Building mathematics in an RME classroom

In the video clip below, an experienced RME teacher works with Year 7 students on percentage change. The students have been together in this class for 9 months, and have worked with RME in all their mathematics lessons. This lesson illustrates a number of features of RME, both pedagogical and mathematical. It shows why teachers have a special guiding role in RME, and how they support students to develop their ideas.

The class is working on the slide shown here, which belongs to Lesson 7 of our proportional reasoning module, Filling the Whole (PR1). Try watching the video in short segments (1 -2 min). Make notes on what is happening. Do your best to avoid making judgments (“I would have done it this way…”) and focus on noting down exactly what you see — try to describe only what is actually happening in the classroom.

15-minute clip from Year 7 'Bargains' lesson

After you have watched the video, ask yourself:

  1. What is the role of the teacher in this lesson?
  2. How does she respond to what students say?
  3. How do the students respond to each other?
  4. How does the teacher work with the slide to develop students’ understanding of percentage change?



Working the materials, working the discussion

A major part of the teacher’s role in an RME classroom is to promote and sustain discussion.  In the next two videos, Georgina talks to Marisa, another experienced RME teacher, about how she does this, and how she supports the RME classroom culture.

Video clip 1 on teacher practices:
00:06 Not interfering
02:00 Remaining neutral
02:52 Repeating what other students say
04:01 Helping students to focus
05:54 Silence and wait time

Video clip 2 on RME classroom culture:
00:04 Working together
01:54 Equity in mathematics discussion (in mixed attainment classes)

RME teachers in conversation - 1: On teacher practices

RME teachers in conversation - 2: On classroom culture

Getting started with RME involves developing a classroom culture where students can think and work together.

As the videos show, an RME teacher makes choices all the time about when to let the discussion flow, and when to move on. They also need to assess how students are understanding a context or problem, and make decisions about whose strategy to highlight in class discussion.

To support your classroom in transitioning to student-drive discussions, we have identified a number of RME teaching techniques. We suggest that you focus on one or two at a time as you develop your practice.  We introduce some key pedagogic techniques on the  fostering discussion page, and on our mathematising page, we focus on key issues in supporting students’ mathematising.  We explore techniques for teaching in more detail on putting it all together.