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There is an undeniable push for educators in the UAE and globally to think outside the box in implementing, innovative and engaging activities inside the classroom. Educators have two choices, either step up or get lost in the fray.

Both colleagues and students will agree that Richard Henwood, Head of Mathematics at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, has stepped up to the challenge of being an innovative educator.

He has spearheaded many exciting initiatives that have resulted in students becoming more engaged in the subject.

Richard has been an educator for twelve years.

His background is in accounting and working as a sports coach. However, once the opportunity to teach Mathematics presented itself, he realised that he had found his true love.

With a professional background that spans working in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, he brings an international approach to the UAE, which has been his home for the past four years.

Below he provides some insight into his role at Cranleigh, and why he has led the Maths department in thinking outside the box to make Mathematics more engaging for their students.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in a town called Walsall in the UK – just North of Birmingham.

Who inspires you most?

My parents inspire me. They always have, still do and always will.

How do you develop a love of Maths in students?

We create a love of Maths by simply making it enjoyable. The Cranleigh Maths Department has one main aim and it has nothing to do with results or targets. We aim for all students to arrive to Maths lessons with a smile on their face, looking forward to their Maths lesson. If the students enjoy Maths, then with a bit of hard work, they will succeed.

We use a variety of teaching methods and resources. We also do some cool stuff such as; treasure hunts, code chases, investigations, game based learning, etc.

ICT is heavily integrated into lessons. We subscribe to both MyiMaths and Manga High. Our use of the innovative Socrative software in lessons allows for instant feedback and helps in visualizing student understanding.

All these things combined with the fantastic and hard-working Maths team we have here at Cranleigh forms the basis for our students achieving great success in the subject.

Share two successful Maths initiatives in the 2015-2016 academic year.

Initiative 1 – Cross-curricular project with Science and Design Technology (DT). We got together and came up with an innovative project to design and make a projecting device (catapult). The Science and DT elements were the design and creation using basic or recycled materials. The Maths element was to collect and analyse the results.

It was very challenging trying to coordinate across the 3 departments and timetables, but we just about managed it. We learned that although it is challenging, working across departments is good fun and there is a lot of knowledge and great ideas outside of your own department to share and tap into.

Initiative 2 – Maths Day: We held our second annual Cranleigh Abu Dhabi Maths Day on May 4, 2016. Our theme was Star Wars and both students and staff were encouraged to come to school dressed as their favourite Star Wars character. All students were off timetable taking part in a series of fun and engaging Maths challenges with a Star Wars twist. Our Maths Department collaborated with the Art and PE departments in designing activities that included: Blow up the Death Star, Fire the Photon Torpedo, Tatooine Tessellations, Crack the Empire Code, Rescue R2D2, Padme’s Problem Solving and Jedi Agility Training.

Other original drama production, Stormtrooper Rock Show, The Brass ensemble performing the Star Wars theme, Year 3 boys performing a dance to the Imperial March, Fancy Dress Competition and catwalk.

We received a lot of support from educators throughout the school (Miss Rigon, Mr Johnson, Miss Martin, Miss Lee, Mrs Board, Mr Lane and Miss Williams) who were instrumental in preparing students and actively participating.

Students were very excited about the activities and the opportunity to win prizes such as house competition (Al Sharaf) and Best Dressed (Luke McGarry, Year 5 and Percival Millet, Year 7).

The biggest challenge was pulling the whole day together and planning/ delivering the challenges. A lot of people worked very hard on making the day successful.

The feedback from students and parents was fantastic. To have a Maths Day where [all] students went home happy after having had such fun was well worth the effort. This will go a long way to help remove the stigma, that Maths is a difficult and boring subject – the eternal battle of the modern day Maths teacher continues!

Describe two ways in which you and your colleagues promote independent learning in Mathematics.

Independent Learning is crucial in creating better Mathematicians and all round learners. Getting “un-stuck” on a problem independently is a powerful skill and will make a huge difference.

One way we promote this skill is to use the “4 B’s” – Brain, Book, Buddy and Boss. The idea is that if a student is stuck on a problem they go through the 4 B’s before giving up.



Brain: read the question again and have another think


Book: look in their exercise books or text books for previous examples or ideas



Buddy: ask a person on their table for help



Boss: after all of the above, finally ask the teacher for help

We have the 4 B’s displayed in every Maths room and continually refer to them to promote independent learning.

Maths investigations are a fantastic way to promote independent learning. We do these twice a year with each year group and they take a week’s worth of lessons. We start with a simple problem based on shapes and patterns. The students then take it further, gradually working towards an overall solution.

The students often go in different directions with their investigations – which promotes independent learning, but end up with similar solutions. Students also really enjoy investigations, get “lost in their learning” and end up hungry for more!

Share a few activities that you do outside of school to create work-life balance.

I am very active – golf, touch rugby, gym, and kayak. A friend and I bought a boat this year. We enjoy going out on it most weekends with friends – banana boat, water skiing, fishing and swimming. I also enjoy travelling, cooking, reading, movies and socialising with friends of course.

I am a big believer in having a healthy work-life balance. I try to promote this to the rest of the Maths team and encourage them to spend quality time outside of work with family and friends. As a result, we are all usually smiling and energised on a Sunday morning and ready for the week ahead.

By Carolyn Lee

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