Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain

This isn’t so much a review, than a heads-up that the ubiquitous Mr Barton (of Mr Barton Maths fame) has just published his latest book, ‘Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain’.

It’s a weighty tome (is a ‘tome’ ever anything else?) running to 554 pages, and is absolutely stuffed with detailed ideas for teaching maths in the most productive ways possible.

It draws on Mr Barton’s (let’s drop the formality and call him Craig from now on) extensive collection of web content and explains how to craft lessons that maximise mathematical thinking and development in students.

It’s a book you have to be willing to work with; there are no quick-fix, photocopiable worksheets here. Indeed, such is the depth and amount of content and ideas that making use of its advice feels like taking on a high-level course in transforming your own teaching practice. This is no bad thing.

The book’s title, which is surely at the bottom of the pile for any marketing awards for memorability, summarises its main ideas. The most revelatory of these – for me – is the ‘expect’ element, which deserves a book on its own. It makes use of students’ expectations when solving problems and exploits them to maximise the effectiveness of the learning in terms of comprehension, engagement and recall.

Craig Barton always declares that his ideas are simply the methods that have worked for him and that it is up to the reader (or participant if attending one of his seminars) to make up their own minds about whether to adopt them. Certainly, having seen him demonstrate concepts such as ‘silent teacher’, I have had my doubts as to whether some of them would translate successfully to a post-16 resit course where engagement is an ever-present issue.

But that is the real selling-point of this book, and possibly one of the reasons why Craig has gained such a following; the book presents the ideas with the authority that comes from research and experience, while recognising that the teachers’ own experiences are just as valid a source of ideas and good practice. It respects the reader as a fellow professional, which is a refreshing approach and one that teachers often yearn for in their own teaching environments.

If you’re serious about improving your own teaching practice and are willing to put real effort into taking on new ideas, then this book will give you a substantial amount of material to work with. Another triumph for the unassuming Mr Barton.

‘Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain’ is published by John Catt and priced at £19 (see below for discounted link).

Reflect, Expect, Check, Explain: Sequences and behaviour to enable mathematical thinking in the classroom