Talking growth mindsets in Maths with Jonathan Kim Sing

Talking growth mindsets in Maths with Jonathan Kim Sing

Inge Marais - Marketing Manager

Jonathan Kim Sing would be in outer space right now if he wasn't teaching! Luckily for us, he chose to become a teacher instead of an astronaut. Jonathan believes that the key to success in HSC Maths is to have a growth mindset (to help ease the all-too-common Maths anxiety), and to embrace your inner mistake monster. We recently sat down with Jonathan and got the low down on who he really is and what he gets up to when he's not at school or in front of the Edrolo camera.

You can embrace your own inner mistake monster with Jonathan's guidance in your Edrolo account. Check out this progress check for Year 12, where he unpacks the solutions to some Network problems.

I always like writing up a common mistakes sheet for myself. It would be little things for me to look out for just before going into an exam like "don't forget units" and "remember to check θ=180° when using t-formula etc".

Tell us a bit about your background.

I have been teaching in classrooms for about 6 years and taught in a variety of NSW public schools. Having had experiences in Sydney metropolitan as well as rural contexts. I've also had the privilege of observing colleagues teaching in other states across the country. Being in the classroom is just one of the amazing things I've been able to do as a teacher. In my school I have also been a year adviser, STEM instructor and numeracy coordinator. When you get to see students in an environment outside of the classroom, you begin to understand so much more about who they are. Whether it's short excursions or longer camps, they have really shaped the way in which I continue to teach my students. One of my most memorable experiences was having the opportunity to go along to our Year 11 camp. It was such a formative time where students learned so much about themselves and each other, taking away life lessons that they won't forget. Another great teaching experience was being able to work with colleagues across NSW on a curriculum writing project where we made resources for all teachers to use in preparation for the new syllabus.

Beyond teaching, I've always been interested in technology. So I'm always looking to see how it can support educators and students. During my time I've been able to work with a range of education technology companies such as Edrolo, among others. I've been able to help shape how these platforms help students with their learning as well as empower teachers in the classroom.

Funnily enough, I really struggled with Maths in high school! All I knew was that I wanted to be in the classroom, because it was really special being able to be a part of students' lives in this way. It was only afterwards, when I had the time to really explore the subject of Maths and its applications (without having to worry about exams) that I developed an appreciation for what it can offer us.

Why Maths? What makes you excited about this subject?

Maths is hidden away in so many different aspects of our lives. It might be phones we use, the sports we play, or even in nature. While not everyone has to have Maths as their favourite subject (although I wish it was!), there's certainly something for everyone to love about Maths. A great memory I have is a Year 9 class who weren't the biggest fans of the subject. I did know that they liked NRL though, so we worked together on a task where they had to research the statistics from their favourite teams and players - applying their skills to the real world.

Where do students use the skills they gain from studying Maths in life beyond school?

This is an age-old question (especially one my students love asking on Period 6 on a Friday arvo)! There's so much to unpack here, but I'm going to give a controversial answer - sometimes you don't!  A lot of my students won't use Pythagoras' theorem or the quadratic formula after they leave school. Hopefully, however, what they'll take away is that they are able to solve complex problems with the tools they've given, no matter the context. In saying that, fortunately, there are many places where Maths are the building blocks of many real-world industries. Roles in software, data science and finance all rely on a fundamental understanding of Maths in varying ways. The awesome thing is that every industry also relies on having roles like these, so matter what you're interested in there is something to gain from thinking mathematically.

In your experience, what do students find most challenging about Maths, and how do you support them?

Maths anxiety is the one that first comes to mind for me (mainly because I experienced this too), and there can be a perception that some people are just not good at Maths. I think a really helpful way to address this is helping to shift a student's perspective. "I don't know this... yet" helps a student understand that, with time, they'll be able to achieve their goals. Another one is to embrace your mistake monster. When I first started teaching, I would make mistakes all the time - and I still do! What's changed now is how I respond them. Initially, when I got flustered and embarrassed, that would affect how my students see their own mistakes.

Helping students realise that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process helps them start to overcome the anxiety they might have.

What do you see as a key benefit for students in using Edrolo?

A distinct memory I have is being back in Year 10, cramming for my yearly Maths exam. It was certainly one of the most stressful times I can remember. Not because of the importance of the exam, but rather just how lost I was feeling at the time. It was a classic case of not even knowing what I didn't know. Having access to teaching at any time, at your fingertips would've been so beneficial at the time. For teachers, we're always looking for opportunities to differentiate learning for our students. In order to do that, we need to know where they're currently at on their learning journey. Edrolo not only gives insights and data as to how students are going, but also provides them with supporting resources so they can achieve their personal best.

What's the funniest thing that's ever happened in your classroom?

This one actually happened outside the classroom. We were on an excursion, and when we arrived at the venue the organisers asked if our teacher was with us (seems that I blended in too well!).

How would your students describe you?

I've had many different responses to this one! (funny usually isn't one of them). But I'd like to think they'd describe me as approachable and able to support them in their learning.

If you weren't a teacher, what would you be?

I always wanted to be an astronaut 🚀

What are the best and worst things about teaching?

Building rapport with students! I'm always interested in understanding more about them and their stories. Interestingly, that can be one of the most challenging things a well. Sometimes, it takes a lot of time for teachers and students to work in harmony together.

See Jonathan in action, and get exam-ready for Maths Standard. Log in to your Edrolo account now.

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