE, where facts really make a solid appearance, are:

  • number facts
    • number bonds
    • times tables
    • prime numbers
    • square / cube numbers
    • powers of 2
  • angle facts
  • formulae (arguably)

…really, that’s about it!

Maths is super-dense with concepts, and processes, but really only very few facts.

 

So whenever I, as a maths teacher, tried to build some kind of Knowledge Organiser, it fell apart very quickly (except in geometry and number!)

I tried to include the kinds of knowledge that pupils need, like what a prism is, or ‘how to do X,’ and because these aren’t factual in nature, the Knowledge Organiser became convoluted, complicated, and completely useless, very quickly.

 

Speaking with other maths teachers who’ve tried this – and also leaders in KO heavy schools who were trying to understand whether Knowledge Organisers are really useful in maths – I’ve tended to find the same experience repeated.

 

So there you have it.

 

I don’t think maths teachers are rejecting knowledge organisers because they want freedom to focus on problem-solving…

I think they’re rejecting them because they just aren’t well suited to the kinds of knowledge that dominate mathematics.

In other words… they’re just not very good for maths!

 

Conversely, languages are probably the most fact-heavy subject, so it would make sense that MFL teachers ‘really like’ Knowledge Organisers.

 

I have no evidence to support or deny this, but maybe TeacherTapp could find a clever way to uncover some, either way…!?

 

***

 

Incidentally, I’m in the middle of preparing a lengthy series that plummets into this in depth.

Watch this space!

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About Kris Boulton

Teach First 2011 maths teacher, focussed on curriculum design.
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3 Responses to Why Maths Teachers Don’t Like Knowledge Organisers

  1. Pingback: Alphabetical Signposts To Teacher Excellence – F – Teach innovate reflect

  2. Pingback: In defence of ‘knowledge organisers’ in Maths – AlwaysImproving

  3. Pingback: Knowledge Organisers in Maths – the journey part 1 | mho maths

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